BEHIND THE BUMP: People magazine’s exclusive proof, in its current issue, of Angelina Jolie‘s much-speculated-about fetus left a lot of competing editors asking how, exactly, they got beat on the biggest celebrity story of … well, at least the week. Jolie’s and Brad Pitt‘s representatives both confirmed the pregnancy to People — giving new managing editor Larry Hackett a major scoop in his first full week on the job. But what really counted was the visual: Jolie standing sideways to the camera, her belly silhouetted in a perfect half-circle.
Curiously, the photo credit attributed it not to a paparazzi agency but to the Yéle Haiti Foundation, a nonprofit started by musician Wyclef Jean. That led to speculation People had agreed to donate a large sum to the foundation in exchange for the much-coveted cover shot. (For the past several weeks, Jolie has only been photographed wearing shape-concealing loose garments, apparently to confound paparazzi looking to document her “bump.”) People admitted in February that it obtained the first photographs of Julia Roberts‘ twin babies in such an arrangement, buying them from Roberts, who donated the proceeds to charity.
Citing the magazine’s policy, a spokeswoman for People declined to comment Thursday on how it had obtained the photos, but insisted there was “nothing unusual” about the circumstances. “Like other news organizations, we purchase photographs, but we never pay for stories or information,” she said. “People’s story is the confirmation of the story itself by both of their reps. We would have run that cover without the photos.”
— Jeff Bercovici
JANE’S ADDITION: Brandon Holley, as we already know, is “So Jane.” But it turns out she may also be so good for Jane.
Since Holley became editor in chief in August, the magazine has perked up significantly on the newsstand. The November issue, with Nicole Richie on the cover, beat single-copy sales for the same issue of the previous year by 32 percent, according to publisher’s best estimates. Holley’s December/January issue, featuring Shakira, was up 14 percent over last year’s December/January — which happened to be the bestseller of 2004. And a recent cover test of the February issue with Alicia Keys, hitting newsstands Jan. 24, produced the most promising test results Jane has ever received.
“I didn’t expect to have right out-of-the-box great sellers,” said Holley. After all, her full redesign of the magazine won’t be unveiled until the March issue. “Nicole Richie was already shot,” Holley said. “Shakira I thought would be a good seller, but I didn’t think she’d be the second bestseller of 2005, beating out Lindsay Lohan from last year.”
And to what did she credit the unexpected upsurge? Partly, Holley said, it was a matter of compelling cover lines, and partly, it was just luck. “It’s timing,” she said. “I don’t know if Nicole Richie will continue to be a good seller this year, but the Teen Vogue and the Jane covers hit at a good moment.” (Richie was also on the cover of Teen Vogue last fall, and it turned out to be that magazine’s bestseller of the year. Jane and Teen Vogue, like WWD, are owned by Condé Nast Publications Inc.)
One of Holley’s biggest design adjustments is already evident with Jane’s February issue. For the past two years, the magazine’s covers had been showing subjects from the hips or waist up, but only Keys’ face and shoulders are visible for February. “A lot of what I’m doing here is going back to the vault,” said Holley. “I loved the tight [cover] shots Jane used to do.”
Of course, booking celebrities to appear in those shots will be somewhat easier now that Jane will have a presence in L.A. Holly just hired Teen People’s deputy editor Laura Morgan to be Jane’s new West Coast bureau chief. And she’s also brought in Maer Roshan‘s former assistant at Radar, Julie Bloom, as an associate editor.
— Sara James
HOOKED ON FIRST CAST: GQ editor in chief Jim Nelson used nothing but superlatives to describe the magazine’s December issue during a two-minute leg of a video podcast from the magazine’s “Men of the Year” awards, currently available on iTunes. Of the Jennifer Aniston cover, he said, “It’s the best cover we’ve ever done.” On Vince Vaughn‘s pose with a simian in one spread: “That is about the best picture we’ve ever run in GQ.” Commenting on Peggy Sirota, the portfolio’s photographer: “I think she’s done the best work of her career.” Nelson also called Philip Seymour Hoffman “the best actor of our generation.” (Hoffman appeared in the issue and, along with Aniston and Vaughn, was at the “Men of the Year” party and in the podcast.)
While the footage was only intended as a teaser for the weekly audio podcast the magazine just launched — it will feature editors and contributors such as Adam Rapoport and Jason Gay discussing stories in the current issue — “GQ’s All Access Video Podcast” recently ranked fourth among all podcast downloads on iTunes.
By Thursday, however, it had slipped to 16th place, presumably because of some not-so-nice reviews. “Horrible!” read one post by an anonymous critic. “It’s nothing but a guy with a video at a lame celeb event.” “Philozopher” gave the podcast one star and said, “Is this what GQ is all about…name-dropping a few celebrities,” while “Abdurbrow” said, “U mean I just downloaded a Hummer ad?”
A spokesman for the magazine, which, like WWD, is part of Condé Nast Publications Inc., said, “I understand that on the marketing front, the ‘GQ Men of the Year’ pieces are the first sponsored video podcasts, and it was sponsored — as you know — by Hummer….We are certainly very, very pleased with the success and the breakthrough in terms of the high ranking of viewership we received, especially for a new effort in a new medium….I still suggest that people who want to complain about the material or the sponsor messages are more likely to voice their displeasure than someone who might think, ‘Hey that’s cool.'”
Among the 22 user posts up on iTunes Thursday, four were positive, two were middling reviews and the remainder were negative. Said one fan: “Ignore all the haters on this page: GQ is one of the top publications in the world, and this video only corroborates that.” Nelson, of course, would have phrased it: “GQ is the best publication in the world.”
HEELING THE HURT: The current crop of celebrity weeklies is getting an awful lot of mileage out of Nick Lachey‘s apparent admission, in Elle magazine, that he got off on wearing soon-to-be ex-wife Jessica Simpson‘s shoes. While Us Weekly and Star both picked up the tidbit, it was Life & Style that made the most of it, interviewing a “friend” of Simpson’s who claimed she was concerned the “stories of dirty talk and cross-dressing will hurt her image.”
But, to paraphrase Jennifer Aniston, might Life & Style be missing an irony chip? Taken in context, Lachey’s quote looks to be a comic riff rather than a confession. Here’s the full exchange:
Elle: Did you ever imagine what it must be like to be your ex, to walk in her shoes?
Lachey: Every day. In fact, sometimes I did walk in her shoes. It was sort of a kinky thing we liked to get into.
Lachey’s publicist declined to explain the remark, but writer Andrew Goldman, who conducted the interview for Elle, said he was inclined not to take it at face value. “Considering the way the question was phrased, I think it’s a distinct possibility he was joking,” said Goldman, who talked to Lachey 36 hours before Lachey and Simpson announced they were separating. “My impression of the guy from doing an hour-long interview with him is he’s pretty straitlaced. I can’t imagine him running around their bedroom in stiletto heels.” Apparently, tabloid editors have better imaginations.