COMING (BACK) TO AMERICA: Tina Brown doesn’t appear to have any plans to go to Hollywood; instead she’s been spending time in Washington, D.C. According to sources, Brown was in D.C. on Wednesday in advanced negotiations with the Washington Post, working out a deal to write a column for the paper’s Style section. If a deal goes through, as expected, Brown no longer would write for the Times of London, where she had a one-year contract starting last fall, and The Washington Post would gain syndication rights over the column. Salon.com, which also has been running it, is expected to continue doing so.
The move makes a certain amount of sense because it will give Brown a real American market, which means a lot more readers. It also will make her primary market the U.S. and Europe a secondary concern.
“She’ll be a very good addition to the paper, though it remains to be seen how parochial Washington will take to her,” said one source. “She’s very audacious and the town could use that. And the fact that she’s writing from a place other than Washington is very helpful to them, because the paper — particularly the Style section — is very Washington-centric save for [television critic] Tom Shales.”
Calls to the Style section went unreturned Thursday. Brown declined comment. — Jacob Bernstein
NAMING RIGHTS: Lauren Weisberger may be publishing’s rookie of the year (despite a barrage of bad reviews) but can the writer of “The Devil Wears Prada” become a franchise author? Simon & Schuster thinks so — it bought the rights to Weisberger’s second book last month after a heated auction that netted her an advance worth more than $1 million.
But writing what she knows is out of the question — alarms will sound if she comes near 4 Times Square again — so what could she possibly deliver that justifies the price tag? The manuscript isn’t due for a year and won’t hit shelves until 2005, but one title being bandied about: “The Doorman Wears Dolce.”
Upon hearing it, though, Weisberger’s agent just laughed. “No, someone else must have come up with that,” said Deborah Schneider of Gelfman & Schneider. “It’s cute, but I haven’t heard it before. Right now, the book is being circulated as ‘Untitled.’” And this time, Weisberger appears to be playing her karmic cards right — instead of demonizing Anna Wintour, she’ll be lionizing Page Six’s Richard Johnson and his ilk.
“It’s about twentysomething Manhattanites,” Schneider said, “but it’s more ‘Sex and the City’ than ‘Bright Lights, Big City.’ One of the protagonists is a gossip columnist. It’s very much an insider girl’s adventures in New York.” — Greg Lindsay
SEND IN THE CLONES: With six months to do it and the decades of Hearst Magazines’ wisdom at her disposal, Mandi Norwood was asked to invent a shopping magazine that would be Lucky’s killer. Instead, it seems she and her team spent that time cutting and pasting six months’ worth of Lucky issues together.
Norwood, the former editor of Mademoiselle, and Cynthia Lewis, the former publisher of Harper’s Bazaar, have been making the rounds to advertisers with prototypes of their brainchild, named Scoop. It looks familiar.
“When I looked at it, I was a notch below ‘aghast’ at the blatant borrowing” from Lucky, said a potential advertiser who had seen a prototype. “It looked interesting. It’s definitely a magazine I would pick up and look at. But when I saw it my mouth opened: ‘Huh? This is what it is?’”
The prototype had been assembled in part from images borrowed from other magazines, this person said, many of which were recognizably Lucky. Even more surprising was how similar the architecture seemed — the back of the book had a rotating, local shopping guide followed by pages of Scoop-exclusive bargains. Those sections are in the same spot and same order in Lucky.
“And where Lucky has the Post-it notes you peel [to mark clothes you plan to buy], in the prototype they’re perforated,” the source said.
But the art direction appears to borrow even more from another monster magazine success story, Real Simple. The cover of the prototype this person saw (apparently there are four different covers) featured a woman in a Pucci print dress sitting in a chair (“a midcentury-modern one, like an Eames”) while arrows with dollar figures attached pointed to each item. Inside, “where Lucky is so much like Glamour, this is like Real Simple — a little more understated, subdued.”
Hearst continues to play its cards close to the vest on the project, refusing to acknowledge its name and emphasizing that it doesn’t have a green light, let alone a launch date. As for the above description, Norwood replied via e-mail that “your source is unreliable. While there is a shopping component, this is where the similarity to other magazines ends. Although the focus and targeting of this magazine has never wavered, like any new magazine project, there are many content concepts in development and I am enjoying exploring all of them.” — Greg Lindsay