COVER BOY — VOTE LOSER?: Being on the cover of Men’s Vogue — or even being rumored to be on it — has proved a decidedly mixed blessing for Barack Obama, the September 2006 cover model, and Tony Blair, who recently allowed Men’s Vogue to trail him to Africa. So far, no matter how hard-hitting the piece or well respected the author, pundits and political opponents have seen the Vogue logo above a politician and found emasculated narcissism. Will John Edwards, squinting from the cover of the July/August issue, blue-jeaned leg cocked atop a pickup truck, meet a similar fate?

His cover may have more deliberately masculine overtones than Obama’s professorial turn, but the fashion and luxury orientation of Men’s Vogue remains. In Edwards’ home state, a political blogger for the News & Observer wrote, “One of the central questions of the piece…is whether Edwards can live down the $400 haircut and win the hearts of Southern voters. Left unaddressed is how appearing in Men’s Vogue will help. Was Details not available?”

This story first appeared in the June 28, 2007 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

As Norman Ornstein, resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, told WWD: “At one level, it’s probably not a smart thing to do because it keeps the focus on the frivolous stuff that is a distraction from Edwards’ message, no matter what the substance of the story. It kind of undermines the messages and the sincerity of it no matter how much he talks or jokes about it.” Still, he added, Edwards’ position as third in line may mute the attention he gets on anything. The Edwards campaign did not respond to requests for comment.

But some argued that in a campaign, media ubiquity should trump all, so long as the venue is respectable. “I think the piece reflected John Edwards’ commitment to ending poverty, and I’m not sure anybody reading Men’s Vogue cares about the cost of the haircut,” said Stephanie Cutter, who was communications director on Sen. John Kerry‘s campaign.

The apparently corresponding Elizabeth Edwards profile in Vogue itself led observers to wonder if the Edwardses were a two for one deal — and if so, which came first? A spokeswoman for both magazines said the stories originated independently, with Men’s Vogue approaching John Edwards “last year.” And, though Annie Leibovitz shot both portraits, the spokeswoman said: “We were very far along when we learned there was an Elizabeth Edwards portrait subsequent to ours in North Carolina, also with Annie. On the day of that shoot, Annie got some extra time with the senator for a solo cover shot at his home.” Enter pickup truck.

New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd, who mocked the Obama Men’s Vogue cover and wrote in April, “John Edwards has reminded us that even — or especially — in the age of appearances, you must not appear to care too much about appearances,” opted to save her insights for an Edwards column in the works. On June 20, she ridiculed Obama again, this time for doing a GQ shoot. Though a GQ spokesman declined to comment on any upcoming content, several sources said GQ contributing editor Ryan Lizza is on the story. (GQ and Men’s Vogue are, like WWD, owned by Condé Nast Publications Inc.)

Told of the GQ shoot, Ornstein’s first question was: “Well, what was he wearing?” (Ralph Lauren, according to Dowd). — Irin Carmon

DREW’S TURN: For the first time, Gucci has tapped a celebrity for one of its ad campaigns. Drew Barrymore will underscore the importance of the luxury brand’s fine jewelry line with color images shot by Inez van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin in a Paris studio.

“Drew brought wonderful energy and excitement to this project. She is such a strong and confident woman, but her humor and sensitivity made her completely disarming,” said Gucci creative director Frida Giannini, who was directly involved in everything from the makeup to the backdrop setting.

Giannini added that she chose the Dutch photography duo for its ability to portray a classic image with a modern edge after several seasons of still-life ads. The campaign’s surroundings re-create a sensual environment as Barrymore lays on a golden beach decked out with lavish jewelry. Fine jewelry is a fast-growing category for Gucci, one that accounted for 4.5 percent of the company’s revenues of 2.1 billion euros, or $2.82 billion, last year.

The campaign launches in the September issues of fashion books worldwide. — Alessandra Ilari

SWEET DEAL: In another example of multiplatform media expansion, NBC Universal Digital Media struck a deal with Sugar Publishing, the network of gossip, beauty and fashion Web sites that include PopSugar, BuzzSugar and FabSugar. The partnership will allow Sugar to share content with NBC-owned, while NBC’s Digital sales team will be the exclusive sales force for PopSugar. Through iVillage, which carries content on love, health, sex and parenting, NBC already reaches more than 17 million users a month; their median age is 37. The partnership expands NBC’s online network to include PopSugar’s younger, 4.5 million unique users. The median age of its visitors is 27.

The infusion of cash also gives PopSugar capital to fund its expansion in the fall. The company plans to expand internationally as well as launch six sites, including CasaSugar on July 15, a home site; LilSugar, a baby site; SavvySugar, a personal finance site, and KarmaSugar, a cause and charity resource. Out-of-work bloggers, take note: The company is hiring 30 more editors to run the sites. — Stephanie D. Smith

PEGGY’S NIGHT: There is no one quite like Peggy Siegal. For 30 years, the publicist and event planner has been a Manhattan staple, as reliable in her own way as Gray’s Papaya, the Bronx Zoo and Midtown traffic. On Tuesday night, she celebrated her birthday at the Plaza Athénée with a crowd that included Christie Brinkley, Donna Karan, André Balazs, Liz Smith and a birthday cake that was decorated with a purse, an Oscar and a BlackBerry.

But it was Siegal’s toast that really made the night. “All right,” she boomed over a microphone. “Rather than tell you to eat your hearts out, I have generously included a comprehensive list of all medical services in a booklet, and you have total permission to use my name for referrals and instant attention.”

Indeed she had. Titled, “How to Look Like Me at 60,” the guide provided contact information for her gynecologist, Patricia Yarberry-Allen; her breast doctor, Patrick Borgen (whom she called a “highly respected, dedicated genius”), and Gerald Imber, her plastic surgeon (“gave me a new neck one year ago,” she wrote).

She then thanked the manager of the hotel; Dixon and Arianna Boardman, who threw the party for her with Alfred Taubman and Pepe and Emilia Fanjul, and then the rest of the room, before adding: “I want to thank my 83-year-old mother, Annette, who is here tonight, for telling me I could be anything I wanted to be as long as I was not fat.”

Then, she gave a shout-out to her great friend, the late Claudia Cohen, with whom she attended the Oscars for 25 years. “I always said, ‘I’ll bring the tickets and you bring your father’s jet.'”

She was truly the only thing missing. — Jacob Bernstein

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