Byline: Lisa Lockwood / With contributions from Peter Braunstein / Jacob Bernstein
NEW YORK, NEW YORK: Not everyone was pleased by the profile of Mary Wells Lawrence in Thursday’s WWD about her upcoming book “A Big Life (in advertising).” Robert Zarem took umbrage with Lawrence’s claim that she devised the “I (TM) NY” campaign. In a letter sent Thursday, Zarem said he created the campaign two years before he hired Lawrence’s agency. “They executed the commercials which I, as part of the hugely [sic] overall campaign, had designed quite some time prior to my involving them,” Zarem wrote, adding also that Lawrence’s agency didn’t pay his fee, as she states; the state of New York did. Zarem said that when Lawrence “realized I was trying to save the City — which I did,” she and her colleagues took the credit for the campaign “and they built a billion dollar business on the lie. I can document every single step.” As for why Lawrence would take the credit, Zarem wrote simply that “she is either sadly delusional or blatantly dishonest.” Clearly there’s no love in New York between some people.
MAY FLOWERS: Gisele, the ubermodel, has been a good luck charm for all the high-end titles: W used her three times in 2001, and she’s graced the cover of Vogue eight times since July 1999. Now Bazaar has adopted the “Gisele every fourth issue keeps the demanding stars at bay” mantra: she’ll grace the cover of Bazaar’s May issue. If you’re experiencing deja vu, that’s because Gisele already graced Bazaar — both front and back covers — in February. While Bazaar has run back-to-back models the last three issues, Vogue is taking the celebrity route: it will feature Natalie Portman on its May cover.
ALEX KUCZYNSKI’S REALLY BAD HAIR DAY: Ever wonder what material forms the genesis of Lifetime movies starring Nancy McKeon or Tracey Gold? Check out the May Allure. In a confessional cri de coeur, New York Times fashion reporter Alex Kuczynski reveals that she is a trichotillomaniac: someone who compulsively pulls out her hair, often leading to embarrassing and noticeable bald spots. Despite the damage the compulsion has inflicted on her self-image, Kuczynski’s confessional still manages to convey both the sexiness of the ailment (“an impulse-control disorder [like] pyromania, compulsive gambling, or kleptomania”) and the fact that it’s quite trendy (part of a self-injury “epidemic” that includes “skin cutting, skin scratching, compulsive knuckle cracking, and head hanging.”) Her bout with “trich” (the hip, insider term for the disease) was triggered by 9/11, but Kuczynski eventually found solace alongside other trich sufferers in self-help groups and considered anti-depressants before rejecting them. “Why destroy your sex life or play around with your serotonin levels in the name of a bald patch?” Alex, that’s a classic Catch-22 situation: Paxil and no sex drive, or glaring bald patches and no sex . Ultimately, Kuczynski claimed that “it was pure vanity that cured me.”
“Since I was off the media beat at the Times, and free to write for myself, I called Allure and they were very interested,” Kuczynski told WWD. But isn’t she worried that people will inspect her hair intently from now on? “I wouldn’t have written about it in such a personal way if the bald patch was still there,” she said. “Now I’m like, ‘go ahead, stare.”‘
TEEN VOGUE’S FUTURE: Is Conde Nast getting ready to fold Teen Vogue, the semiannual magazine it launched two years ago in an effort to break into the teen market? Vogue’s vice president and publisher Tom Florio said that another issue is planned for August but didn’t offer a ringing endorsement of the venture. “We’ll decide whether to proceed with Teen Vogue after we evaluate the sales of the current issue,” which hit newsstands two weeks ago, Florio said. The magazine expects to sell 240,000 newsstand copies.
But insiders say the magazine has hit its last leg. The current issue, which features Star Wars’ Hayden Christensen in an innocent embrace with terminally overexposed model cum actress James King, carries just 28 ad pages. Last year, its two issues carried a combined total of 123 pages of ads, according to Media Industry Newsletter. And the Vogue offshoot has also suffered from a lack of exposure.
“Hachette’s PR machine has been much more active with regards to Elle Girl than Vogue has with its teen imprint,” says Steve Cohn, editor in chief of Media Industry Newsletter. He cautions, though, that, “this is the first issue since Sept. 11, and fashion magazines are all taking it on the chin.”
That may not be enough for S.I. Newhouse Jr., chairman of Advance Publications, which owns Teen Vogue as well as WWD. According to sources, Newhouse remains keen on acquiring Seventeen from Primedia, which recently sold Modern Bride to Conde Nast.
BEEFING UP ELLE: Carol A. Smith, who was named senior vice president, Elle Group publishing director last month, confirmed this week she’s aggressively searching for a publisher of Elle, specifically one with a lot of fashion and beauty experience. Smith succeeded Carl Portale, who took early retirement. In addition to his group publisher responsibilities, Portale also served as publisher of Elle. But Smith believes Elle needs someone who will focus solely on Elle. Smith will oversee the publishing side of Elle, Elle Decor and Elle Girl: the latter two titles have their own publishers Tracy Gavant and Jeane Schwenk, respectively.
Meantime, Portale isn’t sitting still. He’ll be honored May 21 by the Sanctuary for Families at its seventh annual Zero Tolerance Benefit for his commitment to ending domestic violence. The evening, which takes place at the Metropolitan Pavilion in New York, includes a dinner, a live performance by Shawn Colvin and a party. The event is underwritten by Calvin Klein Inc., Philip Morris Cos. Inc. and Elle magazine.
HIRSCH TO POLO: Rebekah Hirsch, fashion director of Details, will join Polo Ralph Lauren Corp. as senior director of women’s publicity. She’ll report to Michel Botbol, who last month was named vice president, creative director, global fashion communications at Polo Ralph Lauren Corp. Hirsch takes over some responsibilities formerly handled by Alixe Boyer, senior director of women’s publicity and marketing, who left the company. No replacement has been named yet at Details.
O JACKIE: The New York press might have fallen in love with the Jackie Kennedy exhibit at the Met but the reception in Washington, D.C., hasn’t been quite so peachy. Chalk it up to the current Republican administration or the importance of fighting terrorism (fashion is so last season!), but The Washington Post has scorched the exhibit, which opens at the Corcoran Gallery in D.C. on Saturday. Critic Blake Gopnik wrote that the show has, “blown the lid off what curating used to be,” as well as saying that “Jackie dressed pretty much as you’d expect of any 31-year-old society hostess: chic, with some slight panache but nothing to raise eyebrows. Jackie was not an early adopter of innovative clothing design; she was not, ‘fashion forward,’ as sales assistants like to say.” So much for history’s rating of Jackie as a fashion icon — at least in Gopnik’s view.