WHAT’S UP WITH COOPER?: Art Cooper, editor in chief of GQ, isn’t worried. Despite a published item in the Delaney Report that Cooper’s star is beginning to fade and his art director, Fred Woodward is now reporting straight to S.I. Newhouse Jr., Cooper said it’s all hogwash.

“It’s the most ridiculous thing,” said Cooper this week. “Believe me, it’s untrue. I have no plans to leave, and S.I. [Newhouse, chairman of Conde Nast] has no plans. You can ask him. I’d love to know who leaked that to Delaney, although I have a suspicion. Once every decade some moron prints something like that, and usually that moron is Delaney. Then I get a big hug from Florio and more money.”

So did he get his hug from Steven Florio, president of Conde Nast? “Yes.” And what about more money? “It’ll be coming.”

As for the nasty Cooper rumors, Newhouse’s spokeswoman told WWD: “This is absolutely, totally untrue.”

Cooper has been running GQ for almost 19 years. The year got off to a shaky start, with ad pages through March off 12.4 percent, following a 13.1 percent drop last year.

“Business is tough,” acknowledged Cooper. But he said Ron Galotti, the new vp, publisher, begins Monday.

“The magazine is cooking, especially with Fred. The March issue is the first one he got his hands on. It’s the biggest March in a decade+.Things are cool,” concluded Cooper.

McDEAN SHOOTS FOR VOGUE: Well, it looks like Craig McDean and Harper’s Bazaar have officially parted ways, as reported. According to informed sources, McDean is doing a shoot for Vogue.

“We’re speaking to Craig McDean and we’re hoping to work with him. Nothing’s happened yet,” said a Vogue spokesman. However, sources indicate a shoot is under way. McDean’s agent didn’t return phone calls seeking comment.

THIS JUST IN: Lesley Jane Seymour, editor in chief of Marie Claire, has promoted Lucy Sykes to fashion director, succeeding Mary Alice Stephenson, who joined Harper’s Bazaar in a similar post last summer. Sykes had been style director. In addition, Tracy Taylor, senior fashion editor, succeeds Sykes as style director.

Meantime, WWD has learned that Kate Betts’ is lining up a gig at “Extra!” where she’ll become a correspondent for a fashion-oriented spin-off. Stay tuned.

NO-BRAINER: As expected, Charles Leerhsen, who’s been acting editor in chief of US Weekly and was beat out by Bonnie Fuller for the top editor’s post this week, is leaving the company.

“I got a great job,” said Leerhsen, who declined to divulge where he’s going. “I was not competing for this job. I was asked to do a memo describing my vision, and I didn’t do it. Despite the fact that the owner [Jann Wenner] said I was the leading candidate, I was not an active campaigner for the job. I was his second choice.”

Asked if he would have taken the job, Leerhsen said, “I wasn’t taking the job unless certain circumstances were met.” While money was one consideration, he said other things had to make sense.

Leehrsen has been editor of US since 1998. He said he’s had two offers, one at a mostly male magazine and another at a mostly female magazine. He’s accepted one of the offers, but can’t talk about it until next week, since he doesn’t want the staff to read in the paper that it has a new editor. Speculation centered on Sports Illustrated and Spin.

VARIETY GETS VARIETY: Variety Magazine is beefing up its fashion coverage with a special supplement called “Oscar Style,” to be released March 20. “It’s a history of fashion in film as well as of what people have worn to the Oscars,” says Pat Saperstein, managing editor of Variety’s Special Reports sections. The issue will run articles on the spas that celebrities go to for that much needed pre-Oscar touch-up as well as features on jewelry and sunglasses worn to the annual awards fest. On April 10, the trade publication will come out with its biannual supplement, “Designing Hollywood,” which this year pays tribute to Los Angeles-based designers.

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