Graydon Carter to End 25-Year Run as Vanity Fair’s Editor

Graydon Carter to End 25-Year Run as Vanity Fair’s Editor

- in World Biz
2
0

Mr. Carter co-founded Spy magazine in the 1980s, which helped forge the wry tone and visual style of modern publications. But Vanity Fair, with its fixation on actors, moguls and faded aristocrats, was a product of its editor’s highly particular interests: the golden age of Hollywood, the rituals of WASPdom, the European jet set, Anglophilia.

His copious coverage of British royalty and out-of-date celebrities like the Kennedy family was often mocked; one critic found that one-third of the magazine’s issues from 2003 to 2011 contained at least one Kennedy-related article.

But Vanity Fair also published touchstone images (including Caitlyn Jenner’s first public photographs) and broke major news, not least in 2005, when the magazine unmasked the identity of the famed Watergate leaker Deep Throat. Even Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein had to play catch-up.

Mr. Carter at Lincoln Center’s American Songbook Gala in February. “I want to leave while the magazine is on top,” Mr. Carter, 68, said.

Credit
Krista Schlueter for The New York Times

(A look at the images, journalism and parties that defined Mr. Carter’s years as a celebrity editor.)

Mr. Carter’s departure is likely to set off a steeplechase of sorts in elite journalism circles. The editorship of Vanity Fair is among the industry’s most coveted positions — Mr. Carter’s predecessor was Tina Brown, who went on to run The New Yorker — and speculation about Mr. Carter’s heir has long simmered.

Frequently mentioned contenders are Adam Moss of New York magazine, Janice Min of The Hollywood Reporter and Joanna Coles of Hearst Magazines. “There will be some great candidates both inside and outside the company,” said Steven O. Newhouse, a top executive at Vanity Fair’s parent company, Advance Publications. He added, “We’re in no rush.”

Mr. Carter said he had an idea for who might succeed him — he would not name names — and that he would offer suggestions to Vanity Fair’s publisher, Condé Nast. “I want to make it really easy for the next person,” he said. “I care about this magazine. I don’t want it to go anywhere other than up.”

His post-Vanity Fair plans involve a six-month “garden leave” (Mr. Carter is fond of Britishisms) and a rented home in Provence. He has “the rough architecture” of a future project in mind, perhaps involving new forms of storytelling, but he demurred on the details. “I’m not a big announcer,” Mr. Carter said, tortoiseshell glasses in hand. “Best to fail quietly at the beginning of something rather than make grand pronouncements.”

From a spacious corner office, amid cigarette smoke and midcentury furniture, Mr. Carter nurtured the musings of Christopher Hitchens, the true-crime yarns of Dominick Dunne, the portraiture of Annie Leibovitz and the wit of Fran Lebowitz and James Wolcott, to name a few of the artists and writers in the Vanity Fair stable.

One Carter innovation, the Vanity Fair Oscar party, remains the entertainment world’s most exclusive soiree, attracting a sea of boldface names to an Old Hollywood-style bacchanalia. Even drab Washington fell under his sway: His annual bash after the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner became the capital’s hottest ticket.

In his townhouse on Wednesday, however, Mr. Carter opted for self-effacement. “I’m very uncomfortable talking about myself like this,” he said at one point. Asked whether he would still attend the magazine’s Oscar party, Mr. Carter shook his head. “You don’t really need me there,” he said. “I’m like a glorified maître d’.”

He said that he had considered leaving Vanity Fair earlier this year, but that Mr. Trump’s election had spurred him to stay. Plus, in July, he hit the 25-year mark at the magazine, which he said “had a tidy aspect to it.”

“Editors, you know, we don’t really do anything,” Mr. Carter added. “To the owner, you’re sort of like a patch of mold on the kitchen ceiling. You’re not quite sure about it, but as long as it doesn’t start dripping, you can just let it be.”

Mr. Carter is leaving as Condé Nast, like all magazine publishers, grapples with an erosion of advertising and pressure online. The company has invested heavily in digital initiatives while cutting staff. “The romance of the magazine business will continue,” Mr. Carter said, “but it will be harder to maintain.”

Life has been a heady journey for Mr. Carter, a middle-class product of the Ottawa suburbs, who as a youth worked stints as a railway lineman and cemetery digger. He talked his way into a job at Time in the late 1970s before cofounding Spy in 1986.

Spy took special glee in attacking Mr. Trump, whom the magazine memorably deemed a “short-fingered vulgarian.” (The insult stuck: just last week, Mr. Trump referred to his “too big” hands during a visit to Houston.) Among the magazine’s pranks was to mail checks of smaller and smaller quantities to celebrities and wait to see who was avaricious enough to cash them; Mr. Trump redeemed a check for 13 cents.

Mr. Carter later ran The New York Observer before moving, in 1992, to Vanity Fair, which venerated some of the same celebrities he criticized in Spy. Some grudges healed easier than others.

“If it hadn’t been for my wife, I probably wouldn’t be speaking to him 25 years later,” the mogul Barry Diller, a favorite Spy target, said on Thursday. Mr. Diller’s wife, the fashion designer Diane von Furstenberg, knew Mr. Carter and persuaded the men to reacquaint. “I’ve come to know and adore him,” Mr. Diller said. “He wants a new adventure, and he deserves it.”

Mr. Carter was soon a Manhattan institution himself, branching into restaurants, films and Broadway, where he produced a show about the talent agent Sue Mengers that starred Bette Midler.

He lives with his third wife, Anna Scott Carter, down the street from his first restaurant, the Waverly Inn. Their kitchen is adorned with a stuffed perch fish from the 19th century (an idea Mr. Carter said he borrowed from the Earl of Snowdon, ex-husband of Princess Margaret), a “Resist” poster and a “Dump Trump” illustration by their 8-year-old daughter.

Will exiting the magazine leave him antsy? “People think I’m really antic,” he said. “I don’t think you have any idea how idle I could get. I love tinkering around with my cars, going out in my canoe, fishing and reading. I could do that for five months and not bat an eye.”

Still, he added, “I’m completely prepared that it won’t be easy.” He will continue to write; already, he plans to pitch a story during his stay in France to the editor of The New Yorker, David Remnick.

“He’ll probably say no,” Mr. Carter said. “‘How do you spell your name again, Graydon?’”

Mr. Carter recently started seeing a psychiatrist for the first time, prompted by the changes in the country and his own life. “At Spy, we would tack on the epithet ‘survivor’ to somebody, as if it was a negative term,” he said. “And you realized, after a while, it’s actually a positive term. Just surviving in life, in this life, is difficult enough.”

In the pages of his magazine and the clubby dining rooms of his restaurants, Mr. Carter created a version of the fantasy Manhattan that intoxicated him as a child: ice-cold martinis, bon vivant writers, gimlet-eyed gossip in the manner of one of his favorite films, “Sweet Smell of Success.”

That world is fading. “I’m by nature a very wistful person,” Mr. Carter said. “And I miss the black-and-whiteness of the 20th century.”

As for Mr. Trump, the president has frequently taunted Mr. Carter on Twitter. Now that Mr. Carter is stepping down, does he expect a gloating tweet from the Oval Office?

“He’s tweeted about me 42 times, all in the negative,” Mr. Carter said. “So I blew up all the tweets and I framed them all. They’re all on a wall — this is the only wall Trump’s built — outside my office. There’s a space left for one more tweet to complete the bottom line. So if he does, I’m just going to call our framer, and say we need one more.”

“It should be a little bright spot in his administration,” Mr. Carter added, puckishly. “And if he’s smart, he won’t say anything.”

Continue reading the main story

Source link

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may also like

Push for Gender Equality in Tech? Some Men Say It’s Gone Too Far

Now men’s rights advocates in Silicon Valley have