Anna and Grace duke it out over Galliano — finally saw, and loved, 'The September Issue'

Anna Wintour at New York's Fall Fashion Week, 2005
Anna Wintour, Vogue editor. Image via Wikipedia

What a fun film!

OK, I am way behind on this one — the documentary, “The September Issue,” came out nationwide last September. I watched it yesterday. If you haven’t seen it, rent it with “The Devil Wears Prada” for a delicious double-bill, comparing real life to reel life.

For those of you not passionate about clothes, fashion, design or what Anna actually looks like without those damn sunglasses — the film is about the making of Vogue’s September issue, a legendarily enormous annual doorstop of a magazine weighing as much as a Thanksgiving turkey.

Tom Florio, publisher of Vogue, is a great character in the film as he tries to explicate Wintour’s terrifyingly glacial demeanor, deliciously parodied by Meryl Streep in “The Devil Wears Prada”, a film based on a book by  former Vogue assistant, Lauren Weisberger.

“She’s not warm,” he says. “I have to be warm for both of us. She’s busy. She’s busy doing her job.”

I’ve seen DWP so many times I can recite its dialogue by heart; I loved seeing how exactly it mimics Wintour’s real office, behavior and rareified lifestyle.

And the brutal, albeit very well-dressed, power struggles are Olympian!

Watching Grace Coddington — the magazine’s creative director — sparring with (and inevitably losing to) Wintour is a rare and telling glimpse of what it takes for two powerful, determined, talented and creative women to achieve, and remain at, the highest levels of this most competitive game. That both are British, coming from a culture where understatement trumps typical New York in-your-face-ness, only makes their civil but relentless jockeying for pages even more compelling.

Not to mention the enormous egos — photographers, models, editors, art directors, designers. However appalling to every feminist bone in my body, I loved the scene where the art director is deciding which image of Sienna Miller to use on the most valuable piece of real estate, the cover — and he’s dismayed by her visible fillings (!)

“I think this neck looks better. Maybe we’ll put this head on this body,” he says, revealing how their use of Photoshop and retouching is as automatic and unremarkable as breathing. Altered images, which I’ve blogged about here before, are normal in this world. Therefore Grace — desperate to rescue a failed shoot by using one of the documentary’s middle-aged male cameramen, complete with his real pot-belly, as a photo subject — has to rush to the phone to make sure his jiggly real-world belly is not artifically flattened by their ruthlessly fastidious re-touchers.

“We’re not,” she says to the camera, “all perfect.”

Even if reading Vogue has never been a priority, check it out.

It’s funny, moving, telling — few documentaries focus on women at work, let alone whose well-toned arms wrestle so fiercely for raw, pure power.

V-Day Love Tips: The NYT 'Modern Love' Editor Offers His

Happy Valentine's Day
Image by elbfoto via Flickr

What does it take to find and keep true love?

For Valentine’s Day, the editor of The New York Times‘ ‘Modern Love’ column, which runs each week in the Styles section, Daniel Jones weighs in:

You’d think by now we would have an iHeart app that takes our quivering insecurities and converts them into kilowatts that can be sold back to the power company. We don’t. I’ve been sitting in this editor’s chair for five years. Tens of thousands of strangers have told me their love stories in letters, essays, phone calls and dinner conversations. It’s not a pretty picture….

If I were Spock from “Star Trek,” I would explain that human love is a combination of three emotions or impulses: desire, vulnerability and bravery. Desire makes one feel vulnerable, which then requires one to be brave.

It’s been ten years next month since I met my sweetie. He found me on-line, after I posted a profile (Catch Me If You Can, I titled it, honestly) and a photo that had been taken professionally for a story I wrote for Family Circle in which I wore silk, pearl earrings, a blazer — not exactly my normal attire. I was writing about on-line dating for Mademoiselle, a now-defunct Conde Nast women’s magazine.

He referred to himself, in one of his initial emails, as a “Mexican/Navajo/Buddhist/Republican/golfer.”

Republican?” said my Dad.

We had our first fight before our first date when he told me he planned to wear jewelry (pinky ring? bling? gold chains?) to that date and I freaked out. Luckily, he stayed the course, encouraged that he made me laugh so hard on the phone that I (so sexy) snorted.

He was, and remains, a very different sort of person than I — super-organized to my spontaneous free-spiritedness; a hovering, nurturing Jewish mom to my frostier, hyper-independent WASP tendences; a devout Buddhist who still comes to church with me, happily walking beside me up the aisle when we are asked to bring the wine and wafers to the altar for Communion. He’s seen me through two orthopedic surgeries (so far), a brain scan (there is something in there, we have proof), family dramas that included my mom’s enormous (now safely gone) brain tumor.

I doubt he signed up for any of this –who does? It’s all romance and roses and hopes and fantasies. Then reality hits. Then, in my mind, love becomes a deliberate decision, an active verb.

It is rarely dull. I can’t stand dull. Yet, for all our unchanging volatility and tedious workaholism, we’re still addicted to French bistros, the weekend FT and one another. We still make one another laugh, usually daily, so hard I think my head will explode.

I’ve never spent a decade with anyone. Never thought it possible.

Here’s to the next one.

That's Why They Call It Conde Nasty — New Hotline Helps Colleagues Drop A Dime On Each Other

US Vogue Editor-in-Chief Anna Wintour (2ndL) a...
Vogue editor Anna Wintour, in green.Image by AFP/Getty Images via Daylife

That’s my kind of corporation! Rat out your colleagues, courtesy of an in-house hotline. Reports the New York Post:

Insiders got a memo yesterday from Chief Financial Officer John Bellando, revealing that the company set up the hotline to stop the “release of proprietary information, accounting/audit irregularities, falsification of company records, theft of goods/services/cash,” and even “unauthorized discounts/payoffs.”

This could put a damper on some of the perks inside S.I. Newhouse Jr.‘s empire.

Last fall a hacker broke into Condé’s system and stole early copies of GQ, Vogue and other magazines, which were posted online.

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Yesterday’s move seemed to put the brakes on CEO Charles Townsend‘s happiness campaign. Trying to boost morale after 2009’s turmoil and layoffs, he recently did a coast-to-coast tour to give a corporate pep talk and encourage staffers to “get their mojo back.”

Conde Nast, named for the man who founded the publishing empire in 1909 by acquiring Vogue, is legendary in Manhattan publishing circles for its elite worldview. The 2006 film “The Devil Wears Prada”, starring Meryl Streep, is said to be based on Anna Wintour, long-time Vogue editor.

I interviewed at Conde Nast a few times, but never got hired there. It’s a great place to have on your resume, but maybe — now — not such a cosy place to crank out copy.

The Devil Wears Nada — Does Anyone Still Long To Be A Glossy Mag Journalist?

The Devil Wears Prada (film)
Image via Wikipedia

The scene I always find fascinating in the 2006  film “The Devil Wears Prada” is when Miranda Priestley drawlingly reminds her assistant Andrea, as she prepares to step into a crowd of Paris paparazzi, that “everyone wants to be us.” Only three years later, it feels like a century ago.

I just heard Ruth Reichl on Terri Gross’ NPR show “Fresh Air” mourning the sudden demise of Gourmet, one of the most glossy of all glossies, of which she was editor in chief, a place she described as the best job she ever had — 10 years of big budgets, free rein and a wildly creative team. Gone. And gone for good with no warning. I also heard today from the partner of a long-time Gourmet staffer, agreeing they had no clue the axe was about to fall. For journos with a deep and abiding taste for covering, if not living, the best of things, what’s next?

True Slant harbors a few ex-glossy mag staffers, so they know what’s been lost.

Given the Conde Nast bloodbath, the widespread Titanic-ness of the magazine industry these days and the paucity of jobs available at any level, does anyone even want those jobs anymore? Will they even exist in a few years?

What is the staff media job everyone wants — that actually pays?