On Friday, June 1, the dregs of Kate Betts’ Harper’s Bazaar staff were summoned to their deposed editor’s stripped-down office, where they confronted their new leader, Glenda Bailey, for the first time. Standing next to Hearst Magazines president Cathleen Black, who wore a gold lamé jacket (“very jaunty, like ‘executive weekend,'” sniffed one staffer), Ms. Bailey, 42, was herself clad in a Louis Vuitton-logoed black trench coat. “She looked dowdy,” said the staffer. “We had heard these rumors for a very long time–for over a year–but not about Glenda . It was like a switcheroo.”
After a few jokes, the new editor in chief assured the assembled that she wasn’t planning to turn the venerable fashion monthly, historically Pepsi to Vogue ‘s Coke, into another Marie Claire –the boppy, sexually frank Hearst title whose circulation she has increased more than 50 percent since she arrived from England five years ago.
The response: awkward silence. It was as if Glenda the Good Witch, with her cloud of frizzy, reddish hair and vivacious manner, had descended in a bubble to wave her wand over the ailing Bazaar .
Indeed, the land of women’s magazines was decidedly Oz-like last week. There went AnnaWintour’s37-year-oldformerprotégée, Kate Betts, the Wicked Witch of Condé Nast, after plowing through countless underlings in a whirlwind two-year broom ride (“What I’m feeling today is a sense of vindication,” breathed one of them the morning after the house fell). Meanwhile, Glamour ‘s recently exiled editor, Bonnie Fuller–who had burnished her name at Marie Claire and Cosmopolitan and had angled to return to Hearst in Ms. Betts’ spot–emerged as a sort of improbable Dorothy, temporarily stranded between the two companies. Condé Nast spokeswoman Maurie Perl confirmed that Ms. Fuller had snagged some office space in the Grace Building on 42nd Street between Fifth and Sixth avenues as part of her exit package.
Ms. Betts’ ouster on Thursday, May 31, was reasonably civil, too. Contrary to rumors, Ms. Betts was not escorted from the building by armed guards, but by her husband, Chip Brown. “He showed up with his backpack,” said a witness. “It was adorable.”
Of course, her former employees had plenty of opinions about what went wrong ….
A deputy: “Kate doesn’t really know about visual, but she doesn’t want to give up that control to anyone. She didn’t know how to manage people. She was a control freak, and she wasn’t good with people. It makes me think that there was truth to [the notion] that she was too young.”
A junior editor: “Anna kisses ass, but Kate is much more independent and a little bit doesn’t-have-the-time. She never really played their game …. She was the hard worker, not the schmoozer.”
A writer: “No one seemed to be able to please her. People would come in and she would put them through incredible stress to get a lot of new ideas developed, and nothing ever seemed to click for her …. She had never styled a shoot, and that was a big struggle for her … trying to rein in the world of the stylists and the art directors, who work in a very different way from writers and editors …. She put all her eggs in the basket of [creative director] Michel Botbol. He’s like a 30-year-old guy, not a seasoned editorial leader; he’s almost like a playboy.” (By Monday, Mr. Botbol had been given his notice.)
Perhaps Ms. Betts’ most serious error was failing to splice the cold, slicker Condé Nast-Fairchild culture into Hearst’s hearty corporate patchwork, beginning with her own chilly, patrician, Princeton-grad persona. “She adopted every Anna Wintourism under the sun,” said someone who has worked for them both, “down to mannerisms, posture, [a] way of carrying herself in the office, a certain way of crossing her legs, leaning on her elbow at a certain way at her desk. It was eerie, at times, how similar she acted to Anna–always sequestered in her corner office, with her two assistants perched there like little lion guard dogs.”
Though cosmetically imperious, Ms. Betts didn’t back it up with the requisite decisiveness, ex-colleagues say. Her masthead turned over continually. Unlike her predecessor, the late Liz Tilberis, Ms. Betts never found her Fabien Baron, someone who would articulate a clear, distinct design philosophy. Some felt the new cover logo was cheesy (“McDonald’s-y,” as one put it) and the typeface used for features painfully small. There were two complete redesigns in the space of a year and a half.
May cover subject Chloë Sevigny perhaps encapsulated the magazine’s schizoid tendencies: too obscure for Middle America, but not enough of a new face to make a point among fashion snobs. Meanwhile, the August Bazaar –the last green-lighted by Ms. Betts–is slated to feature Britney Spears, a choice that rankled the staff’s couture contingent.
Though Ms. Betts handily plundered her old employers to stock and restock her staff, her fellow transplants seem to regard Hearst as a kind of drab Kansas. “When we got there, it was always just like, ‘ Eccch , Hearst is the worst ,” said one who passed through the revolving door. “Hearst is like Russia. There isn’t even a headquarters. If your chair is broken, it’s never fixed.”
However, this environment seems to suit Ms. Bailey, who was born in working-class Derbyshire, England, and attended Kingston Polytechnic, where she got a fashion degree. Unlike Ms. Betts, she has assembled a close-knit team of fierce loyalists, mostly British, who have worked closely with her for years: deputy editor in chief Jenny Barnett, editorial director for features Michele Lavery, fashion director Mary Alice Stephenson and their woman in Europe, editor-at-large Susan Boyd. “They’re not sycophants at all, but it’s like the five-hour close machine with Jenny, Michele and Glenda behind the door,” said a former Marie Claire staffer.
The fate of Marie Claire fashion editor Lucy Sykes, sister of Vogue ‘s Plum–who, it was said, was hired to raise the magazine’s profile in the gossip columns–was hanging in the balance as of this writing. Ms. Sykes was said to be on vacation, returning Monday , June 11.
“I think in a business where there’s a constant turnover of staff, she [Glenda] really inspires loyalty,” said Ms. Lavery of her long-time boss. “Her sheer force of energy and enthusiasm is outstanding; it’s never, ever waned. Her hours are pretty regular, but she always has homework and she always does it every night–nothing ever slips behind.” Ms. Lavery waffled when asked about Ms. Bailey’s vision for the new Bazaar but said firmly, “It’s going to be fan tas tic.”
Under Ms. Bailey, one might expect more international, investigative reporting to be added to Bazaar ‘s mix. The new editor doesn’t really have a track record covering culture and the fine arts. Her ascent from humble beginnings and her offbeat approach to covering celebrities (she not only had Brooke Shields photographed in an igloo, she left her there to write about it) seems a possible victory for commoners who have tired of the constant twirl of Hilton and Lauder sisters through the pages of Bazaar and Vogue .
At any rate, even colleagues who have suffered at Ms. Bailey’s hands describe her as hands-on and loaded with zeal.
“I would say her outbursts are countered by her mad passion for something,” said a former Marie Claire editor, who remembered Ms. Bailey sitting at her desk with a lunch from Zen Palate. “She’ll come through and say, ‘Oh, I love that. Love love love love love !’ Or, ‘I hate that, I hate that, change it immediately!’ She’s never lukewarm about anything that goes in the magazine. She either loves it or it doesn’t go in. Any of those real-people stories? Glenda has approved every single woman who appears in the story.”
As for the new editor in chief’s personal image, which was causing some consternation among the lower ranks of the fashion community last week, it could be said that Ms. Bailey follows in the exuberantly shabby tradition of the beloved Ms. Tilberis. Said one defender, “I think her hair looks best wild .”
Around this time last year, it seemed as if all of Time Inc. was getting a free tropical vacation. A few lucky staffers from Time and Fortune went for corporate retreats in Hawaii, and who could forget that the entire staff of Entertainment Weekly enjoyed some raucous, booze-addled, hot-tub fun in Puerto Rico?
Oh, what a difference a year and new techno-geek bosses from Virginia can make! This year, no company-sponsored tan lines or free Caribbean trips at Time Inc.
But they’re still on the beach at Maxim ! Ad recession or not, the jiggly T&A strategy is still pulling in big bucks for Felix Dennis, so on May 21, all 30 or so of Maxim ‘s editorial staff–and a few lucky folks from the business side–got shipped off for a three-day holiday in Jamaica.
In the groovy environs of the Half Moon Bay resort, the Maxim staff kicked back and rethought their laddy mag. “I wanted to force a quantum moment so we could all take stock of where we are, and where we seem to be heading,” Mr. Blanchard said, adding, “Success breeds complacency, and complacency breeds boring, crappy magazines. I won’t name names.”
And as for extracurriculars? “We escaped with one beer-bottle-related emergency-room visit, three totaled golf carts and only two indiscreetly-hooking-up staffers publicly busted,” Mr. Blanchard said. “Not exactly Led Zeppelin throwing TV sets into the pool, but not bad.”
The Daily News ‘ business section is downsizing. Starting on Monday, June 4, the Daily News eliminated the third page of its business section, which had usually been used for briefs and often carried a half-page ad. This leaves “BizNews” with two main pages, as well as a third with stock tables that has been rejiggered to carry a column of briefs.
The News has never played business for buzz, sometimes opting to bury the section deep in the tabloid–in the June 5 paper, you can find it on page 50, right after “Big Town Chronicles” and “Your Neighborhood.” While the rival New York Post has long used its insidery business coverage of finance, media and real estate (and recently, fashion) to bolster its upscale-downscale image, the News has focused on “news you can use” and more impersonal local coverage.
A spokesman for the News confirmed the cutback but suggested that its editorial impact will be negligible. Business editor Scott Wenger said: “It’s still a great overview of the day’s business news.”
Still, sources elsewhere at the paper interpreted the shrinkage as a cost-cutting move at the tabloid, which in May cut more than a dozen newsroom jobs. To date, the News ‘ business desk has evaded pink slips–it remains steady at about 10 staffers–and though layoffs remain a concern, the spokesman said that no one was being fired.