People were surprised a couple weeks back when word trickled out that former Glamour editor Bonnie Fuller had surfaced with Meredith–the Des Moines-based outfit that supplies earnest, proper fare like Better Homes & Gardens to a quilt-stitching, muffin-starved populace.
This was the Bonnie Fuller, of course, who’d made a lusty splash for herself by frolicking up the pages of YM and Hearst’s Cosmopolitan , and later Condé Nast’s Marie Claire and Glamour , before she was memorably forced from the company last May. What, people asked, would an editor with Kim Catrall tastes do inside prim and asexual Meredith, where people have traditionally considered the G spot to be the place where Granny sits at the Thanksgiving table?
According to sources, Ms. Fuller has been devoting a lot of time as a consultant to Living-Room , a shelter magazine for the 24-to-34-year-old woman that was kicking around in the test phase on newsstands before Ms. Fuller left Condé Nast.
“She’s definitely working on LivingRoom ,” said one source at Meredith.
A spokesperson for Meredith wouldn’t confirm that Ms. Fuller was working on LivingRoom, saying she was working on a number of titles and hadn’t been assigned to one particular magazine as of yet.
“She’s been retained to help us with new magazine development; LivingRoom is one of the titles we have under development,” a Meredith spokesperson said. “Bonnie’s exact role will be determined as we examine the landscape for new magazine development.”
But according to Valerie Muller, senior vice president for MediaCom, the Gray media agency, Meredith is currently shopping LivingRoom around to ad buyers–and attaching Ms. Fuller’s name to it.
“It’s kind of great to have somebody with the spark and verve that Bonnie has,” Ms. Muller said. “They’re very pleased with how it’s testing … she might be working on other things, but she’s doing LivingRoom . She might not be the editor, but she’s definitely a consultant.”
Though Meredith has a reputation for prudence and plodding–”They’re not the kind to just throw money at parties, to dump cash on magazines that don’t make any money,” said a source–Ms. Muller theorized that a Bonnie-ized LivingRoom might be appearing soon on newsstands.
“When they [Meredith] put out More ,” Ms. Muller said, “they only did two test issues. If they’re feeling good about it, I wouldn’t be surprised to see it go monthly early next year.”
Ms. Fuller, through her own spokesperson, declined a request for an interview. “Bonnie is thrilled to be working with the people at Meredith,” the spokesperson said.
If LivingRoom evolves into Ms. Fuller’s first big post- Glamour stop, it’s more than a bit of a departure. It’s hard to picture an editor who published articles like “10 Ways to Turn Him On in 5 minutes” futzing over pastel draperies and sofas for a company that, until recently, published something called Crayola Kids . While Meredith has lately shown something of a naughty side–witness the increasingly teasin g LHJ , a.k.a. Ladies Home Journal –it has a long way to go before it’s Glamour .
Meredith’s internal culture, too, figures to be something of a strange trip, since Ms. Fuller is well-versed and already scarred by the cutthroat world of women’s magazines. While at Condé Nast, she was rumored to have flirted with the folks at Hearst for the editorship of Harper’s Bazaar , and risked the wrath of Vogue editor Anna Wintour by running an unauthorized cover shot of Catherine Zeta-Jones for Glamour a month before Vogue ran theirs.
“On one hand, it’s a step down–but on another, it’s better than her doing nothing,” said one former colleague of Ms. Fuller’s move. “It’s both sad and admirable. But I don’t think anyone’s jealous of her.”
But another former colleague said: ” Cosmopolitan was really close to who Bonnie was: a Sex in the City girl. She totally identified with it. It was her favorite TV show. But by bringing her in, Meredith will pick up a lot of attention. It’ll raise their cachet a lot.”
Indeed, some former colleagues feel the cautious environs of Meredith might be the perfect place for the rebirth of Ms. Fuller, who one editor predicted would “focus-group the hell out of her readers” before coming up with editorial content.
“She burned a bridge at Condé Nast and she burned a bridge at Hearst,” said the editor. “So what’s left? She’s a good commercial editor. She gives the readers what they want.”
Another editor said, “It’s baffling, but if you figure out what the timetable might be, it might work. Bonnie’s always been able to come up with something.”
After railing on it for months, the left-wing press has found something to like about President Bush’s tax-rebate plan. Why don’t you take those awful, shortsighted $300 and $600 checks–and send a chunk of it to us! they’re telling subscribers.
The Nation ‘s Web site sports a banner urging readers to “fight the Bush administration” and “become a Rebate Rebel” by contributing their tax refunds to the magazine. A similar cup-rattling appeal is being made on the Web site of The Progressive . Salon is asking its readers to “Let the government pay for your subscription” and to use some of the rebate to buy access to the Web site’s top-shelf (and porny!) material. Narco News, a Web site eviscerating U.S. drug policy in Latin America, recently asked readers to donate their tax rebates to the site’s legal defense fund, which it’s using to fight a libel suit by Banamex, the Mexican bank. The American Prospect has a “special offer: Bush Tax Rebate Rate of $9.95for subscriptions.” (That’s a $20 savings!)
Victor Navasky , the publisher of The Nation , said the rebate idea was first suggested by some of the magazine’s more activist readers. “It’s a way of dramatizing an impulse people have of great frustration, and they want to know what to do about it,” Mr. Navasky said. “This has been true ever since Florida, this feeling that a terrible injustice has been done.”
Besides, The Nation ‘s appeal is a protest, not a way of profiteering, Mr. Navasky said. The Nation has never made a profit in its 136-year history. “It’s my job to manage the money at our magazine, and I don’t care about the money,” the publisher said. “I really care about bringing the magazine to the break-even point for the first time in our history, but the fact is, on this one I don’t care about money. I think the protest is what’s important.”
Why not just burn the checks, then, and deliver the ashes to the White House, or some such?
“That might be a style of doing it–it’s not my particular style. It seems to me, you’ve got a resource, you might as well put it to work,” Mr. Navasky said.
Peter Rothberg, The Nation ‘s associate publisher, who is actually administering the fund-raising, acknowledged a degree of opportunism in the pitch, but said, “I think any fund-raising for a political cause has a degree of opportunism.”
At the same time, Mr. Rothberg added that while he’s opposed to the larger Bush tax plan, “I don’t think the rebate itself is a bad thing.”
Naturally, over at the National Review , they enjoyed watching the progressive competition try to reap the benefits of supply-side economics.
“The basic idea is that this money is better in private hands–in other words, their own hands–than it is in the coffers of government, so it contradicts the whole thrust of their opposition to the tax cut to begin with,” said National Review editor Rich Lowry. “I have nothing against fund-raising and private initiative to raise money, but if these people actually had the courage of their convictions, they’d just be bundling up these checks and sending them back to the government instead of using them to fill their own coffers.”
So far, the National Review –which hits up its readers for donations as well–doesn’t have any tax-rebate fund-raising plans. So what will Mr. Lowry do with his? “That is a good question. Mine will probably go to something mundane, but I should probably think of some conservative use to put it to.”
Since last month’s release of Judy Bachrach’s Tina and Harry Come to America: Tina Brown, Harry Evans and the Uses of Powe r, Ms. Brown has remained mum about the tome, as well as about the critics who used the book as a springboard to pummel her and husband Harry Evans once again.
But that silence will soon be broken. According to a Talk source, in the new “Tina Brown’s Diary” column of the forthcoming, just-closed October issue of the magazine, Ms. Brown will strike back.
“[She] humorously flicks off Bachrach,” the source said. “Tina is taking on the book and some of her media critics who have made a name for themselves criticizing her.”
And just who could that be? “Michael Wolff,” the source said.
Mr. Wolff and Ms. Bachrach didn’t immediately return calls for comment. But for the people who like this sort of media tit-for-tatting, don’t get too hot and bothered. It’s apparently not a lengthy critique.
August being August, both Ms. Brown and the Talk spokeswoman were on vacation and unavailable for comment. Reached for comment, editorial director Maer Roshan played coy. “No one ever knows what’s going to be in Tina’s Diary. It just magically appears on the page.”
– S.P. and G.S.
Could Forbes actually be getting hip? First, it puts middle-school poster girl Britney Spears on its cover. Now it’s running spots on … television.
During Sunday’s “estyle.com Classic” tennis final between Monica Seles and Lindsay Davenport, the magazine debuted a commercial showing the great internal struggles of a white thirtysomething businessman. We see him restless in a proposal meeting. We see him taking on his own existence while tapping his pencil against his desk. Finally, he looks into the mirror as he washes his face in the men’s room. How could he make the proposal better? How could will he make himself better? With Forbes: The Capitalist Tool , of course.
“Everyone is telling him that he’s doing fine,” said Kendall Crolius, vice president of marketing for Forbes . “But he’s not going to settle until it’s really great . It fits into the magazine’s ideal of being uncompromising and unrelenting in the pursuit of excellence.”
Ms. Crolius said the ad ran in part because Forbes sponsored the event, and it’ll continue to run over the next few months on a selective basis. And no, Ms. Crolius said, the campaign had nothing to do with Condé Nast’s triumphant tube marketing of its shopping magazine, Lucky .
“We’ve done television before,” Ms. Crolius said. “Not a lot. But in the right circumstances, it’s a good place for us to be.”