During Jann Wenner’s boozy Nov. 20 Four Seasons tribute to Us Weekly ‘s Bonnie Fuller, editor in chief and über -boss were as inseparable as newlyweds. Mr. Wenner and Ms. Fuller held hands as they made their way through a motley crew of publishing-industry executives- Esquire editor in chief David Granger; GQ publisher Ron Galotti; Paul Steiger, managing editor of The Wall Street Journal -who’d come to acknowledge Us Weekly ‘s remarkable rise from the crypt.
But as Ms. Fuller (no longer the disgraced Condé Nastie, but … a genius ! ) and Mr. Wenner (no longer the money-flushing celebrity magazine dabbler, but once again a … maverick !) make happy-face over their adrenalized paparazzi sheet, there are potential storm clouds on the horizon.
Ms. Fuller’s contract is up in March, sources close to the magazine said. One source said that negotiations between Wenner Media and Ms. Fuller for a new contract have not begun, and that may be an ominous sign. Mr. Wenner’s known to be a little tight with the spending sometimes, but with his star editor, who reportedly already makes seven figures (others say it’s six), getting virtually every drop of the credit for Us Weekly ‘s explosive circulation growth, the price keeps … going … up.
One Wenner Media source said that Mr. Wenner has already put himself in a defensive position by not sitting down with Ms. Fuller a while ago. “If Jann were smart about it, he would have locked her up with a multiyear deal three or four months ago,” the source said.
Instead, there’s no deal, and the Bonnie Fuller Good Press Express chugs along, even as the competition at Time Inc.’s People downplays her growth.
“I’d say on almost one of two sales calls I make, I get asked about Us Weekly ,” said Rob Gregory, publisher of Rolling Stone , which is another magazine owned by Mr. Wenner, but not edited by Ms. Fuller. “It’s thrilling to see how hot she’s made the magazine. It benefits us at Rolling Stone . It benefits the image of Wenner Media. It’s all good.”
Think it isn’t all good? Look what they’re saying about Ms. Fuller’s future over at Condé Nast:
“She could do a hundred things,” said an executive at Si Newhouse’s publishing arm. “It’s hard to think of an editor in chief that’s been at so many different magazines and just banging out the success from one magazine to the next.
History revises itself! Wasn’t Condé Nast pooh-poohing Ms. Fuller not too long ago and expressing happiness at her ouster from Glamour ?
It’d be interesting to get Ms. Fuller’s take on all this, but she didn’t return Off the Record’s call for comment. As for Wenner Media, the official line was: We love Ms. B. and want her to stay. “We are thrilled about the growth of advances in Us ,” the Wenner Media spokesperson said. “There’s no thought of making any changes.”
As for Mr. Wenner, he may not have drawn up a new contract, but he has shown Ms. Fuller the love from time to time. Besides the Four Seasons party, there have been tongue-and-cheek advertisements in places like Women’s Wear Daily and Advertising Age featuring the two together.
If Ms. Fuller and Mr. Wenner were to part ways, however, there’s no doubt she’d be a hotter property than she was the last time she was on the market, and wound up helping Meredith, a Des Moines, Iowa–based magazine company, launch something called Living Room .
However, right now there are not very many options.
“I don’t really see any logical magazines for her,” one Wenner source said. “She could only go to a big title, and there aren’t any big titles to be taken.”
The Condé Nast executive said that it also might be useful for Ms. Fuller, something of an itinerant- Cosmopolitan , Glamour -to spend a little more time at Us Weekly . “Wouldn’t it be nice if she just stayed for a while and carried out a vision for a period of time?” the executive asked.
But leave it to the gang at Time Inc. to really throw some H20 on Ms. Fuller’s heat. One senior-level Time Inc. source was a bit more harsh in assessing the situation.
“What’s she’s done at Us is idiosyncratic to Us ,” the executive said. “Wherever she goes, there’s a newsstand spike that lasts for a period of time and then dies down. You have to remember that it’s always easier to fix newsstand than maintain it.
“She’s already been at Condé Nast, she’s already been at Hearst,” the executive continued, “and Time Inc. would have no interest in her. I don’t know if there would be a bidding war for her.”
Still, there’s no denying the potential intrigue if Ms. Fuller’s deal with Mr. Wenner comes down to the wire. As another Condé Nast executive source-who said that Ms. Fuller “is really well suited to what she is doing right now” and of questionable value on the “open market”-concluded: “I’d love to be the one negotiating the contract.”
They may finally have a profit, but they don’t have a “The.”
The Dec. 2 cover of The New Yorker features a typically clever illustration of a couple of turkeys dressed for the theater, walking down a deserted street with the shadow of a man lurking behind them in the distance. What it leaves out, though, is the “The” in the title of The New Yorker .
“There was just a production problem,” explained a New Yorker spokesperson, “and we fixed it halfway through the print run. Half the copies were printed with ‘The’ on it.”
Since taking over New York for dreamy Kurt Andersen in 1996, Caroline Miller’s been a woman standing on a piece of Melba toast in shark-infested waters. Lately, rumors of Ms. Miller’s would-be demise have provided more filler at bad cocktail parties than Brie and crackers.
But, baby, she’s a survivor! On Tuesday, Nov. 26, a spokesperson for New York confirmed that the magazine’s parent company, Primedia, has renewed Ms. Miller’s contract for another year, staving off the wolves and would-be usurpers (Maer Roshan, David Kuhn) for now.
Ms. Miller and New York publisher Alan Katz were unavailable for comment.
Pretty soon, they might just be paying us to read the New York Post .
Following the most recent audit numbers for 2002 that saw exponential growth for the Rupert Murdoch–owned tabloid, the paper once again boosted its weekday circulation by 10 percent, to 590,000, putting it ahead of Newsday but still behind the Daily News . Of course, the latter has howled that the Post ‘s growth has nothing to do with the quality of the paper, but with the 25 cents it takes to buy it, versus the 50 cents it takes to read Pete Hamill and Michael Daly. Post executives, meanwhile, have long complained that the News inflates its figures through bulk sales.
But in an e-mail sent the week of Nov. 17, the Post ‘s parent company, News Corporation, smelling blood, asked all its “Tri-State” area employees to “Help the New York Post win the last great tabloid war in America!”
Offering a home-delivery price of $1 a week (calculated by The Observer ‘s Tom McGeveran to be 14.2 cents a day), the e-mail encouraged employees to “help us continue our tremendous circulation growth!”
“Sign up now,” the offer concluded, “and help the New York Post beat the Daily News today!
A Post spokesperson declined to comment.
Hey, little darlings … guess who’s going to work for Time Inc.?
The house that Henry Luce built has hired Liz Smith buddy and former Texas Governor Ann Richards and her firm, Public Strategies Inc., to work with, among other things, People .
Ms. Richards, who set up her firm’s New York office in 2001, was traveling and did not return a call seeking comment.
A Time Inc. spokesperson confirmed that Public Strategies will be working with People , but declined to discuss any other publications the company would be working with, or what specifically they would do with the weekly magazine.
However, the spokesperson said: “One of the things we found appealing about Public Strategies was Ann Richards. She’s very avant-garde and well thought of. Her advice and expertise were things that we found appealing and interesting.”
After a one-week absence, and thousands of complaints, it’s once again time for the Off the Record Genitalia Update …
In early January, Rolling Stone will publish a story by writer Robert Kurson, talking about what it’s been like to lead a life with, um, a very big penis. Originally considered by Esquire , Rolling Stone managing editor Ed Needham said: “It’s a story of man with an extraordinary gift. It’s something new, something different, something you haven’t read before. This is a biological fact of life that we find difficult and embarrassing, but this is a guy that was born with an enormous asset in an otherwise ordinary life.
“I’m not sure he has too many problems with it,” Mr. Needham continued. “He’s a fairly confident individual. He doesn’t treat it like a disability or inconvenience. It tends to be the people around him that have problems with it.”
Anyone with genitalia-related media information is hereby encouraged to contact Off the Record.
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