Peter Bart was on the phone from Los Angeles. Variety‘s longtime editor-in-chief wanted to clarify a few things about his change of position to vice president and editorial director of the Reed Elsevier-owned entertainment industry trade publication.
“It’s not a very sexy story, and that’s why I’m sort of amused by all this speculation about ‘behind the scenes’ stuff,” he told The Observer. He was insisting that “What happened is so annoyingly simple,” and for a moment or two there, he certainly sounded annoyed. (Maybe it was because of the roundup we did yesterday?)
Mr. Bart was referring to the pileup of blog posts from industry observers who picked over the news that Tim Gray would become the top editor at Variety (effective immediately) for any bits of information they could find to assail Mr. Bart and his tenure at the trade. Deadline Hollywood Daily’s Nikki Finke wrote, “I don’t need to tell you there’s been bad blood between Bart and [Publisher Neil] Stiles”; David Poland sounded a more ominous note: “Bart was in the way of the future.”
Mr. Bart called all this “noise.” “It’s just so irrelevant, it makes it sound like I’m this 35-year-old kid who lost a power struggle. And I’m 76-years-old and there is no power struggle.”
Mr. Bart told The Observer he initiated his own title change and the hand-off of editorial duties to Mr. Gray several weeks ago. (Something he also told The New York Times‘ Brooks Barnes and Michael Cieply on April 6.) Giving up day-to-day operations would be something of a relief after 20 years, he claimed: “I don’t have to worry about [the paper] on Sunday night, as I did last night, changing headlines,” Mr. Bart said, laughing.
As for his critics’ claims that he was “pushed up and out,” Mr. Bart wanted them to know, “I still have my office and I still come in everyday. I’ll still have opinion about breaking news.”
“I still write a weekly column,” Mr. Bart said. “I write a blog, there are a lot of interesting plans for the future.”
Those plans include Variety getting into television. (Pressed for details—What network? What show?—Mr. Bart teased, “I can’t yet. But I will.”) He also referred to Variety‘s Web site and hinted, “there are all kinds of important plans, but I just can’t talk about them yet.”
In 2001, Los Angeles Magazine famously put Mr. Bart on its cover and asked “Is This The Most Hated Man in Hollywood?” Did that criticism hurt his feelings at all? “I spent 17 of my life, as you know, as a studio executive,” Mr. Bart explained. “And if when you’re running a movie studio, you take seriously all the criticism and all the noise, you’d have a serious meltdown.”
“What editor of paper doesn’t get criticized?” He wondered. “That’s what you’re there for. I just think that’s part of the territory. If I was never criticized then I’d consider myself a failure because I’d be boring.”