Cover of the September 2007 issue of Vanity Fair, depicting Gisele Bündchen
|Paid circulation||1,167,499 (in 2008)|
|Company||Condé Nast Publications|
Vanity Fair is an American magazine of pop culture, fashion, and politics published by Condé Nast Publications. The present Vanity Fair has been published since 1983 and there have been editions for four European countries as well as the U.S. edition. This revived the title which had ceased publication in 1935 after a run from 1913. The current editor is Graydon Carter.
Condé Nast began his empire by purchasing the men's fashion magazine Dress in 1913. He renamed the magazine Dress and Vanity Fair and published four issues in 1913. He is said to have paid $3,000 for the right to use the title "Vanity Fair" in the United States, but it is unknown whether the right was granted by an earlier English publication or some other source. It was almost certainly the magazine "The Standard and Vanity Fair", "the only periodical printed for the playgoer and player", published weekly by the "Standard and Vanity Fair Company, Inc", whose president was Harry Mountford, also General Director of The White Rats theatrical union. After a short period of inactivity the magazine was relaunched in 1914 as Vanity Fair.
The magazine achieved great popularity under editor Frank Crowninshield. In 1919 Robert Benchley was tapped to become managing editor. He joined Dorothy Parker, who had come to the magazine from Vogue, and was the staff drama critic. Benchley hired future playwright Robert E. Sherwood, who had recently returned from World War I. The trio were among the original members of the Algonquin Round Table, which met at the Algonquin Hotel, on the same West 44th Street block as Condé Nast's offices.
Starting in 1925 Vanity Fair competed with The New Yorker as the American establishment's top culture chronicle. It contained writing by Thomas Wolfe, T. S. Eliot and P. G. Wodehouse, theatre criticisms by Dorothy Parker, and photographs by Edward Steichen; Claire Boothe Luce was its editor for some time.
In 1915 it published more pages of advertisements than any other U.S. magazine. It continued to thrive into the twenties. However, it became a casualty of the Great Depression and declining advertising revenues, although its circulation, at 90,000 copies, was at its peak. Condé Nast announced in December 1935 that Vanity Fair would be folded into Vogue (circulation 156,000) as of the March 1936 issue.
Condé Nast Publications, under the ownership of Si Newhouse, announced in June 1981 that it was reviving the magazine. The first issue was published in February 1983 (cover date March), edited by Richard Locke, formerly of The New York Times Book Review. After three issues, Locke was replaced by Leo Lerman, veteran features editor of Vogue. He was followed by editors Tina Brown (1984–1992) and E. Graydon Carter (since 1992). Regular columnists include Sebastian Junger, Michael Wolff, Christopher Hitchens, the late Dominick Dunne, Vicky Ward, and Maureen Orth. Famous contributing photographers for the magazine include Bruce Weber, Annie Leibovitz, Mario Testino and the late Herb Ritts, all who have provided the magazine with a string of lavish covers and full-page portraits of current celebrities. Amongst the most famous of these was the August 1991 Leibovitz cover featuring a naked, pregnant Demi Moore, an image entitled More Demi Moore that to this day holds a spot in pop culture.
In addition to its controversial photography, the magazine also prints articles on a variety of topics. In 1996, journalist Marie Brenner wrote an exposé on the tobacco industry entitled "The Man Who Knew Too Much". The article was later adapted into a movie The Insider (1999), which starred Al Pacino and Russell Crowe. Most famously, after more than thirty years of mystery, an article in the May 2005 edition revealed the identity of Deep Throat (W. Mark Felt), one of the sources for The Washington Post articles on Watergate, which led to the 1974 resignation of U.S. President Richard Nixon. The magazine also includes candid interviews from celebrities: from Teri Hatcher admitting to being abused as a child to Jennifer Aniston's first interview after her divorce from Brad Pitt. Anderson Cooper talked about his brother's death while Martha Stewart gave an exclusive to the magazine right after her release from prison.
In August 2006, Vanity Fair sent photographer Annie Leibovitz to the Telluride, Colorado home of Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes for its October 2006 issue. The photo shoot was of the couple and their daughter, Suri Cruise, who had previously been "hidden", without pictures released to the public, causing many to start to deny her existence. This issue became the second highest selling issue for the magazine; the first was the Jennifer Aniston cover after her divorce.
In keeping with the influence of Hollywood and pop culture on the magazine, Vanity Fair hosts a high-profile, exclusive Academy Awards after-party at the restaurant Morton's. In addition, its annual Hollywood issue usually consists of pictorials of that year's respective Academy Award nominees. Previous Hollywood issue covers have included group images of Gwyneth Paltrow, Nicole Kidman, and Catherine Deneuve together and Owen Wilson, Ben Stiller, Chris Rock, and Jack Black together.
The magazine was the subject of Toby Young's book, How to Lose Friends and Alienate People, about his search for success, from 1995, in New York working for Graydon Carter's Vanity Fair. The book has been made into a movie, with Jeff Bridges playing Carter.
There are currently three international editions of Vanity Fair being published, namely in the United Kingdom (started 1991), Spain and Italy, with the Italian version published weekly. The German edition was shut down in 2009.
Some of the pictorials in Vanity Fair have garnered criticism. The April 1999 issue featured an image of actor Mike Myers dressed as a Hindu deity for a photo spread by David LaChapelle: after criticism, both the photographer and the magazine apologized.
Another issue whose cover image courted controversy was the March 2006 Tom Ford's Hollywood Special Edition: the cover, shot by Annie Leibovitz, featured Keira Knightley and Scarlett Johansson, both nude, accompanied by a fully-clothed Tom Ford, a last-minute replacement for Rachel McAdams, who had backed out of the shoot after refusing to appear nude. In addition, the December, 2006 issue (Vanity Fair's first "Art Issue") drew controversy with its photo of Brad Pitt wearing nothing but a pair of white boxers and socks. Although Pitt had signed a release for the image, which was taken in September 2005, he claims he did not expect it to emerge on the magazine cover more than a year later. Vanity Fair has said that it obtained the rights for the image, as part of a collection, and that it had issued a letter to Pitt informing him, prior to the publication.
On April 25, 2008, the televised entertainment program Entertainment Tonight reported that 15 year old Miley Cyrus had posed topless for a photo shoot with Vanity Fair. The photo, and subsequently released behind-the-scenes photos, show Cyrus without a top, her bare back exposed but her front covered with a bedsheet. The photo shoot was taken by photographer Annie Leibovitz. The full photograph was published with an accompanying story on The New York Times' website on April 27, 2008. On April 29, 2008, The New York Times clarified that though the pictures left an impression that she was bare-breasted, Cyrus was wrapped in a bedsheet and was actually not topless. Some parents expressed outrage at the nature of the photograph, which a Disney spokesperson described as "a situation [that] was created to deliberately manipulate a 15-year-old in order to sell magazines."
In response to the internet circulation of the photo and ensuing media attention, Miley Cyrus released a statement of apology on April 27:
"I took part in a photo shoot that was supposed to be ‘artistic’ and now, seeing the photographs and reading the story, I feel so embarrassed. I never intended for any of this to happen and I apologize to my fans who I care so deeply about."
In 2005, Vanity Fair was found liable in a lawsuit brought in the UK by film director Roman Polanski, who claimed the magazine had libelled him in an article published in 2002, and written by A. E. Hotchner. The article recounted a claim by Lewis Lapham, editor of Harper's, that Polanski had made sexual advances towards a young model as he was travelling to the funeral of his wife, Sharon Tate, in August 1969, claiming that he could make her "the next Sharon Tate". The court permitted Polanski to testify via a video link, after he expressed fears that he might be extradited were he to enter the United Kingdom. The trial started on July 18, 2005, and Polanski made English legal history as the first claimant to give evidence by video link. During the trial, which included the testimonies of Mia Farrow and others, it was proved that the alleged scene at the famous New York restaurant Elaine's could not possibly have taken place on the date given, because Polanski only dined at this restaurant three weeks later. Also, the Norwegian then-model disputed the accounts that he had claimed to be able to make her "the next Sharon Tate".
Polanski was awarded £50,000 damages by the High Court in London. The case was notable because Polanski was living in France as a fugitive from U.S. justice, and never appeared in the London court for fear he would be extradited to the U.S. Graydon Carter, editor of Vanity Fair, responded, "I find it amazing that a man who lives in France can sue a magazine that is published in America in a British courtroom."
In January 2006, Vanity Fair published a cover feature and an interview with Lindsay Lohan in which she admitted using drugs "a little", although she denied ever using cocaine, describing it as a "sore subject". The article said she had recovered from "bulimic episodes", and that her 2005 hospitalization was for "a swollen liver and kidney infection". Lohan later said she was "appalled" that her words were "misused and misconstrued" for the article; the magazine however replied that "Every word [was recorded] on tape. Vanity Fair stands by the story."