By Joseph Tsidulko
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By Dennis Romero
Vanity Fair Editor Graydon Carter,who famously used his show-biz friendships to benefit himself financially, has been calling his Hollywood pals “scumbags” behind their backs in these weeks leading up to his magazine’s annual Oscar night party, L.A.Weeklyhas learned. Sources say Carter is even naming names, including his one-time mentor Jeffrey Katzenberg and his $100,000 benefactor Brian Grazer. Both men were unaware they’d been badmouthed by the editor during a spate of sloppy emotional jags at cocktail parties, dinner engagements, in the office and on the phone: Katzenberg for supposedly dropping Carter from the mogul’s A-list, and Grazer for supposedly ratting out Carter’s role in that ABeautifulMindpayola scandal. Grazer’s diss comes within days of his seeing Carter socially in New York and being invited to attend the editor’s forthcoming wedding.
Since Oscars is a silly season anyway, let us speculate about more folly in the future. Hollywood is a malevolent enough town that the denizens, scumbags or not, don’t just get mad, they get even. Any fallout from Carter’s recent purgings (more details later) could sink V.F.’sAcademy Awards soiree February 27.
“He’s an angry and complicated man who’s very jealous of the people he’s supposed to be friends with,” stated one entertainment-industry source close to the contretemps. “The reaction to this will be just as explosive as you would imagine. People would think twice whether they’re going to the party. They’re going to be pissed.”
About Carter’s “scumbags” phraseology, VanityFairspokeswoman Beth Kseniak expressed surprise and told me Tuesday, “I’ve never heard Graydon use that word.”
After checking with Carter, she said he does remember recently discussing Katzenberg, “and what Graydon said was, ‘He’s all business.’ But he says he’s never, ever,had that conversation you describe, with anyone, about Grazer.”
Katzenberg issued this statement to L.A.Weekly:“I have nothing but the highest respect for Graydon. He’s a brilliant editor who has done an amazing job at VanityFair,which is the magazine I look forward to reading every month.”
Grazer's office gave me this comment on Wednesday: “Brian considers Graydon to be a really close friend and he's going to go to Graydon's wedding and he's going to go to the Vanity Fair party.”
What makes the above even more interesting is the news that the big man of glossy mags appears to be biting the hands that feed him on the other side of the Atlantic as well. On Monday, the British press reported that Carter caused a ruckus inside parent company Condé Nast’s British headquarters by planning a story on the “London Lewinsky,” who is also the wife of the publisher of British Vogue.(The woman, Spectatorpublisher and Los Angeles homegirl Kimberly Quinn, had an affair with British Home Secretary David Blunkett, which led to his resignation in December.) TheEveningStandardreported that the internal controversy went at least as high up as Jonathan Newhouse, chairman of Condé Nast International.
“Graydon says Jonathan Newhouse has never had a conversation with him about the Quinn story,” V.F.’sKseniak told me. “We don’t comment on stories that we are, or are not, working on. I wouldn’t take my cues from TheStandard.”
The issue here isn’t the merits of the Quinn story. (It should be fodder for VanityFair.)Or even an editor like Graydon shitting on show-biz folk. (But these are his friends.)Instead, the focus should be on just how self-destructive isGraydon Carter?
Antyhing that Carter doesto hurt VanityFair’sOscar party could not come at a worse time for the magazine or for himself. He just canceled the publication’s upcoming Cannes Film Festival gala, even though it generates enormous European publicity as the hot ticket every year, because he inexplicably scheduled his nuptials around the same time in May. Also, this year’s Academy Awards is extremely star-challenged, with the nominees and presenters generating only dim wattage. V.F.fete organizers are panicking over a possible paucity of celebs inside Morton’s.
But all that pales in comparison to Graydon’s recent pal-and-pay scandal and the debate which has raged over whether it would spoil V.F.’sOscar night.
There’s a lingering stink after both TheNewYorkTimesand LosAngelesTimesouted Graydon’s ethical lapses for landing, or trying to land, various lucrative Hollywood deals, including that $100,000 Universal Pictures payoff for merely suggesting to Grazer that the book ABeautifulMindmight make a good movie.
More recently, there was the critical and commercial failure of Carter’s anti-Bush book, WhatWe’veLost,despite the help of half a dozen V.F.staffers; the humiliation of another four years on the outs with the Dubya White House; the embarrassment of having a bit part in that flop remake of Alfie;the self-serving nature of featuring a flattering oral history on the NewYorkPost’sPage Six. (Not long after, the NewYorkPostseemed to return the favor, predicting that 2004 will be “the most profitable year in the magazine’s storied history” and noting that Carter was seated at Condé Nast chairman Si Newhouse’s table at the annual Christmas luncheon. But the New York Daily News this week said the just released numbers from the Audit Bureau of Circulation for the last six months of 2004 show VF's average newsstand sale "tumbled" a steep 22.5% from an especially strong series of issues a year earlier. The mag's total circulation fell 5.4% to 1.1 million. Noted the paper: "Newsstand sales are generally viewed as a measure of a mag's heat, as well as a sign of whether an editor is bringing in new readers.")