July 18, 2002

Toby Young’s Exposé Riles VF Editor

I know the next book I’m picking up: How to Lose Friends & Alienate People, by Toby Young, a former employee of Vanity Fair magazine under the direction of editor Graydon Carter.

Young is in the latest issue of the New York Observer with an article, “Toby On Top,” which, while not an excerpt, is at the very least a delectable appetizer of the full-course meal that must constitute the book itself.

Surprisingly, it turns out, according to Young at least, that the masthead of Vanity Fair isn’t populated by the kind of people with whom you might expect to spend a weekday night carousing through the hottest clubs in New York:

“I arrived in New York in 1995 with tales of the legendary bad behavior of Ben Hecht, Herman J. Mankiewicz and Dorothy Parker swimming in my head, expecting to find their modern-day equivalents in the offices of Vanity Fair. I imagined this zany, madcap community where no one stood on ceremony and everyone had a wisecrack at the ready. But that devil-may-care attitude, that sense of fun, was nowhere to be found. Instead, I was confronted with a regiment of pinched and hidebound careerists who never got drunk and were safely tucked up in bed by 10 p.m. In London, I’d seen chartered accountants behave with more abandon.”

Only half of Young’s book, I hear, is devoted to his tenure at Vanity Fair, though I understand much of that half is devoted to a near-evisceration of Graydon Carter:

“[F]or all intents and purposes [Carter]’s now a fully fledged celebrity. He’s ferried to work every day in a chauffeur-driven Lincoln Navigator. He presides over the most exclusive party in Hollywood. The enormous effort he puts into cultivating his persona, and the huge gulf between the image and the reality, creates an irresistible opportunity for an ambitious young journalist. Indeed, if Graydon himself had ended up working for Tina Brown in 1986 instead of co-founding Spy, he might well have written a similar book about the editor in chief of Vanity Fair himself.”

I know it’s going to be a good read because this is Young’s idea of how to kiss and make up with Carter:

“In spite of everything, I still have a soft spot for Graydon and I’m sorry he’s so angry about my book. Indeed, I’d like to take this opportunity to clear the air. Graydon, I have a message for you and it’s this: Hello! You practically invented this type of journalism. You’ve been dishing it out ever since you arrived in this city 24 years ago, and now it’s time to suck it up. If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.”

Geez, even I’m nicer than that.


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