American Pie 01.07.05

The
imminent arrival of an American edition of OK! is being awaited with
some apprehension by other celebrity mags because of fears that OK!
will inflate the price magazines pay for celebrity pix. It is already
believed that OK! is prepared to pay – and has offered – up to $2m for
the exclusive pix of the wedding of socialite Paris Hilton .

OK!
is also one of the few magazines that allows celebrities to approve
what they print about them – and often gives them veto rights over
pictures.

Publications such as Us Weekly, the Star, InTouch and
People insist they don’t approve of this. “It’s juicing a system that’s
already overheated with money,” said a spokesman for Us – perhaps
forgetting it was Us that recently paid $500,000 for a photograph of
Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie canoodling on a beach in Africa. There is
also the other side of the picture – stars who get upset over the shots
that appear showing them in frumpy clothes or accentuating their
cellulite – which is why some welcome the arrival of OK! in the US.
Martha Nelson, managing editor of People magazine, however, calls the
arrival of OK! “an unhealthy development – one that is likely to
undermine the credibility of all celebrity weeklies”.

In the war
between the tabloids and the celebrity mags, some editors are doing
pretty well. After almost a year of negotiations, Janice Min, editor of
Us Weekly, is about to sign a new two-year contract. Her old contract
was due to expire on 5 July. Under the new contract, it is reported she
will receive a basic salary of $l.2m (that’s close to £700,000 or about
$13,500 a week) – plus a package of “incentive bonuses”. This puts her
on a par with – perhaps even ahead of – Bonnie Fuller, her predecessor
at Us.

How many journalists covered, or at least applied for
accreditation, to cover the Michael Jackson trial? (Press Gazette, 24
June). The final tally was 2,200 – that’s way ahead of the 1,500 who
were accredited to cover the first Gulf War, and a couple of hundred
more than the total assigned to cover Gulf War Two in 2003. And perhaps
more telling, more than the number of journalists combined who covered
the OJ Simpson, Scott Peterson and Robert Blake trials. Some
commentators here were blunt. They accused the US press of letting the
Jackson trial overshadow the rest of the world’s news. One writer for
Entertainment Weekly (yes, they were accredited too) reported
overhearing one Jackson supporter, outside the court, when the verdict
was in, saying to a TV reporter: “Well, you guys really hit the
jackal-pot.” A malapropism? Perhaps – but maybe appropriate.B

Forget
Michael Jackson’s Neverland, Elvis Presley’s Graceland, or Hearst
Castle in California. Or, for that matter, the White House. All are
among America’s best-known homes. Also could be included the Playboy
Mansion in California. Unlike the others, however, it’s never been open
to outsiders. But that may be remedied as Hugh Hefner, who bought the
mock-Tudor mansion in 1971 for just a trifle over £1m (he was recently
offered $75m for the property) has said the mansion and grounds,
including the notorious grotto where such celebrities as Frank Sinatra
and Sammy Davis are said to have romped after dark, will be opened to
the public – but only after his death. A tax dodge? That’s what some
suspect. But Hefner isn’t saying. Also, it may be a while before the
gates are actually thrown open. The renowned publisher is 79, has three
“live-in” playmates and is still reportedly “enjoying life”.

The
invisible wall which for years has separated advertising and editorial
may soon be coming down. The Toyota Motor company has asked at least
three major US magazine companies to lift their ban on “product
placement” – allowing products, such as their cars, to be “integrated”
into magazine stories. So far there is no sign that Hearst, Meredith or
Advance Publications, the parent of Condé Nast Publications, will go
along with the proposal. But there are signs that some magazines may be
wavering. Lately it’s been possible for advertisers to place their
brands in songs, plays, movies and of course on television. So far
magazine readers have been spared the intrusion. But ad pages have been
dropping drastically – lately down to below their l998 level – and some
publishers are asking “why not?”.

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