Brown puts brave face on 'flame-out' at Talk

What’s next for Tina? A television talk show, Hollywood – or writing her memoirs? Colleagues, friends and even Tina Brown herself are speculating about the next move for the most talked-about editor in New York.

For the moment, she will continue to run the book division that Talk magazine set up when it launched three years ago.

At least that’s what she told colleagues at the tearful party that followed the announcement that Talk, after weeks of speculation, was folding with its February issue.

Right until the end there were denials that it was doomed. In fact, the decision was only communicated to staff after a lavish caviar and champagne party in Hollywood to mark this year’s Golden Globe Awards.

Brown and other top executives flew back to New York for a hastily called staff meeting after hearing that Talk’s Hollywood backers, Miramax, were giving up on the magazine.

It was an emotional meeting, with many of the stunned staff stifling tears. Afterwards there was an impromptu wake, with pizzas and beer, at the apartment in Greenwich Village of one of the senior editors which went on until the early hours.

Brown and her husband Harry Evans stayed until midnight. "It’s all very sad," she said as she left. The magazine, she insisted, was just getting into its stride. "It was just beginning to gel," she claimed.

She blamed its demise on the economic decline and drop off in advertising since 11 September.

Some critics were not so kind. They suggested Talk had never lived up to its promise – or the predictions that were made when it was launched. It never, for example, came close to achieving its target circulation. The best it did was 670,000.

There was also, it was claimed, too much interference editorially from its Hollywood backers who, it was suspected, often used the magazine to promote its films and stars.

It was also reported to have cost its backers $55m (£38m) during its three-year existence. Harvey Weinstein, head of Miramax, grew increasingly discontented, as did Talk’s other partner, Hearst Magazines, which tried for months to interest other backers, among them Conrad Black, Time Inc and supermarket tabloid publisher David Pecker Its closure made front-page news in New York, even in The New York Times. The New York Post’s splash read, ‘Talk Shuts Up – Tina’s Mag Drowns in a Sea of Red Ink".

Typically, Brown had the last word. One US media critic, Michael Wolff, who writes for New York Magazine, suggested the demise of Talk marked the end of the era of celebrity editors, epitomised by Brown. He declared: "I think the curtain comes down now – she has to go home." But the long-reigning queen of New York magazine editors had this response: "Any great, long career has at least one flame-out. Whatever anyone says, I am still Tina Brown"

By Jeffrey Blyth in New York

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