American Pie 15.07.04

What’s a sure-fire winner on the cover of a celebrity magazine? Not just a picture of a top celeb – add in plastic surgery and the magazine flies off the news-stands. That’s the claim. With almost nine million Americans – mostly women – undergoing some sort of plastic surgery in the past year, there has been a huge increase in cover stories about nose jobs and brow lifts. Ratings of TV shows such as Extreme Makeover and I Want A Famous Face are also up. “The subject is hot,” says Martha Nelson, managing editor of People magazine, which recently ran a cover story that asked, “Has TV Plastic Surgery Gone Too Far?” and sold around 1.4 million news-stand copies as a result. An earlier issue with the cover story “Coming Clean About Plastic Surgery” sold 1.7 million. Since last July, In Touch has run six cover stories on the subject. One issue, which asked “Who’s Real?, Who’s Not?”, almost doubled the usual sale. The Star has done three major stories lately – “Diet or Surgery?”, “Secret Makeovers” and “Meg Ryan’s New Face” – and each sold around a million copies. With many parents now giving their daughters breast implants as gifts, the topic has spread to teen magazines. Bauer’s Twist ran a cover story entitled “Plastic Surgery Secrets”. Even US News and World Report ran a cover story on the new national obsession in May entitled, appropriately, “Makeover Nation”.

It looks as if Penthouse founder Bob Guccione will be able to hang on to his Manhattan mansion after all. After months of negotiation, agreement has been reached with General Media, which now publishes Penthouse, to pay Guccione $1m (£540,000) a year for the next 10 years. Enough to maintain something of his former lavish lifestyle.

The New York Post’s gaffe in naming the wrong man to be John Kerry’s running mate in the presidential election has been compared to the mistake the Chicago Tribune made in the 1948 election when it proclaimed “Dewey Beats Truman”. The Post’s blooper gave its big rival, the New York Daily News, an opportunity to gloat. It suggested it was typical of the Post’s journalism and even sent a case of Australian bubbly to Post editor Col Allan to help “celebrate the historic blunder”. It was rejected. For a time, copies of the Post with the erroneous “election exclusive” were selling on eBay for up to $50 (£27), but collectors are now being offered copies for under $5. Post proprietor Rupert Murdoch seems unfazed and was quoted saying: “Everybody made a mistake. They were embarrassed and they’ve apologised for it. It happens sometimes.”

The US version of The Week, which has been struggling since its launch in 2001, has done a deal with a big think-tank that, it is hoped, will boost circulation. From November, the 25,000 members of the Conference Board will start receiving The Week as a membership perk. It should give a healthy boost to the magazine’s circulation, which has been hovering at around 178,000 – despite publicity-generating celebrity lunches moderated by Harry Evans. Publisher Felix Dennis has conceded he may have to spend between $40m and $45m (£21m and £24.2m) before it turns a profit – $13m (£7m) more than anticipated. Originally, it was promised ads would be limited to six pages per issue. It’s now between 12 and 14.

Quote of the week: from Iain Calder, whose book The Untold Story: My 20 Years Running the National Enquirer has just been published, when asked by Women’s Wear Daily what he felt was his greatest achievement: “I’ve estimated that the number of publications I’ve sold with my name on as editor is about four thousand million. Coming from a little mining village in Scotland, I’m quite proud of that.”

By Jeffrey Blyth

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