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Si Newhouse’s Dream Factory

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Three of Newhouse’s editors, past and present, took the stage to praise Leibovitz, the diva of divas, the kind of exotic, cantankerous talent that could only exist in Si’s world. Annie shows up at photo shoots with two vans of assistants and equipment, commandeering the scene. During her baroque financial troubles, Newhouse rushed to her aid, making a personal loan said to be seven figures.

Onstage, Tina Brown, Anna Wintour, and Graydon Carter lined up, three of the four editors who praise AnnieJann Wenner is the fourth. The stage was bare, like in a Beckett play, commanding presences waiting awkwardly on spots visibly marked in blue tapethe Oscarish aspirations broke down long ago.

Brown was in a modest dark dress, the assertive and unapologetic popularizer, rhyming jolt with volt to give a feel for the impact of Annie’s photos, and then, not quite done, comparing Annie’s photos to crack cocaine. Wintour in knee-high fur-fringed boots, hunched a bit forward at the shoulder. Almost shyly, she read from a prepared speech and talked about the glamour and the difficulties of working with Annie. Carter, in his blazer and his trailing white hairlike George Washington’s wigasked, After Avedon, who is there?

Up onstage it was the golden age of magazines, when one powerful man set legions in motion. And yet, I couldn’t help but notice, the stars were all of a certain age, pushing or past 60. Crack, Avedon: Even the references are from a past era. And yet for a night, the past and Newhouse are in their glory. His dark mood lifted.

That night, Backpacker magazine matched The New Yorker’s three awards.

I better get an outdoor editor, Remnick whispered to Newhouse.

Yes, escape seems to be the thing, Newhouse replied.

Additional reporting by Ross Kenneth Urken.


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