In Style: People spinoff celebrates celebrity with a decidedly upscale approach

MAGAZINES

October 09, 1994|By Mark Feeney | Mark Feeney,Boston Globe

Fat with ads, flush with upscale readers, Architectural Digest has long been a marketing director's dream. This is why Conde Nast shelled out many millions of dollars last year to acquire it and folded HG, its own competing shelter book.

The people at Time Inc. know a large and lucrative niche when they see one, too. They also know the best way to begin one franchise is to spin it off from another. All of which accounts for In Style, a publication that explicitly bills itself as "a new magazine from People."

Architectural Digest's obvious attraction is its serving as a window onto the domiciles of various wealthy, tasteful people whose tastefulness does not extend to dismay at the prospect of hundreds of thousands of people gawking at where they live. A less obvious but in some ways even more potent attraction is the magazine's neutron-bomb approach. By showing the houses of famous people without the people, AD makes it easier for readers to imagine themselves fingering those swags or scuffing that parquet.

A dutiful child of its periodical parent, In Style prefers to believe that l'homme c'est le style and so presents its celebs in situ. Thus People predominates over AD in the In Style blend. But wait, a third magazine figures in the mix: Victoria. That publication has done very well indeed with its own cheerfully retro formula of chaste domesticity. Now take one part fancy house, one part famous name and one part clean living, and you've got In Style.

It's hard to imagine a more ringing declaration of virtuous living than giving over your October cover to Sharon Stone -- she of the your-place-or-right-here persona -- and then writing up her love of cookie-baking (she used to send out 100 dozen every Christmas as presents) and running a photo of her horseback riding with her goddaughter.

Ms. Stone also turns up as a guest at the strenuously documented wedding of sitcom star Alan Thicke and former Miss World Gina Marie Tolleson. Mr. Thicke is Canadian, and the account of the festivities, a veritable Valhalla of show-biz cheese and north-of-the-border bonhomie, reads like a flashback to the glory days of "SCTV." Heading the guest list were Barry Gibb (of the Bee Gees), Bob Saget (of "America's Funniest Home Videos"), hockey's Wayne Gretzky and former Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, "who stole the show with a stout rendition of 'When Irish Eyes Are Smiling.' "

Guide to the Simpson trial

As for People (Oct. 10) proper, it offers "The Complete Guide to the Trial of O.J. Simpson." "Complete" it isn't; otherwise, this issue would outweigh the Manhattan phone book. Still, it displays a lunatic, if intermittent, attention to detail that does have its moments. (Can you name the manager of the Brentwood Ben & Jerry's where Nicole took the kids the night of the murder?) The guide also could be a big hit at parties. My boss was able to identify 12 of the 13 people on the cover, whereas I barely managed 10.

New Yorker names names

Another New Yorker tradition has fallen.

After last week's lead, the current issue (Oct. 10) runs writer credits at the end of "The Talk of the Town." With its expert snippets of reportage, "Talk" was the magazine's institutional voice: uninflected, wayward, sometimes a bit twee, but that was all right because you were invariably encountering people you never met anywhere else.

Since Tina Brown took over two years ago, "The Talk of the Town" has read more like "The Talk of the Royalton": celebrity driven, up to the minute, looking-into-a-mirror hip and full of people you can meet anywhere except in a non-media context. In letting us in on its contributors' identities, will "Talk" regain its own identity? Don't hold your breath.

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