If Anna Wintour is the most notorious of American magazine editors, characterised by her razor sharp bob and the supposed inspiration for Meryl Streep in The Devil Wears Prada; then Graydon Carter runs a close second as the boisterously hairded editor of Vanity Fair for nearly eighteen years, and the apparent inspiration for the rather thinly veiled Clayton Harding in Toby Young’s How to Lose Friends & Alienate People.
Canadian-born, Carter began his journalism career at Time before moving to Life in 1983. During his stint as editor of The New York Observer, he took over Vanity Fair from Tina Brown, who had edited the
publication for eight years.
Carter’s Vanity Fair has been noteworthy for combining high-profile celebrity cover stories (which Carter admits are often there because they sell more copies – he’d
rather not have film stars on the cover if he can help it) with serious journalism and stunning photography. Since his accession, the magazine has won ten National Magazine Awards and has never really been out of the spotlight – who could forget the Miley Cyrus photo scandal or the nude Keira and Scarlett front cover?
Graydon’s editorials have become increasingly political in recent years, and he has authored a book called What We’ve Lost: How the Bush Administration Has Curtailed Our Freedoms, Mortgaged Our Economy, Ravaged Our Environment, and Damaged Our Standing in the World. He was also an executive producer of 9/11, the Emmy award-winning and highly acclaimed film by Jules and Gedeon Naudet about the 2001 terrorist attacks.
A many with so many strings to his bow, Carter’s speech was not one would expect from a man so embroiled in the world of celebrity and media. He spoke with a reverence for the glory of the past, a little about his work as editor, which he declared was really not a job at all, and his sadness about the loss of great young minds to the world of banking. It was an inspiring talk, from a deeply intriguing man.