Fair game – the great Gwyneth 'takedown'
Hollywood town crier 'Vanity Fair' is set to restore some bite to the celebrity profile, writes Julia Molony
Perhaps Gwyneth Paltrow can stop hyperventilating now. At least until the end of November. On Friday, the much-hyped "takedown" which Vanity Fair have been planning to publish about her failed to appear. The piece was widely speculated to involve confirmation that Gwynnie is as clenched and stuck-up as Jodie Marsh's polyester thong.
Graydon Carter, Vanity Fair editor and all-round media 'Gandalf', who oversees the adventures in tinseltown from Conde Nast towers, has vowed it will still happen, telling an interviewer that the piece is under way, headed for the presses and that Gwyneth herself "sort of forced my hand". For if Carter sparked the flames of a feud, it was Gwynnie who stoked them into all-out war, stalking around town in full PR battle-gear; dark sunglasses, no-nonsense handbag and hair scraped back into a crisis bun.
Since the first inquiries for the piece got under way, Gwyneth has been on the defensive. The New York Times reported she was busily rallying her troops. She did what many a popular, top-table, hair-flicking diva before her has done when cornered. She organised a huddle. Dividing battle lines along her Park Lane playground, and emailing all her best gal-pals and warning them to pick a side.
"Vanity Fair is threatening to put me on the cover of their magazine," she seethed, in full Mean Girls mode. "If you are asked for quotes or comments, please decline. Also, I recommend you all never do this magazine again." In Gwyneth's world, people don't "read" or "buy" magazines like the rest of us. They "do" them. Some might say a takedown of Gwyneth is a bit like shooting fish in a barrel. She's already famous for being the celebrity that people love to hate. So if Vanity Fair were looking to cash in on the schadenfreude dollar, they could have squared up to someone more surprising. Why not, say, Anna Wintour, one of their own, or the queen herself, Madonna?
To take on a true power-house matriarch, one whose concept of ferocity means more than a three-hour spinning class followed by a plate of kale? Now, that would have taken real courage. Still, it seems a touch of bite is returning to the world of the celebrity profile, and that is a welcome thing. Thus far, Gwyneth has largely enjoyed press coverage in Vanity Fair that is as goopy and self-promoting as her own website.
You can forgive publications with less clout, less power, to rely on blowing smoke up celebrity ass for a living. But Vanity Fair is as big, important, as glitzy and as famous as the stars themselves. If anyone has the power to puncture the PR-sanctioned bubble that is constantly shoved down our throats, it's them.
Increasingly, stars are ceasing to be artists and personalities in favour of becoming beautiful marketeers. They are the over-fed calves of the fashion and lifestyle industries, trading in their creative credibility for the virtues of cold, hard, uncompromising capitalism. And because of their power, their unimpeachable, in-crowd sway, we follow them, awe-struck, stuffing their pockets in the hope that we might catch the scent of heaven off their shiny blonde hair.
Vanity Fair, and the press in general have been more than happy to carry out their advertising for them. In the case of Graydon Carter's mag, this has been the basis of a special relationship it enjoys with its cover stars, forged through endless cosy myth-building photoshoots, breathlessly positive interviews and the sound of crystal champagne glasses clinking among guests and hosts of the Vanity Fair Oscars party. Well, enough. Even Gandalf himself seems to agree.
"We wouldn't be doing our job if there wasn't a little bit of tension between Vanity Fair and its subjects," Carter told the Times. And amen to that. Hurrah to the end of the era of supremacy of the Stasi-style publicist and the star who will only discuss the merchandise. We follow their lives for the same reason we watch their movies; for the love of narrative, drama, gossip and emotional complexity. They can't court and exploit that hunger without accepting that they'll be subject to it.