The Six-Figure Schmooze

NEW YORK -- Let's party.That's become the rallying cry of the fashion publishing industry, even as some magazines watch ad pages plummet, circulation fall and heads roll.One day Anna Wintour's jetting off with a legion of Vogue editors...

It's not just a Conde Nast creation. Hearst and Hachette are no wallflowers either. Hachette's Elle, for example, threw its first gala last summer, under a tent in Central Park, reportedly costing in excess of $150,000, and Hearst's Harper's Bazaar is underwriting a major Richard Avedon exhibition this month at the Whitney Museum, easily expected to top six figures.

Do editors actually enjoy throwing these parties?

"I love giving parties, and I love to go to my own, but I do prefer other people's parties," said Anna Wintour, editor in chief of Vogue.

"You don't want to do them too often, but you want to pick your moment and make sure they're a great success. It's a great boost for the magazine, both internally and externally," said Liz Tilberis, editor in chief of Harper's Bazaar.

Of HB's upcoming gala for Avedon, Tilberis said, "I'm scared to death, 250 people are coming. But we have great support from Robert Isabel and Glorious Food."

"It depends on the party," said Art Cooper, editor of GQ. "Every once in a while we'll throw a lavish one. We had the biggest and most successful party for Pat Riley, and I had a terrible time. The larger the party, the harder it is to have a good time. For me, the greatest parties are the small dinner parties for 20 people where we can sit and talk. Otherwise, you're just going around like an official greeter."

Ad agency execs aren't totally convinced of the value of magazine parties.

"I've stopped going to those parties for the most part, unless a friend is going," said Ed Taussig, associate creative director of Grey Advertising. "They don't really impress me -- it's sort of like going to a trade party. If I'm going to be the star of a party, I want it to be for my sparkling wit and not because of the influence I have with clients. If you accept the premise of these parties -- that you're there to get hit on -- it's all right, but I'm not susceptible to the schmooze at this point."
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