Having come from book editing, Stumpf had never been a reporter himself, so he interviewed Vanity Fair writers like David Margolick and Ned Zeman. Nearly every character is named after a real person in Stumpf's life — Fred Turner, for example, was his assistant. The shoeshiner has a real-life counterpart who worked near the old Condé Nast offices on 350 Madison. "Everyone at Vanity Fair knew him," said Stumpf. "We all kind of took him under our wing." Running into the shoeshiner later and hearing about his new gig shining at a Wall Street investment firm inspired Stumpf to write the book.
There are some unmistakable parallels between Glossy and Vanity Fair.
Owned by a non-interfering man by the name of "Al Lieberman" (clearly based on Condé Nast Publications chairman S. I. Newhouse Jr., and only coincidentally evoking his longtime editorial director Alexander Liberman), Glossy has writers described as "a phalanx of big guns who had been around since the Stone Age…Any hope of the Big Guns just ignoring me evaporated when my new salary was leaked to a gossip column, and it turned out I was making as much or more than some of them."
The editor in chief of Glossy, Ed, is described as a "New England WASP," who "tends to dress like he's about to go trout fishing," and who favors "dogwood-pink corduroys." (Stumpf said he's not sure if Vanity Fair editor in chief Graydon Carter, whose little-used first name is Edward, has read the drafts he gave him.)
But though Warner Bros. picked up film rights two years ago, this is far from "The Devil Wears Prada," mostly because the movie script has already edited out the journalism gig and replaced it with, in Stumpf's words, an "Eliot Spitzer character." But there's also that sentence in Stumpf's acknowledgments, which offers "gratitude without end to my mom and dad and Graydon Carter." — Irin Carmon