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COLLECTOR'S ITEM: When The New York Observer parodied the April cover of Vogue with a cartoon of an open-mouthed Anna Wintour bouncing a basketball as Advance Magazine chairman S.I. Newhouse Jr. hugs her, chuckles from cubicles were heard all over Midtown — including 4 Times Square. Now it appears André Leon Talley will own the last laugh: Observer owner Jared Kushner bought the original artwork from the illustrator, Victor Juhasz, for the Vogue editor at large. At least seven people placed serious bids — two of which were from within Condé Nast, including Talley and another mysterious bidder whose identity couldn't be learned. In the past, original art commissioned for the Observer has said to have been sold for anywhere between $1,000 and $10,000. According to sources close to the weekly, Juhasz's piece went for a price in the middle of that range. No word on whether the piece will hang in Talley's office at Vogue — on display for Wintour and other staffers to view — or in his Hastings home.
— Stephanie D. Smith
FOR THE DEFENSE: Playboy's stock price might be down, but don't criticize its success with brand extensions. Christie Hefner, chief executive officer, defended the company's success in capitalizing on its brand in a letter in the May 19 edition of Forbes. The letter was a response to "Dangerous Curves," a piece in the April 7 issue, written by senior reporter Dirk Smillie. He writes mainly about Penthouse Media Group, but manages to make a few digs at Playboy in the process. Hefner's response? "If your writer had done a bit of homework before writing 'Dangerous Curves,' he would have seen that Playboy knows a thing or two about brand extensions." She wrote about the "Girls Next Door" on the E network and the "highly successful Playboy Club at the Palms Casino in Las Vegas..." She added Playboy's licensing group reported a 30 percent revenue increase last year and a 40 percent jump in segment income.
A spokeswoman for Forbes said it stands behind the article, which questions the stock performance of Hefner's company, noting that licensing revenue at Playboy accounts for less than 10 percent of the firm's income. "Ad sales for Playboy magazine and TV revenues are down, and the company's overall revenues are flat," she said.