Maria Puente, USA TODAY
Hollywood and media types are cheerily chewing over reports today of a brewing feud between Gwyneth Paltrow and Vanity Fair, the glossy monthly that tries to combine serious journalism with celebrity worship and has the ad pages to prove its success.
The New York Times set off the chattering classes with a story in today's editions detailing how the longstanding balance of power between a magazine that covets celebrities for its covers and the celebs who want total control over their image had recently shifted against VF. And Paltrow is said to be leading the pikes-and-pitchforks brigade.
Don't talk to VF, she warned her pals in an e-mail obtained by the Times. The magazine had planned to put her (again) on the cover in the near future but, "if you are asked for quotes or comments, please decline," she wrote. "Also, I recommend you all never do this magazine again."
Well. Assuming this is legit, what's the Oscar-winning actress so riled up about? She's done plenty of other magazine covers over the years, including VF, and every publication has treated her like a princess.
According to the Times, she and her friends are not pleased about VF's new "tough" approach to stories about Hollywood, such as its recent examination of behind-the-scenes trouble in the making of Brad Pitt's zombie movie, World War Z, or writer Maureen Orth's revealing look at the weirdness of the Church of Scientology and its alleged control over the romantic life, and divorces, of Scientologist/movie star Tom Cruise.
Up until now, VF has been known for its celebration of Hollywood and celebrities, not to mention its gushy admiration for British royals and aristocrats, and the Kennedys.
But what does all this have to do with Paltrow? She's not a Scientologist and wasn't in World War Z.
According to the Times, it has to do with who needs whom more. Yes, VF and its editor, Graydon Carter, who's so Hollywood he's become a sometime movie producer, throw the glitziest Oscar party every year, prompting widespread groveling for invites. And yes, his magazine's cover (1.2 million circulation) has long been prime real estate for promoting a celeb's image and latest project.
But nowadays, who needs a magazine to promote yourself when you can go directly to your audience through the Internet and social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook? Paltrow, for instance, is one of the first celebs to set up her own website, Goop.com, to talk directly to her fans. Legacy media, and not just magazines, are just not as relevant as they once were.
Plus, Paltrow is not afraid to bite media hands that stroke her. Vogue queen Anna Wintour, who helps organize the Costume Institute ball at New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art every year, could not have been pleased when Paltrow dissed it this year.
"I'm never going again," she told USA TODAY. "It was so un-fun. It was boiling. It was too crowded. I did not enjoy it at all."
It takes two to feud, though, and Carter isn't joining, shrugging off the criticism in a statement quoted by the Times.
"We wouldn't be doing our job if there wasn't a little bit of tension between Vanity Fair and its subjects. In any given week, I can expect to hear from a disgruntled subject in Hollywood, Washington, or on Wall Street. That's the nature of the beast."