Int. A warehouse in Milan, some time near the beginning of this decade — night
A catwalk show has just finished and a party is beginning. The room is packed. Dance music thumps. Waiters squirm through the throng bearing trays of canapés. At the bar, the wait for drinks is 12 minutes, minimum. Clusters of middle-aged men and women in expensive clothes that don’t suit them — the fashion press — mill about, listlessly sipping cocktails and making catty remarks. They are wondering what time they can go back to their hotel rooms to Skype their therapists and send poisonous emails to their assistants while eating room service hamburgers (hold the bread, hold the fries). Around them pirouette gorgeous, willowy young people, looking fabulous in various states of undress — these are the models and their “friends”. They are wondering what time they can go back to each others’ hotel rooms to take cocaine and have gymnastic sex.
CAMERA PANS TO
Where an unremarkable looking man in a nondescript suit, the EDITOR OF ESQUIRE, 38 and not getting any younger, his ruddy face glazed in sweat, is trying desperately to attract the attentions of a mixologist, so that he can procure a drink for ALEXANDRA, 50-ish, the editor of Vogue. She does not look like a woman who wants to wait very long for anything, least of all a glass of warm Prosecco.
Former colleagues (she used to be his boss), they haven’t seen each other for some time. As they wait they are barged and jostled, and when she speaks she must shout over the bitter irony of Chic’s “Good Times”, and he must lean his head close to hers to hear her.
alexandra: So… how long have you been at Esquire now?
editor of esquire: About 18 months?
alexandra: How’s it going?
editor of esquire: Yeah, OK… I think.
alexandra: Have you gone mad yet?
editor of esquire (startled): I don’t think so. Why do you ask?
alexandra: Oh, everyone does in the end. It’s just a matter of time.
hunky barman: Prego?
alexandra: I think I might just go back to my hotel.
editor of esquire: Suits me. I’ve got some emails to send.
alexandra: Don’t we all?
Int. The art department of a magazine office in central london, last month — day Six years older and looking every minute of it, the EDITOR OF ESQUIRE, now wearing an attention seeking, caramel-coloured corduroy suit, an obstreperous tie, and personality spectacles he doesn’t really need, is hovering over the shoulder of his creative director, NICK, a no-nonsense 30-something in a sensible jumper, who is sitting at his Mac trying to design this month’s cover. Laid out on his desk and the floor around it are various print-outs of potential covers, all featuring the actor Gary Oldman, in a variety of poses and outfits. The magazine traditionally publishes two covers each month, a newsstand edition and a special edition for subscribers, with a different photo and no text.
nick: So what are you thinking for the subs’ cover? editor of esquire: My dog wearing a trendy collar?
editor of esquire: My dog.
You know we’re shooting her for the “how-to be-a-better-bloke” feature? Wearing a trendy collar.
nick: Are we?
editor of esquire: Yes! It’ll be great. Don’t worry about it. Just stick my dog on the subs’ cover. Job done.
nick (incredulous): Are you serious?
editor of esquire: Yes! It’s funny! People love dogs!
nick: But we’ve got these other Gary Oldman pictures. What about this one?
NICK holds up a black-and-white shot of Gary Oldman looking moody and magnificent underneath the Esquire logo.
editor of esquire: No, no, no. Boring! We’re doing the dog. It’ll be good. Take my word for it.
nick (under his breath): Fuck’s sake.
The EDITOR OF ESQUIRE scuttles off in the direction of his office. NICK turns, exasperated, to HENNY, Esquire’s phlegmatic, black-clad photo director, who’s seen it all before.
nick: (cont’d): He’s lost it.
henny: He lost it years ago.
nick: Yeah, but a picture of his fucking dog on the cover? In a “trendy collar”. Come on! That’s a joke.
henny: It’s better than when he made us put a fried egg on the cover, instead of Rihanna.
nick: Only just.
all editors of glossy magazines lose their minds in the end. It’s a pitfall of the job — or perhaps a perk, or perhaps both. That’s what Alex Shulman (who really
was my editor at Vogue in the Noughties) meant when she said that “everyone” goes mad. Not in that you-don’t-have-tobe-mad-to-work-here-but-it-helps kind of a way. That suggests loveable zaniness. She meant “mad” as in out of touch with reality, prone to unreasonable behaviour, impossible to work with.
Magazine editors are overindulged. At least they (we) used to be. Of course, they’ll tell you that in today’s media climate, in the autumn of the editors, when the Golden Age of print magazines is memorialised and occasionally even mourned — in print, mostly — that the days of the first-class freebies and the fat expense accounts and the corner tables in the hottest restaurants are all long gone. And they are, mostly. (Sob.) But still, anyone who reaches the summit of the masthead on a well-known glossy, for however long, gets spoilt rotten.
Being treated, even if only occasionally, like a delicate dauphin (or dauphine) who can do no wrong, might ultimately be damaging — for the dauphin(e) and those around him or her — but it’s also unquestionably good fun. Behaving in a grand and ungovernable manner? All part of the service.
The question back in 2011 or whenever that exchange between Alex Shulman and me — or a version of it — occurred was: how far along the line towards completely howling bonkers was I?
Not too far, as I remember it. Somewhere comfortably outside of barking. If she asked me today?
Well, there’s a photo of my dog on the cover. What do you reckon?
And that’s just the visible evidence. There is more, below the surface and behind the scenes. This month, I spent hours trying to convince Tom, Esquire’s entertainment director, that we ought to do a one-off Gay Issue, to reflect our progressive attitudes to modern masculinity. Or something. After he’d talked me down — in the end he had to send a long and sternly worded email outlining the many good reasons not to do such a thing — I turned on Miranda, our features editor, suggesting that as a response to the gender wars currently raging, she should edit an issue of the magazine produced by women only. The fact this would give me a month off to spend drinking in the mornings and sleeping in the afternoons — rather than my usual MO, which is the reverse of that — was not part of my calculation, but neither, when it was pointed out to me, did it much put me off the idea.
Come on, I urged Miranda. It’ll be great, it’ll be important, it’ll be zeitgeisty and epoch-defining: the first issue of a men’s magazine to be edited, written, photographed, designed, styled, sub-edited, fact-checked, only by women. “It’ll be a statement,” I said. “Of what?” she said. “I’ll get back to you on that,” I said. “Count me out,” she said.
Happily, then, I have people who keep me in check. But on other occasions I pull rank with the best of them, and do what I damn well please. So I’m not going to justify the dog to you. I don’t have to. I’m the editor, until I’m told I’m not. (Could be any day now.) I think the dog’s funny, and silly, and appealing, and maybe she pisses on a few bonfires, which is never a bad thing.
She’s a Labrador, by the way. Nearly two years old. Answers to Popcorn, but only when she feels like it; like all the best creatures she’s lovely to look at and maddening to live with. Better yet, especially for someone as spoilt as me, she’s grounding: you try standing in a busy park repeatedly shouting “Popcorn!” at a dog who is ignoring you, at quarter past six in the morning, while clutching a bag of her excrement, and see how important you feel, how potent and powerful.
All that aside, if any subscribers would rather have an issue with Gary Oldman on the cover instead of a poorly trained Labrador, it is available to buy in all, or rather most, or rather some, good newsagents.
While we’re on the subject, the greatest ever cover of a magazine with a dog on it — sorry, Horse & Hound — was an issue of National Lampoon, the American humour magazine, from January 1973. Not that it’s strictly relevant but January 1973 was the month of my birth, proving if nothing else that people — magazine editors — have been getting away with this rubbish for decades.
The cover had a photo of a terrified-looking black-and-white canine with a gun to its head and a line that might be best described as punchy: “If You Don’t Buy This Magazine, We’ll Kill This Dog.”
In their defence, it was the cover of the “Death Issue”. (Memo to Tom and Miranda: Esquire Death Issue?)
I did momentarily consider a direct homage: a photo of me threatening Popcorn with a firearm. But I worried it might upset the kids, who adore her. Not something that would usually put me off but, after all, it’s Christmas.
On which note, I wish you all the best for the festivities. See you in 2018.
I did consider a direct homage to National Lampoon: a photo of me threatening Popcorn with a firearm. But I worried it might upset the kids. And after all, it’s Christmas