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Will a lack of glitz dull the glossies?

Many magazines depend on Oscar-night celebrity photos to illustrate issues for months to come. This year's events force them to make new plans.

March 22, 2003|Booth Moore and Gayle Pollard-Terry | Times Staff Writers

By eliminating the red carpet, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has pulled the rug out from under the glossy fashion and celebrity-driven publications that depend on Oscar coverage. With limited access to after-parties and a minimum of glitz expected in deference to the war, editors are scrambling to figure out how to fill pages without the requisite celebrity-as-clothes-hanger shots.

InStyle's executive editor, Charla Lawhon, who arrived in L.A. earlier this week, has been on the phone hourly from her suite at the Four Seasons to her staff in New York. They've been thinking and rethinking the May issue, she said, which is always held open a few extra days to accommodate Oscar coverage. The monthly "Look" feature was supposed to include six pages of head-to-toe red carpet photos. "But right now we don't have a way to shoot them," said Lawhon, who may end up relying more heavily on photos from the Independent Spirit Awards, to be held this afternoon in Santa Monica.

Editors at Vanity Fair are counting on photos from their own A-list after-party. "We are a little different than those other magazines because we don't cover the red carpet or the Oscars. All we have ever done is cover our own party," said Beth Kseniak, a spokeswoman for the magazine. "Clearly, we will have our own photographer in our party. We will definitely have photos that no one else has."

InStyle, too, has an after-party, held in conjunction with the Elton John AIDS Foundation. But Lawhon said she's not sure yet whether the event will have a red carpet, or if celebrities will even be photographed inside. "We want to be sensitive to this time in history and to the celebrities' concerns," she said.

Rolling up the red carpet poses a particular challenge for InStyle, which uses Oscar photos throughout the year to illustrate fashion and beauty features. "As far as what our readers want to see and what they expect of us, they will miss the coverage," Lawhon said. "But people have bigger fish to fry right now. I don't think we are going to get any letters."

As a weekly, People magazine has a bit more flexibility in planning its coverage. "As soon as we heard that things were going to be changed, we immediately made a number of plans," said managing editor Martha Nelson. "We have the status quo, and then we have plans that go all the way to the Oscars being canceled completely.

"I am in the same situation as everybody else," Nelson added. "We're all waiting to see what happens, and to see how many pages are devoted to fashion and how many pages are devoted to the Oscar walk-up or the 75th anniversary. Now, we have to respond to this as a news event."

US Weekly had planned to send four more staffers from New York to Los Angeles, including a fashion editor to do analysis on the red carpet. But now, the magazine's L.A.-based crew of 10 will cover the story alone, with pictures from pool photographers. "We'll certainly have the nominees and winners. We just won't have the range of people who walk the red carpet," said Stu Zakim, a spokesman for Wenner Media, which owns US Weekly and Rolling Stone.

Despite the obstacles, Samir Husni, who heads the magazine journalism program at the University of Mississippi and tracks magazines on his Mr. Magazine Web site, predicts there will be no shortage of glossy pages devoted to the Oscars. "Because the entertainment magazines are so dependent on celebrities and because celebrities are so dependent on magazines, they will find a way. The public relations people for those celebrities are not going to sit back and do nothing," he said. And magazine editors will just "have to be a little bit more creative."

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