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My first introduction to Vanity Fair was in my childhood when I used live in a remote village. There was an outlet called Vanity fair where all sorts of goodies were available and when ever we were in need of something which was not easily available we went to Vanity fair and lo it was there. As I grew up I came across John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress and there I came know of another Vanity fair which meant "A place or scene of ostentation or empty, idle amusement and frivolity" and I thought that was impressive. On the other hand, however, William Makepeace Thackery used "Vanity Fair" to christen his very widely read satirical novel of 1948, being serialized in Punch magazine of Great Britain during that period. When I grew up a little more the "Vanity fair" of my village had its imprint on my mind. Because as far as I remember the greatest embarrassment of my life was my answer to a question about Vanity fair. One of my young buddies asked me "How do you like the Vanity fair?" I smugly said "Why? I go there on regular basis and if you feel like you can come along with me and check out, it is the most updated variety store in town, dear! Have you been there only recently?" "I didn't know you can shop in a magazine live, dear!" bang came the answer. When I came to know the Vanity Fair he was referring to my surprise had no end. At this point I delved deep into it and the more I discovered about it, more enchanted I got.
If you look into the evolution of Vanity Fair it goes way back to the 1800s the magazine had three incarnations in the 1800s itself. Between 1859 to 1863 it was a Manhattan weekly meant for mostly humour, then came the Vanity Fair, U.K., periodical dubbed as the cream of society magazines between 1868 and1914 and I quote Sir Leslie "Spy" Ward, the magazine's most celebrated illustrator "when the history of the Victorian Era comes to be written in true perspective, the most faithful mirror and record of .... The spirit of the times will be sought and found in Vanity Fair" which now seems to be an apt statement. Another American weekly publication cropped up in 1890 more as a magazine catering to theatre and nakedly claimed that it reaches "the vast, luxury-loving, money spending multitude everywhere" and how correct he was!
1913, saw the advent of Condé Nast, who had already a massive success with Vogue,and said to have paid 3,000 US dollars for using the rights to use the title "Vanity Fair" in the US and introduced "Dress & Vanity Fair" which had an uncelebrated four publication run. But Frank Crowninshield was the architect of a rejuvinated, revampmeped Vanity Fair in 1914. Modern artist like Picasso, Brancusi, illustrators of the calibre of Miguel Cavarribus and Paolo Garreto were promoted. Contrubutions were published from the likes of Dorothy Parker, Gertrude Stein and D. H. Lawrence, Aldous Huxley, T. S Elliot. Probably it is the only magazine which has captured Aldous Huxlley, T. S Eliot, Ferenc Monhar, Getrude Stein, and Djuna Barnes all to appear in a single issue, July 1923. Celebrity potrayal was taken to great heights by the pioneering works of such photographers as Baron de Meyer, Man Ray, Cecil Beaton to mention a few.
"Vanity Fair" reached great heights in the 20s and went through to the 30s and the brilliance and aptitude of Croninshield and Nast made their mark in Manhattan "café society" and Vanity Fair was the smartest of the smart magazines of that Era. To quote Cleveland Amory, an established social historian "Vanity Fair was as accurate a barometer of its time as exists." But in 1936 Vanity Fair had its share of the great Depresion and was suspened for being too urbane. In 1935, December Conde Nast announced that "Vanity Fair" and "Vogue" will merge into "Vanity Fair".
In 1983 Vanity Fair was rsurrected half a century later by the Conde Nast Publications. Richard Locke and Leo Larmen as editors had but a limited impact. It started cracking celebrities through writers like Dominick Dunne and saw the advent of scandals of all sorts in it in Tina Browns era which started in 1984.
But real success story was to come in 1992 when Graydon Carter (of the Time, Life, Spy, The New York Observer fame) took the magazine to its dizzy height both in terms quality and financial with its international edition already launched in 1991.
The list of regular contributing columnist include Sebastian Junger, Michael Wolff, Chris Hitchens, Dominick Dunne, Maureen Orth and Vicky Ward. Late Herb Ritts, Bruce Weber, Annie Leibovitz, Mario Jestino are celebrated photographers who contribute to Vanity Fair on regular basis. They have enriched this famous magazine with breath taking full-page portraits of current celebrities.
The most famous or infamous was probably the August 1991 cover which featured a pregnant naked Demi Moore in "More Demi Moore"
Journalist Marie Brenner exposed the tobacco industry in "The Man Who Knew Too Much" and this remarkable article was adapted into a movie "The Insider" (1999) starring Al Pacino and Russel Crowe.
The most famous in Vanity Fair articles is probably the one published in May 2005 revealing the identity of Deep Throat (W. Mark Felt) one of the main sources for Washington Post whose articles in it on "Watergate" led the 1974 resignation of Richard Nixon, the then U.S President
It also has articles to its credit which boasts of candid interviews of celebrities like Teri Hatcher, Brad Pitt, Anderson Cooper and Martha Stewart.
The highest selling issue was the one which carried the Jennifer Aniston cover after her divorce. The second highest selling was the October, 2006 issue which covered Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes to their Telloride, Colorado home carrying the photo shoot of the couple and their daughter Suri Cruise repelling public anxiety about the existance of Suri.
There are three international editions of Vanity Fair in United Kingdom, Spain and Italy the German edition being wounded up in 2009 with the Italian being weekly.
It has its fair share of controversies with the photographs featuring Mike Myers dressed up as Hindu deity shot by David LaChapelle, published in April 1999, in fact both apologized after an international uproar.
The first Vanity Fair "Art Issue" ran into controversy with a photograph of Brad Pitt wearing nothing but a pair white boxers, published in December 2006.
Again they got themselves wrapped in controversy over topless depiction of 15 year old Miley Cyrus in April, 2008 preceded by the Roman Polanski libel in 2005. Ultimately Polanski was awarded a hooping £50,000 in damages by the London High Court.
In January 2006 issue of Vanity Fair, Lindsay Lohan admitted drug abuse and then denied promting the magazine to say "Every word was recorded on tape. Vanity Fair stands by the story."
Sometimes criticise, most of the time eulogised but always awited for its arrival on the desk with the latest and the best article on performing arts, arts, international celebrities and much more at a cost of £3.40 an issue.
The formatting of the magazine is immaculate with myriad interruption of glossy and catchy advertisement, runs into generally about 200 colorful pages. You just get don't bored of it.
The Vanity Fair reflects modern society, power and personality through its in depth reporting, lively profiles, keen cultural statements, apt and lively writing on the icons and budding icons of the age.