“Senior editor Walter Clemons recruited Truman Capote to write a gossip column for the magazine, which created more turbulence at 350 Madison Avenue—Condé Nast headquarters at the time—and more fodder for the press. ‘Capote finally consented and wrote one,’ Lawson recalls. ‘And at one of the meetings everybody except me said, “Oh, we can’t publish this. It’s just not up to Truman’s quality!” I said, “I think it’s much better than the other stuff that’s coming in.” But it was definitely voted down. He was asked to rewrite a portion of it, which he did. It was still turned down. And then he went right down the street and sold it to Esquire. It’s always been a regret of mine that we did not publish that thing, because we would have had the last significant published report by him.’

“In a Washington Post article timed to coincide with Vanity Fair’s maiden issue, the publicity-mad Capote gleefully laid out his side of the story: ‘I didn’t hear from Mr. Locke for weeks, and then one day this messenger boy shows up at my apartment with my copy, and there are red pencil marks everywhere! You can’t rewrite a stylist. So I just sent it over to Esquire. They don’t touch my copy there. I hope nobody ever attributes Vanity Fair to anybody but Thackeray.’”

From the history of the revived Vanity Fair, which had originally stopped publication in 1936. Read more from Vanity Fair in the Longreads Archive.


Photo: Jack Mitchell, Wikimedia Commons

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