It's Hard Out Here for a Vanity Fair Editor


Graydon Carter, keeping it real with the proletariat

Graydon Carter, editor of a magazine that charges $189,106 for a full-page four-color advertisement, runs about 87 of the things before you even get to "The Editor's Letter" in the most recent issue. There he inflicts this unintentionally hilarious self-torture upon the world:

As someone who came to New York in the 1970s, I was, like so many of my friends, a certified member of what we now call the 99 percent—and I was a lot closer to the bottom than to the top of that 99 percent. At some point during the intervening years, I moved into the 1 percent. Then came the towering wave of upper-tier wealth that washed over America and particularly New York over the past 25 years. I'm still in the 1 percent, but in the 99 percent of that 1 percent. And again, I'm probably a lot closer to the bottom than to the top.

What's your favorite word in that pretzel salad? Mine's "certified."

You just know Carter is going to work himself up into a righteous hatred of his own class without once examining his own culpability; the only question is how he'll get there:

He wants to live with the common people

New York has arguably become the quintessential 1 percent city, a city that has been so given over to the rich that you now have to be rich to live here. […]

When I moved to [my Greenwich Village] house [in the 1970s], I was, by my reckoning, the only person on the street who went to work in a jacket and tie. Now I'm surrounded by tech moguls, movie producers, and hedge-fund tyros, many of whom are there because they don't want to live on the Upper East Side. What was once a haven for otherwise dispossessed artists, writers, and other assorted misfits is now one of the most expensive Zip Codes in the nation. I couldn't afford the house I live in now if I had to buy it at market rates. I couldn't even afford to buy the apartment I lived in 20 years ago.

Somewhere along the way, New York became all about money. Or rather, it was always about money, but it wasn't all about money, if you know what I mean.

Yeah, no, I don't. I have many friends who live in New York (some even in Manhattan!), who are roughly my age, and I can say with great confidence that for these people it ain't remotely "all about money." It's an expensive city, and that causes stress, which the 99 percent of people poorer than Graydon Carter respond to by…not buying real estate in Greenwich Village at any time or price.

And if you think Carter's out of touch describing his own city, just wait until he gets his international on:

New York's not Geneva or Zurich yet, but we're certainly heading in that direction.

Population of Zurich: 372,000. Geneva: 192,000. I've spent plenty of time in the latter, and about all it has in common with Gotham is a surprisingly shitty airport.

Somehow I don't think this is what he means

It gets worse:

London is, too. With every passing year, London is a city that becomes less English and more international—"international" being code these days for business and finance. At some point, even the money people will begin to blanch. The last thing businessmen want to do is sit in a room filled with other businessmen. A room full of money is a pretty boring sight—unless it's yours, of course. A friend of mine has a theory that what billionaires really want to do is pile all their money in their swimming pools and dive in like Scrooge McDuck.

This is what happens when you never get out of the limo. London's internationalness is certainly on display in The City, and in (I'm guessing?) the tea room at Harrod's or whatever, but where it really smacks you in the face is basically everywhere you order a beer, or fish & chips, or some shawarma. London is lousy with Polacks and Pakistanis and people from poorer places who aren't close to being rich but are ready to hustle right the hell now, not unlike those gritty glam days of Graydon's idealized Greenwich youth.

Graydon Carter got rich making journalism and parties about other rich people who make movies and music and architecture and journalism. No harm in that! But can we stop, at long last, pretending that these and only these pursuits are the acceptable pathways to the One Percent Club? Or that only "hedge-fund tyros" (and–shudder–businessmen) are motivated by greed?

Some past Reason visits to Planet Graydon.