Graydon Carter, the media megalith, celeb-savvy restauranteur, soaring-but-self-effacing impresario, film and theater producer, Trump antagonist, and just general New York superhero, has announced he will step down as editor of Vanity Fair after a quarter century at the magazine’s helm. Venerated by New Yorkers and other liberals alike, not least due to his most recent joyous jabs at our president, whom he dubbed and repeatedly referred to as the “short-fingered vulgarian” in Spy, the satirical magazine he started in 1986, Carter was inspirational, aspirational, sensational…the list goes on. Every interview he’s given that I’ve read tickles me, even imaginary ones. For instance, he often regales interviewers with ironic stories of his own youthful party-crashing antics, years before he started what would become one of the most glamorous parties of our era, the Vanity Fair Oscar’s afterparty—love when tables turn.
With that in mind, my heart is heavy with the news of his departure. In an interview with The New York Times, he explained, “I want to leave while the magazine is on top. I want to leave while it’s in vibrant shape, both in the digital realm and the print realm.” Quit while you’re ahead are some of the wisest words in this world, those and also when the going gets tough, the tough get going. In this case though, Carter is quite literally going—to fish, he suggested, and canoe.
And in what seems like it could have been said in almost the same breath with which he mentioned (without mentioning) a successor he has in mind, the god among men gave the Times‘ readers this wonderful nugget: “Editors, you know, we don’t really do anything. To the owner, you’re sort of like a patch of mold on the kitchen ceiling. You’re not quite sure about it, but as long as it doesn’t start dripping, you can just let it be.”
Given the seven-figure salary, extensive expense account, and other immodest creature comforts, that is a rather pricey patch of mold, and one that will serve as attractive digs to those that think they could fill Carter’s boots. While he himself hasn’t given us any clues, the Times suggests Adam Moss of New York Magazine and Janice Min of The Hollywood Reporter as possible successors. We’re taking bets.
While he’ll no longer serve as editor of Vanity Fair, and although “gone fishing” may well be his mantra for a while, superheroes can’t stay gone long. Carter has feuds that need fueling (the President), restaurants that need running (Waverly Inn and Monkey Bar), and words that need writing. As any writer will tell you, we can’t stop stringing sentences together for too long—it’s an itch, and Carter will be back to scratch it soon, I’m sure (no doubt with more than 140 characters at a time). As a pioneer of that magic editorial balance between intellectual journalism and A-list glamour, Carter’s become a celebrity in his own right, and that swooping mop of silver hair will shimmer in the limelight again soon. Until then, sir, happy fishing.