‘September Issue’ unveils Vogue

Film humanizes editor-in-chief Anna Wintour

WELL, I wasn’t going to say more about the R. J. Cutler documentary “The September Issue,” but I have to go back on my word to myself. I saw this documentary and think it’s a work of modern art. The film about the inner workings of Vogue magazine is beautiful and dazzling, just as high fashion is.

This is what I learned watching this dynamic film. Anna Wintour does not come off as an ogre, at least not in my view. But the film sometimes stuns one as it shows Anna’s comprehension of herself as — not the Devil who wears Prada — but an engaged, mystifying, uncertain woman who acts all too certain in her job. She smiles, she laughs and she is much more charming and engaging than her usual public appearances. She is especially interesting discussing how her very bright, well connected siblings view her job. The camera catches Anna with wrinkles, lines and sags, but she remains quite appealing here. She is more real than when encountered in real life.

And so the real hero of “The September Issue” is Grace Coddington, a fashion veteran with flaming and irrepressible red hair who speaks her mind, tells the truth, and urges the viewer to join in her intellectual and cultural rebellion. She emerges as “the” personality of the film; and of Vogue. There are others — Andre Leon Talley, a huge endearing presence, trying to play tennis and lose weight by Anna Wintour’s direction. Anna’s daughter, Bee Schaffer, is beautiful, frank, outspoken without being outlandish and shows remarkable common sense in a somewhat nonsensical world.

I was sorry when “The September Issue” came to an end. I watched it like a snake watches a bird. It’s simply irresistible. Mr. R. J. Cutler has made his documentary high water mark!

REMEMBER DISCO? Remember Thelma Houston and her classic “Don’t Leave Me This Way?” Well, at 66, this woman is still at it, and her recent gig at Universal City Walk in L.A. wowed fans. She sang her hits, she delivered a scorching Motown medley, and then she performed numbers from her new album, “A Woman’s Touch.” (This is Thelma’s first disc in 17 years!) On her new CD, she performs songs previously and most famously done by male singers, from Al Green to Sting to Glen Campbell’s “By The Time I Get To Phoenix.”

And though she is a diva, she doesn’t behave like one. Asked if she needed anything special backstage, Ms. Houston cheerfully said, “All I need is a towel and some water!”

Thelma and other 70’s stars will appear at the Hollywood Bowl on September 27th for a big disco tribute.

You know, the 1970’s just don’t seem that distant to me. Hmmmm…. maybe I had too much fun during that decade to relegate it to nostalgia.

WHAT rock or pop star’s concert sold out in hours in New York, racking up 2.5 million dollars in ticket sales? None. This was first day box-office haul for the Metropolitan Opera’s coming season. So, who says culture is dead? The season officially opens on Sept. 21st with a new production of Puccini’s “Tosca.” (When this classic debuted, in 1900, it was not well received. One contemporary critic called it a “shabby little shocker.” No matter, it’s still an audience favorite, one hundred and nine years later.)