The magazine editor said he will step down from the glossy publication in December and will oversee the planning of the 2018 edition of the magazine’s Hollywood Issue. A successor was not announced, but his exit leaves one of the most coveted jobs in journalism open — it’s a gig that commands a lavish expense account, seven-figure salary, and town car.
Under Carter, Vanity Fair offered an arresting mixture of celebrity profiles on the likes of George Clooney and Angelina Jolie (often shot in full-glamour mode by Annie Leibovitz), with meatier examinations of foreign hotspots and Beltway intrigue. There were also plenty of nostalgic looks at old Hollywood, histories of elite one-percent playgrounds from Saint-Tropez to Yale’s Skull and Bones society, and profiles of literary lions such as William F. Buckley and William Styron. It was a monthly potpourri of cultural tastes, catering to both the high and the low.
“I’ve loved every moment of my time here and I’ve pretty much accomplished everything I’ve ever wanted to do,” Carter said in a statement. “I’m now eager to try out this ‘third act’ thing that my contemporaries have been telling me about, and I figure I’d better get a jump on it.”
Carter’s run was remarkable in that he maintained control even as the publishing industry suffered a swan dive. Condé Nast, Vanity Fair’s owner, has been hit hard by print advertising declines as more readers move online.
It wasn’t all prose with Carter. In addition to promoting writers such as Christopher Hitchens, Dominick Dunne, Bethany McLean, Bryan Burrough, and William D. Cohan, Carter created the magazine’s annual Oscar party. Invites to the all-star event remain highly coveted.
Carter, with his unruly tufts of white hair, became something of a celebrity himself, emerging as one of the most recognizable media figures in the world. It was an odd position for someone who first came to fame lampooning the Fourth Estate and power brokers such as Donald Trump, as the co-founder of Spy magazine. He also served as the editor of The New York Observer before coming to Vanity Fair and taking the reins from Tina Brown in 1992.
Carter leveraged his rolodex in creative ways. He became a film producer, backing Brett Morgen’s “The Kid Stays in the Picture” — a look at producer Robert Evans — as well as Martin Scorsese’s “Public Speaking” — an HBO documentary on his dear friend, satirist, and writer Fran Lebowitz. On Broadway, Carter produced “I’ll Eat You Last,” a popular one-woman play that starred Bette Midler as the Hollywood talent agent Sue Mengers.
He was a restauranteur as well, starting the New York eateries the Waverly Inn and the Monkey Bar.