AP Online

[QuickTime] A fan lines up for Talk magazine at a Manhattan newsstand. The magazine will ship in about three weeks.
Talking the Talk

Can the Upcoming Magazine Satisfy the Universe of Tina Fanatics?

By Thomas Finley
Associated Press

July 10, 1999

Josie Benton can’t believe it’s really happening.

Sitting in her bedroom–plastered with clips by Tina Brown–and clutching her Good Will Hunting DVD, Benton, a 34-year-old Manhattan legal assistant, is hyperventilating. She's among the devoted cadre of hard-core readers which promise to make the release of Talk, the new magazine from Miramax and Hearst Publications, the biggest launch in glossy history.

"This magazine has more riding on it for more people than any magazine ever," says Benton.

Indeed. Ever since Tina Brown announced she would create a new publication to follow her first successful trilogy of magazines (Tatler, Vanity Fair, New Yorker, combined circulation 1.4 billion), fans around the world have been rabidly anticipating her new product on the Internet and at fan conventions. With the magazine’s debut a month away, legions of enthusiasts have already started lining up at newsstands around the country. (In order to prevent scalping, Talk Media have limited customers to only 12 copies per person.) Because Talk will not launch in Europe until November, travel agents have reported an increase in the number of Londoners planning their August vacations in New York.

Gossip about the new $75 million endeavor began as soon as Brown announced she was leaving the New Yorker last summer. Hundreds of web sites with names like tina.com and glitz.net immediately launched, and users traded rumors back and forth. Who would contribute to the magazine? For fun, fans produced their own dream teams, including authors like James Wolcott, Tucker Carlson and Holly Brubach. An avid fan in Denmark even produced his own "virtual issue" of Talk magazine on the Web, pieced together from rumors and advance information.

And this week, Variety reported a huge bump in rentals for the video release of Little Voice thanks to fans who are viewing the video preview of Talk and then returning the tape.

Fans’ expectations for the magazine were substantially heightened three weeks ago after noted media fixture Kurt Andersen saw early galleys of the magazine and told Entertainment Weekly, "Oh my God."

In recent days, Talk Media has confirmed or denied much of the information swirling around the Web. Yes, Hillary Clinton will be the subject of an upcoming cover story. No, Tina Brown will not appear nude. No, 40 percent of the photography was not out of focus and needed to be re-shot. Yes, the first issue will contain the work of George Plimpton, an entirely computer-generated author.

According to Brown, "With today's technology, I'm finally able to feature the kind of Plimpton I've always imagined." Brown expects the digitized Plimpton, who will provide comic relief and write in a funny faux-English dialect, will be the most popular author in the magazine, appearing in all subsequent issues, especially the next two. Rolling Stone will feature Plimpton on its cover in September.

The next few weeks should see the Talk hype machine shifting into overload. Talk merchandise will soon be available at Disney outlets throughout the country, including T-shirts, mugs, Prada bags and Salvatore Ferregamo shoes. There will also be Tina Brown action figures (available in Breakfast Meeting and Charity Banquet models), Ron Galotti inflatable wading pools, and a novelization of the first issue by Daphne Merkin. Both Hale & Hearty Soups and Cosi Sandwich Bars will be running cross-promotional campaigns.

Not everybody is happy–Talk has made excessive demands on newsstands, insisting that the magazine get the prime browsing position for two to three months. And vendors are permitted to keep only twenty percent of the purchase price, a concession usually granted only to the fanciest of pornography magazines.

Among fans, not everyone is gobbling up the hype. There is a don’t-ask-don’t-tell subset determined to avoid all the pre-release chatter–people who won’t even read the online magazine Salon's daily "Counting Down" feature. "When I plunk down my $3.95 and sit in my armchair, I want to be surprised by everything in front of me," says Miguel Pereira, 24, a graphic designer in Chicago.

Talk fans, it seems, come in all ages, not just 18-49 year-old urbanites earning more than $40,000 a year. Says 8-year-old Noah Bergman from Bethesda, Md.: "It’s going to be good no matter what, probably, because Tina Brown is a very, very good editor."