Class resentment and anonymous speech on the internet make a toxic combination. (According to Fucked Company, I once paid for lazik eye surgery for a young MBA on staff whom I actually despised.) But occasionally the office legends are accurate-which is lucky because there were some particularly lurid stories about axed Star supremo Bonnie Fuller. Before the stake was put through her heart, the celebrity mag editor was so demanding and abusive to her underlings that she warranted her very own rumor message board, 'I Survived Bonnie'. The demand for first-class tickets from the Make-A-Wish charity? The bullied assistants who exacted revenge by rubbing snot in her souffle and crotch juice on the bread? All true, according to 2004's bitchy profile by Judith Newman of Vanity Fair. After the jump, read about the editor who made all her counterparts look like saints.
This terror goes a long way toward explaining what innumerable editors and editorial assistants refer to offhandedly as her "pathologies." Her behavior would make a case study for a favorite regular pictorial feature in the new Star, "Stars Who Are Normal or ... Not Normal," wherein she analyzes just that. "Everybody knows stars do over-the-top things," Fuller says. "That's what makes them stars."
And for a star editor in chief? Having a clothing allowance: Normal. Not being able to find the right bra for an event, even after having your fashion editor call in numerous freebies, driving her to hand over the still-warm bra off her back: Not normal. (Fuller denies this, claiming, "I'm not a big clothes sharer.") Asking an editorial assistant to do a certain number of personal errands, like picking up the dry cleaning or wrapping presents: Normal. Purportedly asking assistant to wash out your breast pump: Not normal! (Fuller does not recall asking anyone to do this. "Could one of my assistants, being thoughtful, have done it? I don't know. I'm oblivious.")
Certainly her most glaring "Not normal"s revolve around perks. "Oh my God, the town cars!" says Kent Brownridge. "We'd discussed this pointedly several times. We'd say, If you worked late, you can take a car home. Jann wanted to support her when her daughter was in the hospital"-almost the same day she started at Us, her daughter, Leilah, then five, was diagnosed with leukemia (and 10 years earlier, her older daughter Sofia had a benign brain tumor removed)-"so we'd say, Take a car up there-it's hard to get a cab up to Columbia [Presbyterian hospital, where Leilah was being treated]. So somehow that got turned into taking a car to work, then taking a car to the gym, then having it wait while she worked out, then having the car take her to work. Her rationale was: I'm working my ass off-you should do this for me." Regarding Bonnie's perks-or lack thereof-at Us, an incredulous Michael Fuller says, "Do you know when she worked at Us she had to take the train in every day? The train!" (At Conde Nast, where she'd worked before Us, the policy for editors in chief using company cars is known to be more liberal.)
One highly placed executive at a rival company said Fuller had someone on staff, Kelli Delaney, whose title was creative director but whose real job description was procurement officer. "Kelli Delaney's job? To get Bonnie free shit," says an editor at Us who worked with Bonnie and Kelli when they were there. "There wasn't really tons of fashion at the magazine. But Kelli would be made to fetch her everything from high-end label goods to underwear." Delaney says, "I have no problem telling you that people are giving Bonnie stuff," referring to the common practice of designers sending samples to editors with the hope of being featured. "I guarantee you they send a heck of a lot more to [other editors] than to Bonnie."
"Do you know the Make-a-Wish story?" asks one former editor who worked closely with Bonnie for years. "This is the most unbelievable story about entitlement. I say this as someone who really likes her, but there are things about her you can't fathom." Right before Bonnie quit Us, she had planned a family trip to Hawaii. The Make-a-Wish Foundation, an organization that arranges for the dreams of critically ill children to come true, was sending all six members of her family there owing to Fuller's ill daughter. What startled the editor was not so much the trip but the conversation that ensued right before Fuller left. She was overheard in the office shouting at one of the Make-a-Wish officers: "I just can't believe I'm going coach! How am I going to make that flight in coach?" Fuller says she did bump her family's fares up to business class, at her own expense. "Clearly," she says, "whoever [said that] doesn't know what it is to travel with four kids."
"I feel for her, I do," says the editor. "She's tortured by this money stuff. But she has these compulsions."
Fuller's worry may be fueled by factors in her life she doesn't discuss much. She is, more or less, the sole support for her family of six. Husband Michael is an architect but mostly oversees their four children: Noah, 17; Sofia, 13; Leilah, 7; and Sasha, 3. (Along with the housekeeper. "Don't buy all that Mr. Mom stuff they tell you," says one former assistant. "Michael's a great guy, but he thoroughly enjoys the lifestyle Bonnie provides.") Some insiders say Michael may be her Iago, whispering in her ear about how undervalued she is. Certainly she's provided him with the means to renovate one lovely, unpretentious home-a traditional stone-and-stucco house with a terra-cotta wraparound porch, overlooking the Hudson River, in Hastings-on-Hudson, New York-and build from scratch a vacation home nestled in the mountains of Alta, just outside Salt Lake City. But on top of the support for her own family, there are hints from her mother that she also helps out members of her extended clan. "Nobody could ask for a more generous, thoughtful daughter," says Warsh.
The problem is that being the perfect daughter doesn't translate into being the perfect boss. Fuller is a perfectionist, and perfectionists annoy anyone who's not; that's self-evident. But how many editors have entire Web sites devoted to their malfeasance? Some former peon-no one knows who-started a site called isurvivedbonnie. It features a lovely head shot of Bonnie, flaming horns on her head, with the words "El Diablo."
In the past, her staff has retaliated with revenges large and small. "Bonnie had gotten a Michael Kors dress sent to her, and it was wool," says a former assistant. "It had a tag on the arm that said, 'Lavare a Mano'-'Wash by Hand' in Italian. It was supposed to be snipped off, but she didn't seem to know that. She had this tag on her sleeve and she loved wearing this minidress. I knew what it meant, but I didn't tell her. She wore it like that and I was like, That's for keeping me here till 11."
And here's a cautionary tale for all those who are cavalier with their minions: "I've never admitted it to a stranger over the phone, but, yeah, O.K., it's true," says one of Fuller's former editorial assistants about a story whispered to me that I was sure was the magazine equivalent of an urban myth. Bonnie had a free meal prepared. Then her assistants were ordered to pack it up and send it home in a company car, so that she and her husband could enjoy it later. "And she was just being so, so horrible to so many people and ... look, I swear to God, we're really nice people. You just don't know what we went through." One assistant "had a bad cold, so she, um, pulled some stuff out of her nose. That went in the mini souffle chocolate cakes. And the loaf of bread ... that went inside my pants."