The Lean and Hungry Look: Ellies Over Bellies, 2009

Is there anything worthwhile left to report about the National Magazine Awards, now that you know that Jimmy Fallon reads Gawker obsessively, and Reader's Digest is America's best magazine? There might be!

You know this year's award ceremony was far more subdued than last year's chocolate fondue-spewing extravaganza which doubtless degenerated into sex orgies in the Conde Nast offices shortly after. But I did notice that there were far fewer ugly people in attendance this year! The key to not getting laid off in the magazine business: for men, a nice suit and one of those fake ass short beards favored in Esquire pictorials; for women, Michelle Obama arms. Maybe actual starvation has replaced eating disorders? Either way, you guys look great!

There were not as many media reporters patrolling the pre-party, because they've been laid off. Sad.

It was all about grim smiles and grim determination! As people filed into the auditorium, the big screen flashing the year's magazine covers kept showing mags that had already died. Every Conde Nastie that got an award felt it necessary to give heartfelt, shiny-eyed thanks to Si Newhouse for his commitment to writing paychecks. They really meant it!

Many of the winners of the actual awards who actually worked in the magazine industry were sitting towards the back, but you know who was sitting right up front? Julia Allison. No shit. That is why the magazine industry is dying.

When the time came for the tribute to Annie Liebovitz, Jann Wenner, Tina Brown, Anna Wintour, and Graydon Carter all took the stage to say how much they loved Annie. Something is clearly off with Anna Wintour, who was stooped over like—dare I say—an old lady? Her voice was wavering and kind of meek, and I couldn't tell whether she was sick, or emotional, or just stricken with stage fright. Could be any of the above!

There were plenty of insanely random semi-celebrities lured in to present awards (Steve Earle!) but the only really funny one was Will Arnett. That guy certainly does possess comic timing! The least funny thing: the fact that People editor Larry Hackett got to present the award for "Reporting." WTF. And Columbia J-School dean Nick Lemann is a great writer but he seems to be growing into more and more of a Saturday Night Live character, the longer he spends in academia. Soon he will break out the monocle.

But the most surprising thing of all was that—I must admit—the ceremony was touching. All these people know that their industry is dying, but they soldier on. The delusions are gone. All that is left is the grimness. And the magazine industry will keep hefting its Ellies until they're forced to sell them for scrap.

Magazines!

[Pictured: The glamorous pre-party. Can you count all the glamorous people? Try!]