Due to an unfortunate run in with an Elle magazine intern we were unable to watch The City last night. However there is one intrepid reporter who can not be kept down, and she was there to fill us in.
Have you heard of Elle magazine? Well, of course you have since it's been a knockout on the newstands for years as well as the main prize for winners of America's Next Top Model and Project Runway (before the magazine was kicked to the curb for Seventeen and Marie Claire). Still, the reason it was there in the first place is due to Erin Kaplan, the young PR maven who has taken the magazine world by storm by turning the magazine brand into something that even Anna Wintour must respect.
But with the increased publicity for the publication comes an increased profile for Kaplan, who some think is only a tan and a set of SUV keys away from being the next Lizzie Grubman.
"Really, I'm not that bad," Erin told me during a recent interview outside of Magnolia bakery, where we indulged in sweet treats and threw pebbles at tourists. "It's just that everyone who I work with really sucks. Especially Olivia Palermo. Make sure you get that right, it's P-A-L-E-R-M-O. And yes, I said she sucks. I hate her. I almost quit my job because of her."
The feud between the socialite and the PR star become noticeably public when they were heard bitching at each other in the background of a recent Today show segment.
"I knew something was amiss when I got all the looks together to go to the studio and there was nothing that Olivia and I had pulled the week before," said an Elle magazine intern named Bryn who asked her last name not be used because she does not talk to fake reporters. "Erin told me that she went and redid all the looks. She really has it out for Olivia. I just don't want to get fired. But, yeah, I'm totally scared of Erin."
And that is with good reason. Not only is she in charge of getting the magazine's name out there, but also, apparently, in overseeing the duties of junior editors, a very different responsibility for someone who specializes in communications.
"Look, I'm not a fashion editor and I never claim to be," Kaplan said after her third vanilla cake with chocolate frosting. "But Olivia Palermo is so bad at her job that I had to step in and do something or else my segment would be ruined and Elle would look stupid. I can not have that happening. I have no social life, my last boyfriend dumped me for another guy, and no one wants to talk to me at parties. Without this job, I have absolutely nothing. When Olivia put that in jeopardy, I had to fight back."
She explains that at the Today show, Elle creative director Joe Zee asked Palermo about the prices and designers of the dresses he was about to talk about on air. Since Kaplan vetoed Palermo's looks and inserted her own, Palermo had no clue what was going out, and out of spite, wouldn't brief Joe. He had a short flub on the air with Hoda Kotb, but was able to recover. Good thing Mr. Zee was on his A game.
After they show, Kaplan and Zee tried to confront Palermo about what happened. "I'm sorry, but I did a whole afternoon of hard work before going home to do bong hits and then attend a Twilight screening," Palermo says. "Erin never thinks I do anything right. She has horrible style, can't dress, is poor, and doesn't respect me. She makes it impossible for me to do my job. And have you seen what she wears? She shouldn't be picking out clothes at all. But she is impossible. Until she shows me some respect, we can't work together."
Kaplan was more than happy to respond to her comments. "Of course I don't respect her, she doesn't know what the fuck she's doing!" Kaplan screamed while brushing her hair out of her face and scowling—a look that should be familiar to anyone who knows her. "And the worst part is, you can't talk to her. Whenever I confront her about something, she is either too stupid or too stoned to care and just doesn't get the message. Unless it's news about a sample sale or the opening of a new bottle service club, she just can't retain any information. She is completely useless. I told Joe Zee that it was either her or me."
And what did Joe Zee say? "Erin is a consummate professional," Zee says from his Midtown office. "She is great at her job and I trust her implicitly. I like Olivia a lot—mostly because she's pretty. But I am not a guidance counselor, I don't want to be deciding who wins in a fight between Erin and Olivia."
Now that the ultimatum has been placed—Kaplan says that she even awkwardly stormed out of Zee's office!—who is going to hit the road and who is going to stay? "Well, let's just say that the magazine needs PR more than it does socialites, but sometimes socialites are what brings the PR," Kaplin says cryptically giving her signature sly smile.
No matter what, we have a feeling that Kaplan will end up on top.
One of the biggest challenges for any PR agency is keeping the stable of young communications majors in check. Between all the swag, the nights out in New York, and the boy drama, it can be more difficult that pleasing clients and getting them good media placement. To find out how to do it the right way, we talked to Kelly Cutrone, the saucy boss at People's Revolution PR and the star of the new reality show Kell on Earth, which starts in February on Bravo.
"I can't stand these fucking girls," Cutrone screams in her office, pushing her hair back and bugging her eyes out that signals she is about to go off on one of her famous, expletive-laden tirades. "They come in here and they think that they know everything and they can do whatever the fuck they want. I've been doing this for decades. I started this whole company on my own. They better learn some fucking respect and learn it quick."
Most recently she has had completely opposite experiences with Whitney Port, an aspiring designer, and Roxy Carmichael Olin, a girl who seems to have no skills, no drive, and doesn't do much of anything. Still, Kelly sees something of herself in Olin.
"That is what really pisses me the fuck off," she says. "She's just like me. She's brash, an outsider, likes to wear black, isn't afraid of what people think. But then she just fucking sits there. And when she's not sitting there, she's making things difficult for everyone and pretending like she knows more than she does. Yes, she may be like me, but I know when the dresses should be ordered. I know how to set up a photo shoot. I know what a look book is. She just knows how to get drunk and dance on banquettes."
Asked to defend herself Olin says that she doesn't really need Cutrone. "You know, my parents are rich, so I only do this for fun and so I can hang out with my friend Whitney," she says in her voice that is a strange mix of a drawl and a rasp. "Maybe that's why I don't give a fuck what Kelly thinks. But yes, she can yell, and that keeps people in check."
Olin tells a story where she recently went into Cutrone's office to ask why she was being left out of a meeting between Port and the buyers of Bergdorf Goodman. Olin has nothing to do with the line whatsoever and knows nothing about retail, marketing, fashion, or merchandising, but for some reason thought it was a good idea to stand by Whitney at her meeting. "Kelly totally snapped on me," Olin cackles. "She was going on and on, spouting all this jargon, and all I could do was get up and leave."
Cutrone is still worked up about the meeting. "I got Whitney, who I love and adore, a meeting with the big shots at Bergdorf Fucking Goodman, the most important department store in the world," she rants. "We're talking Linda Fargo, Ginny Hersey-Lambert, Sunni Spencer. These are people that will make or break her career. And she wants to take her little sour-faced drinking buddy? Get real! I was so pissed I didn't even go to the meeting. Let those bimbos fend for themselves."
For what it's worth, Port seemed to think the meeting went well. "They said some nice things, and they looked at my clothes. I don't really know what I'm doing," she purred while twirling her hair on her finger.
Cutrone disagrees. "Went well? It was a fucking disaster," she screams. "We're talking Marc Jacobs 1993 grunge line for Perry Ellis disaster. They hated it. She wasn't ready at all. Some of her dresses had crap all over them. And then she had that chucklehead Roxy there undermining her. She only has one shot left and that's a fashion show I'm putting together for her."
That's right. Cutrone may be a fierce disciplinarian and makes her stances known, but she has "the old ball and chain" with her employees, as she calls it. If they go down, she goes down with them. She also helps to raise them up by giving them as many opportunities as they can in the industry. She is including Port in a group show she is organizing for fashion week in the spring.
"She said something about it being not a baby step of faith but a leap of faith and if I don't do it, she'll slit my throat and fire Roxy," Port cooed. "I'm not quite sure what is going on, but she says it's a big deal so she must be right."
While Kelly certainly has this whole thing under wraps, the biggest lesson she has to teach is never hire anyone as smart as the boss.