Great Moments of the Pre-Digital Age: Anna Wintour on Covers

By Jack Limpert

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Anna Wintour hit the remote button to show the first slide and it was like the room exploded. Photograph courtesy of Flickr/Creative Commons.

Today’s news: Tom Wallace, editorial director of Conde Nast magazines, has left the company. Anna Wintour, editor in chief of Vogue, continues as artistic director of Conde Nast magazines.
The memorable moment was at an all-day American Society of Magazine Editors conference in New York where the star attraction was Anna Wintour. A Brit, Wintour had moved in 1987 from editing British Vogue to Conde Nast’s House & Garden. After a year there she became editor of the American Vogue and began to change its covers, using younger models, mixing lower-cost clothes with high fashion, and for the first time dressing a model in jeans.

Editors are always looking for ways to come up with magazine covers that are talked about so there was a good crowd. After a glowing introduction, Wintour went to the podium, made a few remarks, and pushed a button on a remote to show the first slide.

The first slide? In those days photographs were taken with a camera, usually 35 mm, the film was developed, and each photo became a small slide that could be put in a slide projector and then shown on a screen.

Wintour hit the button to show the first slide, the top fell off the slide projector’s circular tray, the slides went flying into the air. Then the slides hitting the floor, the gasps, the attempts not to enjoy it too much.

Wintour handled it pretty well, going on about Vogue covers as an assistant took 10 minutes to reload the circular tray and the slide show resumed.

Back then Wintour didn’t have The Devil Wears Prada reputation she has now and after I saw Meryl Streep play her in the 2006 movie version of the 2003 novel, I often wondered what happened when Wintour returned to the offices of Vogue on that ASME day to deal with the assistant who had loaded the tray of slides.

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