I read a good amount of Vanity Fair‘s Hollywood issue during yesterday’s Heathrow-to-JFK flight. Is it me or is this one of the shallowest and most skin-deep Hollywood issues ever? Maybe it is me, but I seem to recall previous VF Hollywood issues that mixed serious industry reporting (trends, capturings), high-end portrait photography and fascinating, well-reported old-Hollywood sagas or “how a classic film was made” stories (usually written by Peter Biskind) with the more glammy, superficial stuff used for tinsel diversion. The emphasis in the current issue is on appearances above all, on show-offy posings and people who are just about perfect, and who are always depicted as being vaguely or obliquely boastful. It feels like…I don’t know, a “woman’s issue” of some kind. Vogue-ish. It seems to skirt rather than dig in. It lacks salt and manliness and consequence. I kept saying to myself as I flipped from article to article, “So fucking what? Who gives a shit about these fucking people?”

I think what tipped the scales is a repulsive piece about celebrity fashion consultants called “Slaves of the Red Carpet,” by Vanessa Gigoriadis. About two thirds through this piece I began muttering to myself, “Something is really amiss here…this is about people who are nowhere in a spiritual or creative sense…greedy, grasping, manipulative…and here I am on a plane over the Atlantic, studying a piece that explores their lives…me! I’m supposed to know better and here I am guzzling it down…a sucker like everyone else!” Every article and ad is a glib advertisement for the immaculate sexiness that comes from being famous, wealthy, accomplished and well-dressed. There is something so incredibly cool about being wise and hard-working and accomplished and not necessarily being loaded or exquisitely dressed.

The issue contains not one or two but three photo-heavy articles about celebrity photographers — Annie Liebovitz, Chuck Close and ’40s, ’50s and ’60s hotshot Sid Avery. A fawning portrait of storied poster designer John Van Hammersveld…why? Mark Seal‘s piece about how Tony Blair may have had something going with Rupert Murdoch‘s ex-wife Wendi Deng…meh. Two articles stand out — James Toback‘s piece about his Hollywood adventures (except he doesn’t really tell the stories the way they could and should be told…I’ve listened to more than a few of them first-hand) and one about the troubled marriage between Scientology honcho David Miscavige and his once-believed-to-be-missing wife Shelly.