Wow! Washington has recently received the gift of not one, not two but three frothy, fluffy new lifestyle magazines. What did we do to deserve this?
The magazines are called DC and DC Style and Capitol File, and the similarity of names has caused some folks to complain that they can't tell them apart. But those people just aren't paying close enough attention. Sure, at first glance all three mags appear to be empty-headed excuses to sell ads for luxury goods. But a closer look reveals that each is empty-headed in its own unique way.
Here at The Magazine Reader, our staff has pored through all three mags and after intensive study we can now reveal the subtle but important differences among them:
* DC bills itself as "the magazine of luxury lifestyle" while Capitol File calls itself "an ultraluxury magazine" and DC Style describes itself as a "fashion-forward lifestyle magazine."
* DC has a feature on fur handbags while Capitol File has a feature on leather handbags and DC Style features the "crocodile commuter bag."
* DC features the favorite cocktail of local bartender Michael Brown, which is the Fahrenheit Five Martini. Capitol File features the favorite cocktail of local bartender Derek Brown, which is the Old Thyme Martini. And DC Style features the favorite cocktail at a restaurant called Taberna del Alabardero, which is not a martini at all but a rum drink called a Sangritini.
* DC Style has a brief article on Wolf Blitzer. Capitol File has a brief article by Wolf Blitzer. And DC is the magazine for people who prefer their magazines 100 percent Blitzer-free.
Obviously, these magazines are very different, each the product of a unique editorial vision. But there are certain similarities. All of them are packed with ads for expensive stuff, as well as articles about the same kinds of expensive stuff. And all of them run page after page of pictures of people who are posing for pictures at the kind of businesslike Washington parties where nobody ever gets so drunk that they end up trading punches or making out with a stranger on a bed piled with the other guests' coats.
Reading these magazines, someone who knew nothing about Washington could conclude that our city is 95 percent white and 99 percent affluent, a utopia where the biggest problem is which designer gown to wear to the next businesslike party.
But enough carping. Let's look at these mags one by one:
DC Style was the first to debut, appearing last spring with an issue in which the owner, Dana Spain-Smith, reported that when she told Washingtonians the name of her magazine, they tended to reply, "DC Style, that's an oxymoron." That comment, she wrote, was "very reminiscent" of the comments she heard when she started her first mag, Philadelphia Style.
Obviously, mere mockery cannot stop Spain-Smith from starting fashion mags in places that are not, alas, all that fashionable.
DC Style is the only magazine I've ever seen that sells itself with a promise to be utterly vapid: "DC Style is dedicated to purely positive editorial content. No negative restaurant reviews and no investigative journalism will be featured."
And DC Style has kept that promise. Nothing in it will ever be mistaken for investigative journalism, although the magazine did one heck of an investigation into which lipstick, eye shadow, earrings and mink wraps you should buy if you want to look like Greta Garbo.
My favorite piece in DC Style is about Dalal Al-Saud, an American-born Saudi princess who has always dreamed of doing important work that helps humanity. "In the coming weeks," DC Style reports, "Al-Saud will fulfill that dream when she debuts a line of skin care products made to help all women feel like royalty."
Ah, those Saudi royals -- always thinking of the little people.
DC magazine, which debuted this month, is an oversize glossy publication that is, executive editor Ann McCarthy writes, "not just a magazine, but also a celebration of absolutely fabulous DC."
DC is mostly a picture mag, and McCarthy promises "provocative photography unlike anything you've ever seen before." And she fulfills that promise. I, for one, have never seen anything quite like the fashion spread called "The Odyssey," which features models wearing fancy clothes while posing in wrecked buildings on a forlorn beach, their heads topped with items that are either avant-garde hats or random flotsam that washed up with the tide.
DC's prose is equally memorable. Here, for instance, is a brief excerpt from Dave McIntyre's wine column: "You buy those exclusive and expensive wines for a reason, after all -- several reasons, really, including prestige, investment and tax write-offs for charity donations. And because you can. But be honest, you also buy them to drink."
Good point, Dave.
Capitol File is the fattest and the glossiest of these new mags. Released this month by Jason Binn -- who also publishes fat glossy mags in the Hamptons, Aspen, Boston and Los Angeles -- Capitol File contains no fewer than 25 pages of pictures of people posing for pictures at parties.
In fact, Capitol File loves parties so much that it threw at least four of its own, each of them, needless to say, chronicled in a gallery of pictures in the magazine. One party -- "File's very first Guess Who's Coming to Dinner" dinner -- featured the ubiquitous Wolf Blitzer, as well as Michael Jackson's publicist and a guy from "The Apprentice." For that gala evening, File not only prints pictures, it prints the dinner recipes and the contents of the goodie bag, which included Juan Valdez Colombian coffee and a jewelry cleaner.
Obviously, this is info you just can't get anywhere else.
But Capitol File's specialty is tiny "articles" that are "written" by local celebrities -- for instance, Dan Snyder on why he likes the Redskins and Blitzer on why he likes the Wizards, and lawyer Bob Bennett on why he likes fly fishing, and Paul Begala on why he likes potato cannons: "After a few beers, we've stood 10 yards from a brick wall and slammed potatoes into it at 200 miles per hour. Nirvana."
But my favorite line in Capitol File comes from author Arianna Huffington's article on her favorite Washington blogs. "Today," she writes, "thanks to the mainstream media's complacency and relentless triviality, we've been condemned to brain-dead local news reporting, the latest on the latest celebrity trial, and the endlessly repeated bleating of the denizens of the Beltway echo chamber."
Remove the word "trial" and that sentence is a pretty good description of all three of these magazines.