Graydon Carter is 73 years old. He was the editor-in-chief of Vanity Fair for decades, and years after he left VF, he started Air Mail, a weekly digital magazine which – I assume – is trying to become the next Atlantic or New Yorker, but only digital. To promote Air Mail, Carter chatted with the Telegraph during the Cannes Film Festival. It’s a long and winding conversation about the VF years, turning Vanity Fair’s Oscar party into a huge centerpiece for the magazine, American politics, British politics and… the Duke and Duchess of Sussex. Some highlights from the piece:
When he knew Donald Trump in the 1990s: ‘He wasn’t without his charm, but a real hustler. And his hands were much too small for his body. If you want your hands to look bigger, have small cufflinks, but he had enormous cufflinks that made his hands look even smaller. Then his cuffs were so big that it looked like his hands were swimming in the rest of the shirt…. I never thought Trump would be this bad. I knew he’d be venal, corrupt, vulgar, but I didn’t think he’d be this.’ He thinks the American voters will stop him getting back in, but then he didn’t think they’d go for it the first time.
On British politics: ‘I love British politics because the stakes are so low, but the bitterness and infighting are so high. Britain doesn’t have the economy of California, but it still thinks like it’s after World War Two when there was Russian and British conflict. But I don’t think Putin could find Britain on a map. Journalists must have loved Boris Johnson, he was just spectacular copy. Trump is much more evil. Boris lied, but with better diction. What kind of a journalist writes two columns, one pro-Brexit and one anti-Brexit?’
His thoughts on the British monarchy: ‘I have no interest in the royals whatsoever, but I think for the British they’re like the way Disneyland needs Mickey and Goofy and Pluto, because they’re part of the narrative and that’s what people come to see. In Britain, if you take away the Royal family it becomes like a small Middle Eastern country. It’s like the Magic United Kingdom. I love it when things go wrong for them. When things go right it’s boring.’
On Harry & Meghan: ‘Harry and Meghan are just fascinating concepts. They’ve done something they’ll live to regret, which is their children have no relatives. They have no cousins that they see, or uncles or aunts, and they don’t see grandparents, except for one. That will come back to haunt them at a certain point. Montecito is gorgeous but it’s God’s waiting room: there is nothing, nothing, nothing to do. It’s a 40-minute drive from LA. There can’t be many kids there because young families can’t afford it. It’s a lonely, beautiful place.
On the Sussexes’ paparazzi chase in New York: ‘I’ve lived in New York for 50 years and you can’t go faster than three miles an hour. When I first read about it I thought, “That doesn’t look right.” They have too much attention. For people like that, unavailability is your greatest asset. If you’re out there too much, the public has a chance to get sick of you. I think they’ve made every wrong move you can make.’
“They don’t see grandparents, except for one…” One of the grandfathers barely bothered to see them in the first place, and the other grandfather is a lunatic being paid to smear his daughter. Meghan has family in California too, we just don’t hear about them because Meghan respects their privacy. Carter’s idea of “family” is… very white and royal. And honestly, Carter is complaining about how there’s nothing to do in Montecito – as in, the Sussexes aren’t being pap’d constantly and they have a lot of privacy there – while at the same time bashing them for not being unavailable enough, not having more mystique.
All that being said, he’s no royalist: “In Britain, if you take away the Royal family it becomes like a small Middle Eastern country. It’s like the Magic United Kingdom. I love it when things go wrong for them…” It’s true. He’s also right about British politics.
Photos courtesy of Avalon Red.