As 'Vanity Fair' editor reaps Hollywood's rewards, critics seek scandal in schmoozing

Graydon Carter is hardly a man averse to puffing up Hollywood celebrities. As editor of Vanity Fair, with its hundreds of glossy pages devoted each month to the entertainment industry and the effortlessly glamorous players that populate it, puff jobs are more or less his stock-in-trade. The question everyone is asking, though, is how much he has lined his own pockets along the way.

Two hotly anticipated investigative pieces, one in The New York Times and the other in The Los Angeles Times, hit the presses at the end of last week and established a pattern of lucrative deals for Mr Carter involving some of the industry players featured prominently in the magazine.

Both papers demonstrated that Mr Carter received a $100,000 (£57,000) finders' fee for suggesting to his friend, the producer Brian Grazer, that A Beautiful Mind, the biography of the troubled mathematical genius John Nash, might be good source material for a movie. The film, starring Russell Crowe, went on to win the Best Picture Oscar, and Mr Grazer took care to thank Mr Carter in his acceptance speech.

The papers also point out that Mr Carter had shared in what appeared to be an unusually large $1m advance for a book about Spy magazine, which he co-founded and edited in the 1980s. The book is being published by the book arm of Miramax, whose films and outsize personalities are frequent grist for the Hollywood press mill.

Mr Carter also co-produced the documentary version of The Kid Stays in the Picture, the 2002 portrait of legendary producer Robert Evans, who happens to a friend of Mr Carter's. That film was bankrolled by the industry financier Barry Diller, also a friend of Mr Carter's.

More recently, he took a bit part in the remake of the British classic Alfie. Vanity Fair recently ran pictures of Michael Caine, who starred in the original, and Jude Law, who plays the title role in the new version.

What all this adds up to, however, is less than clear. Neither paper aired any allegation of wrongdoing. Nor did they suggest that any ethical lapses were egregious enough to demand Mr Carter's resignation. The Miramax book deal did not stop Mr Carter from publishing a long extract from Peter Biskind's new book Down and Dirty Pictures, which paints a highly unflattering portrait of Miramax's Weinstein brothers.

Some Hollywood watchers suggested the side deals were not what was fuelling the outrage so much as the editorial direction Mr Carter has steered. Under his leadership - he took over from Tina Brown in 1992 - Vanity Fair has become steadily less hard-hitting and more deferential in its coverage of Hollywood, to the dismay of many writers inside and outside the magazine.

The anti-Carter faction accuses him of being obsessed with the magazine's annual Oscar night party, the ultimate celebrity schmoozefest, to the exclusion of meaningful journalism. Mr Carter, to date, has offered no comment.