Animal Fair

Doggone Silly  
By Anne Hemmett Stern  



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If this magazine were an animal, it would be a fluffy white miniature poodle favoring Kate Spade bags and Ferragamo pumps, yapping it up on the party circuit. Animal Fair’s founder Wendy Diamond, delivers a monthly editor’s letter stuffed with animal puns and exclamation points. "The end of the year is approaching and we want to say that it has been a dog-gone good one. (Sorry, I couldn’t resist!)" An unabashed marketing delivery system, Animal Fair borders on caricature, parodying both itself and the celebrity-dependent magazine genre.

This 2 1/2-year-old magazine is published quarterly by Animal Fair Media, Inc., also founded by Diamond. Like so many others, the magazine features celebrities, socialites, designers and artists. But it does so in connection with their animals. It’s "A Lifestyle Magazine for Animal Lovers and Pet Owners," not nearly on a par with the glossy publication to which its title nods.

Animal Fair is sequestered in the "Pets" section in magazine stores, usually at the back. The recent winter issue cover photo of an actress wearing gold décolletage, her blonde hair flying in an off-camera-generated breeze, her Dalmatian smiling between her knees, is not the most flattering shot of the actress. But it catches the eye more quickly than, say, the close-up of a beady-eyed parrot on the cover of Bird Talk U.S.A. Celebrity sells, especially in the pet section. "Sex and the City Dog" blasts the cover story headline: "Kim Cattrall on sex, her career and her pets."

Animal Fair fawns over itself and its subjects of all species. While the editor’s letter is long and gushing, the letters to the editor are short and gushing, replete with exclamation points. "Your summer issue was amazing! I couldn’t put it down!" "Your magazine is just great!"

A note at the foot of the page advises, "Letters may be edited for clarity or length." Perhaps they are also edited for tone. The magazine could use a good line editor, as pronoun-antecedent and subject-verb disagreements abound, along with many oddly placed commas.

Other front departments include "Editor’s Picks," a clever, well-executed rip-off of New York magazine’s "Best Bets." In the winter issue, this section focuses on animal-theme gifts such as a Bulgari tie covered with antelopes. "The Party Page" is Animal Fair’s society/star watch, serving as a showcase for celebrity-encrusted animal benefits organized by the magazine and sponsored by advertisers, whose logos are emblazoned across the page.

The magazine also has a more serious agenda, encouraging animal adoption and "responsible pet ownership" in the form of spaying and neutering, which tends to get lost in the din of self-satisfied purring. Departments include "Ask the Vet," "Dog School" and "Legal Beagle," which recently offered tips on what to do if faced with an eviction notice because of a pet. The "Fall Design Issue" includes a review of an upscale restaurant whose owner claims to welcome canine customers, but the review curiously leaves out the barking bistro’s address and telephone number.

This omission is inconsistent, given that the magazine is primarily a promotional vehicle for its subjects, their products and itself. There are about 15 features per issue; those profiling people with goods to sell, from artwork to designer dog beds, end with reminders to log on to the magazine’s Web site for more information. Movies and books are endlessly plugged; the book review section at the back contains positive notices only. A special advertising section for pet food is all but indistinguishable from the magazine’s copy.

Animal Fair is a derivative hodgepodge. In a market glutted with magazines featuring famous and/or stylish humans, the celebs-with-their-lovable-beasts theme is a tacked-on excuse for more of the same.