It was something of a coup when Vanity Fair, in May, did what its Condé Nast sibling Portfolio couldn't and poached Fortune's winsome star writer Bethany McLean. If Portfolio's uncertain editor Joanne Lipman was annoyed then, she must be really steaming now that rival Graydon Carter snagged his latest catch from her own magazine. Vanity Fair's editor just inked an exclusive deal, the Observer reports, with Michael Lewis, who had contracts at both Lipman's glossy and with the Times magazine. Carter lured Lewis even though the Liar's Poker author recently saw his pay upped at Portfolio and despite a grudge the financial writer harbored against Vanity Fair for 10 years over an an unflattering 1997 profile. How did Carter do it?

It's hard to say. But it's worth noting, as the Observer does, that one month before jumping on board with Carter, Lewis and his wife, onetime MTV News reporter Tabitha Soren, were treated to their first dinner at the bon vivant's West Vllage restaurant Waverly Inn. That sort of thing shouldn't matter to a writer who reportedly nets $30,000 for each of his Times pieces. But then one shouldn't be able to get away with charging $55 for a plate of macaroni and cheese, however adorned, and people still jam the secret phone lines for a Waverly reservation.

It is not only Wall Street that is susceptible to the whims of fashion, or to panicked flights from troubled institutions.