In 1968, an alcoholic, mentally ill writer named Frederick Exley published a "fictional memoir" whose subject was American manhood as embodied by football great Frank Gifford. The book, A Fan's Notes, became a cult classic and in it Gifford is everything Exley will never be: graceful, gifted, daring, physically perfect. They attended the University of Southern California at the same time, and Exley writes of Gifford's standing at the school, "I know of no way of describing this phenomenon short of equating it with being the Pope in the Vatican." And once, when their paths crossed, Exley writes, he wanted to shout at Gifford's godlike figure, "Listen, you son of a bitch, life isn't all a goddam football game! You won't always get the girl! Life is rejection and pain and loss."
Would Exley, who died seven years ago, feel pity and fear for the life Gifford now leads as the consort of monomaniacal talk show host and tabloid cover girl Kathie Lee Gifford? Would he revel in or lament Gifford's two-year emasculation by humiliation from his wife because he had a one-night stand with a megamammaried miss? What would Exley make of this week's story in the National Enquirer on the nightmare of being married to Kathie Lee by her first husband, Paul Johnson, who offers this observation, "I see Frank Gifford with the same confused look on his face that I used to get. To me it clearly says, 'What hit me? How do I get out of here?' "
The tabs recently have been offering a series of unhappy meditations on the nature of masculinity today. For example, also walking that long road from gridiron glory to gelding is Joe Namath, 55. His 37-year-old wife was so bored watching him golf away his retirement in Florida, according to the Enquirer, that she fled to Los Angeles, leaving the couple's two daughters with Namath. She is now dating plastic surgeon Brian Novack, who is, according to the publication, "a renowned expert in penis and breast enhancement." Namath, an insider reports, is "devastated." But Broadway Joe should have seen it coming. When he got married, his wife's name was Deborah, now she calls herself Tatiana. Any divorce lawyer can tell you that when Debbie becomes Tatiana, it's time to freeze your bank accounts.
The news about young manhood is no more encouraging. According to the tabs, two young idols are as exciting in the sack as a sack of wet oatmeal. The Globe reports that a British barmaid, Linnea Dietrichson, says Leonardo DiCaprio picked her up at a London nightclub and took her back to his room. "He looked flabby and pale. He was drunk and fumbling. It lasted five minutes, then Leo fell asleep." Devastating as this revelation is, it is unlikely to appreciably affect DiCaprio's ability to lure more barmaids up for a five-minute fumble.
A nd according to the Star, the late director Stanley Kubrick had to hire "sex therapists" in order to show Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman how to make love on camera for the film Eyes Wide Shut. According to an "insider" on the set of the sexually explicit movie, the real-life couple was "totally unconvincing as lovers ... Tom and Nicole had absolutely no chemistry." So Wendy and Tony Duffield, who had sex three times a day for three weeks for a 1994 BBC documentary series (maybe PBS could broadcast this during pledge week), were brought in as consultants. "They had a good look at Tom and Nicole and then they shook their heads and kinda winced," reports the Star. "They took over the set and showed how it was really done."
On to the self-pitying weenie Fabio. The long-haired model was hit in the nose by a goose while promoting a roller coaster ride at Busch Gardens in Virginia. Since he dispatched the goose with his own bare beak, did he proudly roast the bird and serve it for dinner? No, he took to his bed. "He's still too shook up to talk," his mother, Flora, told the Enquirer. "He's been in bed for three days!" And Fabio complained, "It's not funny--I could have lost my model good looks." Let's see, he was hit in the schnoz by a goose and had to get two whole stitches. If you cast your gaze over the world today, you'd be hard pressed to find anything that is a starker example of tragedy.
How about the fatuous? According to the Enquirer, Brad Pitt says he will marry Jennifer Aniston if she promises to "lose and keep off an extra five pounds that always seem to plague her." In turn, he promises to give up drinking. The publication does not say that if Aniston keeps off the five pounds, he promises not to grow hair out of his ears or ever say, "Honey, can you squeeze this thing on my back?" According to the Globe, the reason Pitt is hesitating to marry the eager Aniston is that he is afraid of alienating his gay fans.
More charming are the merely naughty. A few weeks ago, the Drudge Report published an unsourced item claiming that an unnamed potential presidential candidate was worried that a picture of this youthful PPC dancing nude on a bar was out there somewhere. Well, now the Star has revealed that the PPC is Texas Gov. George W. Bush. (Keeping Tabs was hoping it was the too-perfect Elizabeth Dole but is also relieved it wasn't the so-far-from-perfect Steve Forbes.) Ominously, Bush's spokeswoman has denied the story by saying, "Yeah, and green aliens have landed on the lawn of the governor's mansion." It was Kathie Lee Gifford who used almost the same space alien dismissal when stories of her husband's affair first broke in the Globe.
T hen there are the creeps. Perennial bad boy Gary Busey is again trying to put his marriage back together in his unique way, according to the Enquirer. When Busey, 54, married his latest wife, Tiani, 31, he was addicted to cocaine. But even after he stopped taking drugs, he continued to be abusive to her. Tiani started reading codependency books by best-selling author Melody Beattie, and the couple eventually met the writer, who, according to Tiani, "bonded really well with Gary. She was helping us through some rough times." Then, in January, he was arrested for beating Tiani. But Busey's bonding with Beattie continued apace when he moved into her home. The actor insists, however, that there's nothing going on between them and that he is totally focused on repairing his marriage. Toward that end, he tells the Enquirer, "I'm going to the Hoffman Quatrine Institute for anger management classes." Maybe something beautiful will come of all this. It's hard not to get choked up when you read Busey's promise to his estranged wife, "I'll be there when the restraining order has expired."
Perhaps only the antics of Lynn Redgrave's estranged husband could top that. According to the Enquirer, John Clark, who has been married to Redgrave for more than 30 years, fathered a child eight years ago by his personal assistant. (Note to Hollywood wives: Try to hire someone who looks like Lillian Hellman to be your husband's personal assistant.) The young woman, Nicolette, kept Clark's identity as the father of her child a secret and went on to marry Clark and Redgrave's son, Ben. When Ben found out he was married to the mother of his stepbrother, he insisted that the truth be revealed. Ben and Nicolette split, and Nicolette began seeing a married plumber who was doing work on Clark's house. Clark demanded that the plumber not hang around Nicolette and their son and Nicolette got so angry she filed a restraining order against Clark. He retaliated by filing one against her. To Clark, the whole sordid mess comes down to this: "If I didn't have a prostate condition that plumber would never have gotten close to Nicolette. But sadly, I haven't had sex in five years." Clark also expressed the hope that he and Redgrave could continue with their marriage. According to the actress, they couldn't.
OK, maybe someone can top Busey and Redgrave. That is George Richey, widower of country singer Tammy Wynette. At Wynette's funeral last year, Richey virtually had to be kept from jumping in her grave after her. Now it appears that he may have been simply assuring himself she really was dead, at least according to three of Wynette's daughters, who have filed a $50 million wrongful death suit against Richey and a doctor. The suit, reports the Star, claims Richey ignored Wynette's doctor's advice that she be given immediate medical attention (the doctor was 500 miles away), and instead continued to administer narcotics--which had been prescribed by the doctor--to the failing singer. According to published reports in the mainstream press, 911 was not called until hours after Wynette's death, nor was an autopsy performed.
Do the tabloids offer any hope for the male of the species? Just this promise for the future. According to the Star, Mia Farrow is adopting yet another baby, and she plans to name this one after her late former husband. Welcome to the world, Frank Sinatra Farrow.