That '70s Gossip
Dazed and confused by the tabloids' time warp.
After making her way through this month's tabloids, Keeping Tabs feels as though she's been stuck in a bit of a time warp. The tabs, suffering from an overload of nostalgia, read like magazines one might have thumbed through while waiting backstage at the Mike Douglas or Merv Griffin shows. How else to explain headlines such as "Linda Lavin finds happiness in the heartland" and "Rhoda shattered as charity folds"? (The latter would, of course, be actress Valerie Harper, whose partner in the failed venture turned out to be none other than Dennis Weaver, television's McCloud.) Why, there's Dukes of Hazzard star Catherine Bach at a premiere! An exclusive interview with Charles Nelson Reilly! A new album from the real-life band that inspired the Partridge Family! The Globe, meanwhile, has landed "showbiz insider" Charlene Tilton--she played Lucy Ewing on Dallas, you'll no doubt recall--as its newest gossip columnist. I mean, if Charlene Tilton's not where it's at, who is?
After a brief check to verify that The Gong Show is, in fact, no longer on the air, Keeping Tabs perused the Globe's story about rhinestone cowboy Glen Campbell, who is shown "relaxing in the comfy floral-pattern bedroom" of his Phoenix, Ariz., mansion. The Globe also reports that Lee "Bionic Man" Majors is set to return to television in a British sitcom. The National Enquirer has a page of photos of stars (including both Lisa Whelchel of The Facts of Life and Barbara Mandrell!) sporting the hairdo made famous by Majors' ex-wife Farrah Fawcett circa 1977. But apparently life is a mixed bag for Fawcett these days. While the Star has a story titled "Fabulous Farrah shows she's still got it--at 52," it also reports that Fawcett is in such dire financial straits that she's had to cut back her gardener's visits from five to three times a week. And the Star couldn't refrain from running a truly unfortunate time-lapse sequence of the actress picking her nose in public.
Even when they do manage to focus on celebs who have actually worked regularly in the last, say, 10 years, the tabs seem uncommonly fixated on looking backward. The Enquirer's special double issue contains 42--count 'em!--pages chronicling celebrity style makeovers over the years, while this week's Star devotes 30 full pages to "before they were stars" pictures. Vanna White was a very cute baby indeed. And Keeping Tabs is pretty sure she had the exact outfit that Melissa Gilbert once wore in 1982.
With so much photographic evidence on hand, it's only natural that there's much discussion about who's had plastic surgery. The tabs' short answer: pretty much everybody. The Globe has the requisite doctor on hand to assess 10 celebs' before and after photos. He gives high marks to Sharon Stone's "light-handed surgical touch" but pans Mickey Rourke, whose "skin is pulled back so tightly he looks like a lizard."
Those reported to be contemplating plastic surgery include pop star Britney Spears (liposuction, per the Star), Judge Judy Sheindlin (face lift, breast lift, dermabrasion, also from the Star), and Camilla Parker Bowles ($50,000 worth of miscellaneous fixes, to help her win the race against Sophie Rhys-Jones to "become the new Princess Diana," says the Globe). The most talked-about face lift prospect is, of course, Hillary Rodham Clinton. Both the Star and the Globe report that the first lady, "wearing dark sunglasses and a navy blue pantsuit," was seen visiting the offices of a Park Avenue plastic surgeon, while the Enquirer insists that no consultations were done in person. Instead, the circumspect first lady is said to have sent various doctors "high resolution photos taken of her face from different angles" in order to get their opinions.
W e learned of the putative planned lift only after discovering that the "before and after photos" of Clinton promised on the cover of the Sept. 28 Star were nothing more than a computer simulation--much like the Globe's simulated "mugshots" of JonBenet Ramsey's parents, around whom tabloid suspicion is once again furiously swirling. Perhaps the tabloids' loaf was sliced just a little too thin, but there seems to be an unusually high ratio of tantalizing headlines to banal copy this month. To wit:
- The new book that the Star claims "blows [the] lid" on pop star Brandy's love life reveals such gasp-inducing nuggets as, "I liked [former boyfriend Kobe Bryant]. He had that confidence and innocence about him that attracted me."
- The "remote island paradise" where the Star says Frank and Kathie Lee Gifford bumped into Frank's former paramour Suzen Johnson turns out to be Nantucket, Mass., which last we checked sits a mere stone's throw from the coast of Cape Cod.
- The Globe teases us with the "secret life of Sopranos hunk" James Gandolfini, which turns out to be that he is married and has a child.
- And those "intimate secrets" about Princess Diana offered up to the Star by her former butler? "She'd put an outfit on and come downstairs and look at me and say, 'You don't like this, do you?' If I said, 'No I don't,' she'd go back upstairs and try something else on."
The tabs seem so mired in the mundane that they've beefed up their coverage of celebrity errand-running. The low point might have to be a Globe story titled "Lisa Kudrow's friendly trip to the hairdresser," complete with a photo of Kudrow--whose expression suggests she may have just realized she's not alone--with her head piled high with silver foils. The Globe also catches every minute of Barbra Streisand and James Brolin's action-packed trip to a plant nursery, while the Star spots rock star Mark McGrath of the band Sugar Ray "washing his undies with the ordinary folk at a Hollywood laundromat." (Hel-lo! Tabloid editors on holiday! Who is he sleeping with, for God's sake?) After slogging through all three pages of the Star's "supermarket secrets of the superstars," Keeping Tabs was particularly interested to learn that Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gormé, who seemed to just vanish into thin air at about the time the Carol Burnett Show went off the air, are alive and well and often seen picking up "the latest stain removers and cleaning supplies" at Trancas in Malibu. A "store insider" at the Erewhon supermarket on Beverly Boulevard breaks the startling news that Love Boat captain and Mary Tyler Moore stalwart Gavin McLeod "is crazy about our almond butter."
Finally, the Globe reports that NYPD Blue's Dennis Franz was spotted spending 15 minutes in a supermarket inspecting some 50 ears of corn. "He sniffed each ear, poked it and even counted all the kernels," confides an observer.
Keeping Tabs is highly skeptical of a Franz corn purchase, however, because the National Enquirer says that the actor recently shed 35 pounds on the kind of high-protein, low-carbohydrate diet in which corn is verboten. Franz, the story says, owes it all to the diet books sent him by--wouldn't you know it?--Three's Company star Suzanne Somers. We bet he'll be fitting back into those old leisure suits in no time.
Jennifer Mendelsohn is a free-lance writer based in Baltimore. Visit her Web site at jennifermendelsohn.com.