It was with mixed emotions that Keeping Tabs read the announcement that the tabloids are ending their post-Sept.-11 flirtation with hard news and returning to the world of celebrity gossip. There was something so undeniably charming about the Globe and the Star attempting to do real journalism. Their coverage had that certain raffish, Scooby Doo quality that made CNN and The New Yorker seem hopelessly stiff.
How will the war effort do without, for instance, reportage like the Globe's unforgettable exclusive of last week: "How Bin Laden's Timex Sends Coded Messages." This cover story explains how the terrorist mastermind is supposedly using his $65 Ironman Triathlon to communicate with followers. The watch settings, the Globe maintains, correspond to Koran passages. "He's obviously using sections of the Koran out of context to pass on his messages of hate," says a "
This week's Star,meanwhile, has a vestigial terror-related story called "Handprints of Evil!" which tells of the "striking similarities between Hitler and Bin Laden's palms." Keeping Tabs' favorite all-around psychic/astrologer/mystic, Anthony Carr, tells the Star that careful examinations of the mitts of both men "reveal two very evil personalities. Both are fanatically insane." What's really incredible about all this is that KT, who has no psychic abilities whatsoever, somehow arrived at the very same conclusion all by herself.
Handprints and watches aside, this week the tabs return, by and large, to their pre-Sept.-11 pursuits with gusto. This week's issues were somehow unusually satisfying and familiar—the tabloid equivalent of a big plate of mashed potatoes and gravy. Like the swallows coming back to San Juan Capistrano, this week saw the return of both Gary Condit (investigators have supposedly found evidence of even stranger activities in his apartment, claims the Star) and Oprah Winfrey (who, the Enquirer tells us, is battling a secret "deadly disease"). All of which is as certain a sign as one could hope for that America is struggling to return to some semblance of normalcy.
Think of a tabloid cliché or an evergreen story, and you'll find it this week, right down to another claim that routine Lasik surgery saved yet another celebrity—this time it's Engelbert Humperdinck—from "going blind." There's even a JonBenet Ramsey—remember her?—story and one of those tried-and-true roundups of celebs caught without makeup. Oh—and the "deadly disease" Oprah's contracted? Turns out a CT scan showed that she has plaque on her arteries, an early warning sign of heart disease. She also reportedly has some early degeneration in her spine, which, according to Tabloid Theorem No. 582—jump to the worst conclusion possible—"could accelerate into a serious back condition and the inability to walk. ... Oprah immediately believed she had been given a death sentence. She just didn't dream of being a cripple or living with the big risks that come with heart disease. She's terrified of coming to a slow and painful end." (Oprah's own site confirms these findings, minus the dire consequences, here.)
If you've been anxious for the tabs to return to catty reporting on celebrity weight gain, rife with bad puns, fret no more. The Globe has a story about Dixie Chick Natalie Maines that quotes a "country insider" claiming she's "no longer a little chick—she's a big bird now." Added bonus? A source says she "really looked like an egg on legs." Not enough for you? How about the pal claiming that "this Dixie Chick is getting tired of friends saying she's been hitting the Kentucky Fried bucket"?
Craving another one of those classic examples of the tabs directly contradicting themselves? Last week's Globe story "George & Renee Set to Tie Knot" had George Clooney ready "to give the heave-ho to his swinging bachelor life" to marry actress Renée Zellweger. Zellweger was supposedly "gushing to pals about what a wonderful dad George would make" and had even reportedly been spotted buying a home pregnancy test at a West Hollywood drugstore. "Her biological clock is ticking and she reckons George is her ideal mate," explained a "friend."
The Star concurred, saying the two were already in a "trial marriage" and could be "walking down the aisle by Christmas." Clooney's notorious reluctance to settle down and start a family was even said to be changing because Zellweger is "very family-oriented," with plans to have two boys and two girls. "She's touched his heart in a way the other girls haven't," says Tommy Hinkley, a "pal" of the actor.
But hold your horses there, Tommy. This week's Globe—featuring Prince Charles, Camilla Parker Bowles and Prince William back in their rightful spot on the cover—has an "exclusive interview" with Clooney in which he maintains that the only child he's interested in taking care of is his pet pig, Max. "No kids for me—never," Clooney is quoted as saying. He even claims to have considered a vasectomy because he doesn't "want to bring any children into the world."
Family man? Settling down? Sure. "I would have been perfect in the original Rat Pack," says Clooney. "You know, guys who smoke and drink and have sex with lots of women."
Speaking of guys who have sex with lots of women, Keeping Tabs has long wondered if the tabs would ever return to their predictions of a Bill and Hillary Clinton divorce, the inevitability of which they've been emphatically reporting for months. (See, for example, here and here.) As recently as last week, the Globe was calling Sen. Tom Daschle "the man [Hillary Clinton] adores," reporting that the two have "become particularly close in recent months" as "Hillary's marriage to Bill Clinton crumbles."
But this week, right under the headline claiming that Pamela Anderson has miscarried Kid Rock's baby, the Star reports a Clinton reconciliation, which the story chalks up to Sept. 11: "Suddenly, all their old grievances seemed totally insignificant compared to the terrible hardships and horror that fell upon so many American families."
"Hillary said she forgave him for all the past hurts, and told him: 'I need you now, more than ever.' Bill swore he would rededicate himself to their marriage," the story explains.
"Now they are spending as much time together as is humanly possible and when you see them, they're holding each other's hands tightly and looking into each other's eyes." So sweet. Except one can't help wondering whether they're genuinely happy, or just trying to keep Anthony Carr from reading their palms.