Keeping Tabs

A Starr Is Spanked

First Mom whacked him; now it’s the Enquirer.

The National Enquirer became part of the news when the Washington Post published a piece recently about the story the tabloid didn’t run. In 1996, the Enquirer hired two private investigators to stake out the home of a Little Rock heiress rumored to be having an affair with Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr. The investigators could find no evidence of a liaison, and the Enquirer dropped the inquiry. It seems, however, that the whole episode will have its day in court: Starr has subpoenaed the two investigators. And although Clinton’s personal lawyer David Kendall has also done legal work for the Enquirer, editor Steve Coz denies that he got the tip through his connections to the White House.

This week the Enquirer seems to take a different tack on Starr. Instead of a possible adulterer, he is presented as less than a manly man. Embarrassing secrets about his past are revealed by a source who won’t end up receiving one of Starr’s subpoenas: “his sweet 90-year-old mom Vannie.” In its “exclusive” interview with Mom, the Enquirer extracts the information that as a boy Starr was spoiled and temperamental and so “got a lot of spankings.” This turned him around and by junior high school, “his hobby was polishing shoes.” (This damning detail was reported earlier in Time.) Another hobby was appearing in high-school variety shows, where he dressed as a girl–the Enquirer publishes a silly, but less than titillating, example of this proclivity.

“Kenneth didn’t really start dating until after college,” Mom reports, which the Enquirer helpfully explains means “unlike Clinton, Ken was always the kind of guy who gave sex a low priority.” We also find out that the heartbreak of psoriasis possibly saved Starr’s life. The skin condition got the Vietnam War supporter out of the draft. And with the wisdom of the aged, Vannie Starr asks the question that now haunts the nation, “Why can’t the President be satisfied with his wife?”

The Enquirer also warns that Monica Lewinsky is a ” ‘ticking time bomb’ of self-destruction,” at risk of either suicide or blimping up, according to one of the publication’s favorite psychiatrists, Dr. Carole Lieberman of Beverly Hills. The Enquirer does not say whether Lieberman is related to Evelyn Lieberman, the Clinton aide who helped send Monica into this spiral by transferring her from the White House to the Pentagon after she showed inordinate interest in the president.

The Star weighs in on the scandal this week with a piece on five unnamed Arkansas women forced to give depositions in the Paula Jones lawsuit. The Star says these women–now in Starr’s sights–have all publicly denied sexual involvement with Clinton, but under oath they told a different story. But, says a source, “[t]he key to their testimony–and to Clinton’s–is the definition of oral sex.” The publication also says Starr is pursuing the testimony of a Miami lawyer who, a friend of his recounts, says that in 1992 he was paid to “track down women with whom Clinton had sex and silence them” with hush money.

In addition, the Star says that the infamous Donna Karan beret that Lewinsky wore as she hugged Clinton across a rope line was sent by the designer to the White House as a gift for first daughter Chelsea. Clinton, apparently unable to get away to Saks to purchase a duplicate, snagged the original and gave it to Monica as a gift.

Despite these tidbits, now, more than six weeks into the scandal, it’s clear that for the tabloids it does not have the enduring cover power of the murder of JonBenet Ramsey or the sex life of Michael Jackson. Monica has been relegated to ever smaller headlines in recent weeks, and the Globe’s disinterest in the whole matter is best summed up by this week’s coverage: none. All along, the Globe, usually the most prurient of the tabloids, has taken it upon itself to be the voice of the Clinton administration. It consistently portrays Lewinsky as a sex-crazed, unbalanced fantasist. Most cruelly, last week, for no clear reason, it ran photos of a quite fat teen-age Monica. It also did a perhaps ill-advised survey of celebrities who support the president. For example Barbra Streisand, who the Star says is fearful of getting her own subpoena because of a rumored affair with Clinton, says, “We elected Bill Clinton president, not pope.” Angie Dickinson, who is rumored to have had an affair with John Kennedy, says, “We shouldn’t care what a president does in his bedroom.” And Jack Nicholson, who makes Clinton look like a castrato, says, “Bill, you’re great. Keep on.”

OK, maybe political commentary is not a celebrity strong suit. But, as the tabloids demonstrate week after week, stars can be counted on to get in violent disputes, have out-of-wedlock children, and act bizarrely.

Just a few weeks ago, reported the Star, actress Pamela Anderson and rocker Tommy Lee were contemplating a more professional follow-up to the bootleg video of a lovemaking session that swept the Internet. Alas, it appears it is not to be. The Enquirer reports this week about the couple’s Valentine’s Day getaway to Las Vegas, during which “a booze-crazed Tommy Lee brutally beat his wife.” Although their spokeswoman denied the story, Lee has since been arrested and Anderson has filed for divorce.

Celebrity fathers who don’t want to know their out-of-wedlock offspring and celebrity mothers who don’t want to know the fathers of their out-of-wedlock children have also been in the news. The Globe reports that both singer Tom Jones and actor Hugh O’Brian have unacknowledged sons. And the Star tells the rather shaky story of a supposed daughter of Marlon Brando whom the actor has never seen. Female stars are causing a run on the sperm bank, according to the tabs. The Star reports that actress Jodie Foster is pregnant through artificial insemination. Performer Sandra Bernhard has also chosen the anonymous route to motherhood, according the Enquirer. And Madonna, says the Star, is looking for two sperm donors, one for herself and one for her “galpal” Ingrid Casares.

T hen there are the stories that make you think some celebrities just shouldn’t be allowed to reproduce at all. Both the Star and Globe picked up reports from a British newspaper about the germ-free life of Michael Jackson’s 1-year-old son, Prince. Six teams of a nanny and a nurse take turns watching the baby around the clock, although they are not allowed to kiss him. The baby gets new toys every day, because used toys are immediately discarded. All eating utensils are first sterilized, then thrown away after use, and young Jackson is not allowed to play with other germ-ridden children.

Soon there will be an addition to this happy family, when Jackson’s wife, Debbie, who lives apart from her husband and son, gives birth to their second child. According to the Star, Jackson plans to divorce her right after the birth so he can reunite with ex-wife Lisa Marie Presley. The Enquirer ran photographs of that couple’s recent romantic and very public evening out in Los Angeles. Throughout dinner Jackson wore a black silk surgical mask, and the couple was later pictured kissing tenderly through the mask. As longtime tabloid readers know, the reason for the mask is that after innumerable surgeries, Jackson’s nose is collapsing like an El Niño-soaked hillside.

Finally, some good news. Talk-show host Kathie Lee Gifford found out that a lump in her breast was benign. She shared this with her audience, according to the Globe (along with the news that she’s approaching menopause and that her young son walked in on her and her formerly straying husband, Frank Gifford, making love), because “I like to think of my breasts as America’s breasts.”