Keeping Tabs

From Yellow to Blue

The supermarket tabloids can’t disguise their depression.

Do the supermarket tabloids need a serotonin reuptake inhibitor? In the post-Flytrap world they seem to be too depressed to get out of bed and find themselves dwelling instead on the details of their unhappy relationship with Washington, brooding about mortality, and fixating on the sad lives of people who can only be called obscure celebrities.

The tabs never liked the Monica story all that much: Washington is not their natural milieu, and in general the mainstream media had better sources and reported more explicit details. The tabs found themselves usurped in this scandal-enriched world, and it showed in declining circulation. But now the National Enquirer and the Star are about to enter a new phase. Last month the sister publications were bought for $300 million by an investment group headed by former Clinton administration Deputy Treasury Secretary Roger Altman. Does this mean tab readers can expect a lot more monetary policy and a lot less Monica pulkes?

Like discarded lovers who keep driving past their ex’s imagining the lurid scenes that are taking place inside, the tabs can’t quite let go of Hillary, Bill, and Monica. Forget running for the Senate or being ambassador to the United Nations. According to the Enquirer, Hillary’s real goal after Clinton’s term ends is “to keep Bill under her thumb for the rest of his life as ‘payback.’ ” While the publication alleges his post-White House goal is to get a divorce, Hillary will refuse, threatening to “reveal secrets about Clinton that would leave him utterly humiliated.” The Enquirer doesn’t speculate as to what these might be, but what’s left? Bestiality? Cannibalism? That’s possible compared with what the publication goes on to report–that Hillary insisted that the two of them watch the broadcast of Monica’s videotaped testimony, during which the president mumbled, “Poor Monica, I’m sorry she had to go through this.” It is much more likely that Clinton would simultaneously send ground troops to Iraq and Bosnia than mumble something like that in front of Hillary.

The Globe has come up with its own bizarre denouement for this drama. It reports that Monica would like to talk to Hillary to plead forgiveness. “Monica told friends she longs to tell Hillary … ‘I’ll do anything to make things right with you.’ ” Probably the only thing Monica can do that would bring Hillary any satisfaction is to keep the feed bag tied on. The Globe also alleges that Monica got so far as to call the first lady on her private White House line but lost the nerve to speak when she heard Hillary’s voice. However, it does seem more likely that the president is a cannibal than that Hillary has been receiving annoying hang-up calls from Monica.

The Star at least emerges as the engine behind the latest story–that the president is a rapist. In January it published a quite accurate account of what has emerged as Juanita Broaddrick’s story. It also reported that there were rumors during the 1992 presidential campaign that the reason Broaddrick didn’t come forward with her story of being sexually assaulted by Clinton in 1978 was that her husband had cut a deal with the Clintons. Broaddrick was furious when friends showed her the charge, and she decided that it was time to tell the truth. But none of the tabs, including the Star, has anything to add to the now public story– except for this.

If the tabs haven’t really been able to move on, neither has Monica, reports the Enquirer. Her new plan is to win Bill back by starring on her own TV talk show. An “insider” says, “She honestly believes that some day when she’s a huge success in TV, Bill will want her back in his life.” According to the story, one reason Monica decided to do her first interview with Barbara Walters is because Walters promised to introduce Monica to people in the industry. (Psst, Monica, don’t forget that at one time, while she was trying to get the interview with you, Walters was also the best friend of your erstwhile attorney William Ginsberg.) The Globe reports that Monica acknowledges she’s a sex addict and as a first step to get control of her compulsion “has thrown away all her sexy, seductive lingerie.” It’s terrible to think of that great American artifact, the thong of thongs, ending up in the dumpster.

With the Clinton sex scandal now fading into embers, the tabs have entered a dark, morbid phase. This week the Enquirer has a story about the “deathbed vigil” for Larry Fortensky, Elizabeth Taylor’s most recent former husband, the one-time construction worker she met when they were both in rehab. Fortensky suffered severe brain damage in a fall down a staircase in January. According to the Enquirer, it was a drunken fall. The Star has alleged it was a suicide bid. The Globe believes it may have been a murder attempt. A caption on the Enquirer’s horrifying picture of the critically injured Fortensky is “touching family photo.” Ah, yes, there’s nothing more moving than family members “sharing” their photographs of comatose loved ones for publication.

The 2-year old murder of child beauty pageant winner JonBenet Ramsey returns to the covers of the tabs. Both the Globe and the Enquirer now point the finger at her mother, Patsy, the Enquirer promising, “indictments are imminent against JonBenet’s mom Patsy for murder and her dad John for his role in a cover-up. The conclusion the grand jury is considering is that Patsy slammed a bed-wetting JonBenet over the head. … It was a fatal wound. All the rest–the strangling, sexual abuse, the ransom note–is cover-up.”

A nd not even a counseling session with Elizabeth Kübler-Ross would help the tabs get over the death of Diana. The Star weighs in this week with its theory that her death was the result of an assassination conspiracy among the Central Intelligence Agency, the Defense Intelligence Agency, the National Security Agency, and Britain’s MI6 to keep her from marrying department store heir Dodi Fayed.

Finally, the tabs have been wallowing recently in the misery of people you can’t remember or never heard of. Take Dana Plato. Drawing a blank? She was a child star on the old sitcom Diff’rent Strokes. Since then she’s been arrested on robbery and drug charges. Now, in a “heartfelt exclusive interview,” in the Enquirer, a lesbian lover of hers has announced that Plato has vanished after stealing $700 from her. Plato’s girlfriend is worried the former actress “is on a downward spiral to death.”

And can anybody remember Renee Richards, the transsexual tennis-playing physician? Richards, now 64 and a successful pediatric ophthalmologist, advises other men who want, as she did, to change genders in middle age not to do it, according to the Star. “You better get on Thorazine or Zoloft or Prozac,” she advises. Dr. Richards, can you write a prescription for the tabloids?