Keeping Tabs

Touched by a Tabloid

Rosie O’Donnell rediscovers her faith, Tommy Lee exorcises his demons, and Alicia Silverstone blesses the elephants.

Maybe it’s a touch of premillennial fever or all that post-Columbine soul-searching, but for whatever reason, the tabloids turn their collective eyes toward heaven this month and find God. Even when the Big Guy himself is not explicitly mentioned–and he’s mentioned plenty–the current crop of tabloid offerings brims with so many transcendent crises (life-threatening illnesses, brushes with sudden death, ruminations on mortality, profligate lives steered straight and narrow) that it feels like one long episode of Touched by an Angel.

The Globe, for starters, details not one but two exorcisms underway this month: one performed on Burke Ramsey, the brother of murdered child beauty queen JonBenet Ramsey, to “rid [him] of any remaining memories” from the murder; and one on Mötley Crüe drummer Tommy Lee. Lee’s exorcism has supposedly unearthed the “sweet little boy” inside him, spurring ex-wife Pamela Anderson to run back into his tattooed arms–and, apparently, into his bed. Pregnancy rumors abound, but only the Globe has a damning photo of Anderson’s abdomen, highlighted with a red circle to point out its eyebrow-raising convexity.

Talk show host Rosie O’Donnell has also had spiritual matters on her mind of late. After 25 years as a lapsed Catholic, the Enquirer reports, O’Donnell recently “took God back into her heart.” And, according to the Star, she is so terrified of dying young that she has entered into a pact with perhaps the world’s most famous lapsed Catholic, Madonna, to make sure her children will be cared for. Hoping to keep the Grim Reaper at bay, O’Donnell is also said to be assiduously dieting and exercising.

We heartily recommend that she do whatever it takes to stay in the here and now, if only to avoid being included in the Enquirer’s “Scandals of the Century” double issue, which devotes an entire section (“The Quick and the Dead”) to celebs cut down too soon. Unlike O’Donnell, actor River Phoenix was apparently quite keen on the idea of checking out early. “I don’t want to die from old age in a nursing home,” he reportedly told a friend. “I’ll be the best-looking guy in the morgue.” It was surely in the interest of proving the accuracy of this prediction, therefore, that the Enquirer chose to run a post-mortem photo of the actor. And while Keeping Tabs finds it inappropriate to quibble over the attractiveness of corpses, we will bestow upon Phoenix our special nod for clarity in the face of eternity; it was he who reportedly shouted, “I’m gonna die, dude!” on his way out.

On the brighter side, celebrities have saved–or tried to save–so many lives this month that we wonder if anyone’s getting any real work done in Hollywood. They’ve revived an ailing dog (ER’s Anthony Edwards), spent $700 nursing a rabbit back to health (actress Gretchen Mol), spearheaded efforts to free an inhumanely caged gorilla (Doris Day), and aided African elephants that suffer from “Floppy Trunk Syndrome,” a malady that keeps the poor beasts from eating properly (Alicia Silverstone).

B usiness has been no less brisk for human rescues. The Enquirer details lifesaving efforts by Meryl Streep, Sylvester Stallone, and Tom Cruise, among others. The re-Christianized Rosie O’Donnell is reported to have made two daring rescues aboard her Jet Ski, says the Globe. Meanwhile, Sen. Ted Kennedy’s ex-wife, Joan, reportedly saved her own life by calling a taxi in the middle of a mild heart attack. The Enquirer suggests that “lonely” Joan was forced to make the call because she’s been “abandoned” by her ex-husband. The Globe, on the other hand, has the good senator “rush[ing] right over” to be with his ex and thanking–you guessed it–God that she was all right.

One Globe photographer’s prayers must have been answered when he followed Brooke Shields and new boyfriend Chris Henchy on what was supposed to be a simple exercise outing. The “lensman was expecting to snap some fun photos of the couple enjoying the spring day,” the Globe explains breezily, as if the photographer had actually been invited along for the trip. But Shields is on emotional thin ice, having recently filed for divorce from her husband and having lost a fellow Suddenly Susan cast member to suicide; and the photographer was “stunned” when she suddenly began “sobbing uncontrollably.” Luckily for Globe readers, the quick-thinking paparazzo was not so stunned that he couldn’t get off several frames of the disconsolate actress. Shields quickly pulled herself together, however, and she and Henchy headed for a “trendy health-food store” to buy organic fruits and vegetables.

While the Globe’s photographer failed to capture the pair choosing hydroponic tomatoes, we feel fairly confident that they did not buy any apples. The Star suggests that Shields’ breakdown may be in part attributable to the fact that the “stressed-out” actress is battling a “crippling disease”: temporal mandibular joint syndrome, or TMJ, which sounds a bit like the aforementioned floppy trunk syndrome. With all due respect to TMJ sufferers, Keeping Tabs can’t help but note that Shields’ symptoms, while no doubt troublesome, seem to fall just a bit short of “crippling.” “It got to the point where I just couldn’t open my mouth wide enough to eat an apple,” Shields is quoted as saying. “I had to get someone to ‘start’ my apples for me.” Fear not, apple eaters; the Star very thoughtfully reprints the address of the TMJ Association’s Web site.

And finally, the tabloids try to account for the end of soap star Susan Lucci’s 18-time losing streak at the daytime Emmys. (The Star asserts that she’ll now quit All My Children for her own talk show. But there’s no word on whether she’ll consider the path taken by soap-stars-turned-preachers Susan and Bill Hayes, who according to the Star have “traded in steamy scenes between the sheets” to “devote their lives to the Lord.”) The Enquirer offers this rather down-to-earth explanation of Lucci’s win, straight from an Emmy judge: She snagged the trophy because she finally stopped submitting tapes with “overly dramatic” performances and went with something subtler instead. (Less, apparently, is more, even for a soap opera character who’s been married to virtually everyone on the show and once impersonated a nun.) The Globe, however, looks to the Fates to explain her win, calling in two numerologists to mull over Lucci’s birth date, the cosmic significance of the year 1999, and the importance of the number 19 in her life. Should we even feign surprise that she was 19 when she “survived a devastating car accident”? Or that it was 19 years ago that Lucci’s son Andreas made it through a “touch-and-go” health scare? As far as the numerologists are concerned, the other nominees shouldn’t even have bothered to show up on Emmy night. Numbers, shnumbers. Keeping Tabs is certain that Lucci’s win was, quite simply, the will of God.