Keeping Tabs

Tabloids Show Restraint!

At first, the Enquirer, Star, and Globe behaved themselves in covering JFK Jr.’s death. Then they came to their senses.

From the moment it became clear that John F. Kennedy Jr. and his two passengers had been lost at sea, Keeping Tabs–who was passingly acquainted with Kennedy–began to brace herself for the inevitable tabloid onslaught. During the first week after the crash, though, the tabs seemed so stunned by Kennedy’s death that they exercised–dare we say it?–a modicum of restraint. Sure, they couldn’t resist a few salacious details here and there (“Carolyn was haunted by dire premonition!” screamed the National Enquirer), but they all weighed in with elaborately reverent photo tributes that were virtually indistinguishable from those in the mainstream press. The Enquirer, which called its special memorial issue “a loving tribute,” even offered to forward its readers’ condolences to the Kennedy family, a gesture that seemed touching in its inappropriateness.

But the honeymoon was short-lived. The tabs–especially the Globe–soon woke from their stupor and attacked the story with their usual zeal, claiming to have the inside track on everything from the “secrets the tragic couple took to the grave” to the precise condition of the victims’ bodies. A look at some of the sorrier moments in Kennedy coverage:

Most tenuous Kennedy tie-in: The Enquirer’s story about the death of actress Sandra Gould, best known as nosy neighbor Gladys Kravitz on Bewitched. The Enquirer manages to find it “ironic” that Gould died just days after Kennedy, given that Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis once bumped into her at Bloomingdale’s and confided that John and Caroline were “huge fans.”

Most tasteless headline: “The Kennedy Clan: Who’s Left?” above a Globe photo spread identifying each of the 26 Kennedy cousins.

Trend we’d like to see nipped in the bud right now: The Star’s anointing of Caroline Schlossberg’s 6-year-old son as the heir apparent to the Kennedy mantle, noting the boy’s “charming personality and ease with strangers” as well as his “uncanny resemblance” to his uncle.

Story so pathetic it almost made us laugh: The Globe’s insistence that Kennedy could have “averted tragedy” had he heeded his July 16 horoscope, which warned Sagittarians to “remain close to home.” “His headstrong Sagittarian nature refused to bow to the laws of the universe,” laments astrologer Lynne Palmer.

Photo so pathetic it almost made us laugh: The Globe’s shot of convenience store employee Mesfin Gebreegziabher holding items similar to the ones Kennedy purchased on his way to the airport the night he died: a bottle of Evian water, a banana, and a package of Duracell batteries.

Most unnecessary story: The Globe’s list of the “Dream Couple’s 50 favorite things,” including Carolyn Bessette’s favorite masseuse (Bree Neumann) and John’s favorite cereal (oatmeal).

Most unnecessary photo: A tie between the Globe’s full-page shot of John receiving what is said to be his last communion and the Star’s grainy frame-grab purportedly showing the Today show’s Katie Couric “breaking down” while reporting from Hyannis Port, Mass.

Most groan-inducing euphemism for death: The Globe’s story on Kennedy’s lifelong love affair with planes ends by suggesting that “on July 16, like his dad, John took his big plane to heaven.”

With the Kennedy story so dominating the tabs this month, what little other news there is seems incidental. (You know something’s going on when the Globe devotes two pages to a behind-the-scenes look at PBS’s Antiques Roadshow.) Perhaps that’s why they devote so much ink to happenings in the world of celebrities’ dogs. For starters, the Enquirer reports that for his recent wedding, singer Phil Collins booked his dog into a $350-a-night luxury suite. (The bad news in this case would apparently be for Collins’ new mother-in-law, who had to make do with a standard $280 room.) The Globe claims that actress Sarah Michelle Gellar–whose thoughts on John Kennedy’s passing are dutifully recorded in the Star’s “Hollywood Weeps” story–threw a lavish, catered birthday party for her dog, Thor, and 20 of his nearest and dearest. And canine lovers everywhere will no doubt sleep easier knowing that actress Bea Arthur is on their side: The Globe reports that she has begun a crusade on behalf of the “innocent greyhounds” abused in dog racing.

It’s not all fun and games for celebrity canines, however. As if the Kennedy family didn’t have enough to deal with, the Star reports that Arnold Schwarzenegger, who is married to Kennedy cousin Maria Shriver, accidentally killed the family’s chocolate Labrador when he ran over it with his Humvee. According to the National Enquirer, Jack Nicholson accidentally hit his 7-year-old son’s Shih Tzu with a golf club; the pup reportedly recovered after receiving 57 stitches to the abdomen. (In other golfing mishaps, the Enquirer claims that Sean Connery “screamed in pain” after being “hit in the butt by a stray golf ball that raised an angry red welt.”) The Globe reports that comic Pauly Shore is terrified that his missing puppy has been eaten by coyotes, while Brad Pitt forces his “overweight mutt” to work out on a treadmill for 30 minutes a day. The Star, meanwhile, says that a jealous Pitt is hoping to buy a new dog for girlfriend Jennifer Aniston because the pooch she “adores” was a gift from her ex-fiance, actor Tate Donovan. (Aniston, by the way, might want to compare notes with Connery: The Enquirer says that she too fell victim to a freak rear end accident this month when an overzealous deer “nipped her hindquarters.”)

The Star has been obsessed with Pitt and Aniston of late but can’t seem to make up its mind about just what’s happening in their bed. First, columnist Janet Charlton claimed that Pitt has “spiced up” the couple’s “already sizzling sex life” by bringing home the “tough guy” props he wears in the film he’s now shooting. But just two weeks later, Charlton shared the distressing news that the couple’s love life is being ruined by his penchant for antiques hunting on the Web: He’s apparently “so caught up” in his Net surfing that he “forgets Jennifer’s keeping his bed warm.”

And while we’re on the subject of the tabloids’ short memories: Why can’t the Star remember what it says about country superstar Shania Twain? The July 27 issue boasted that one of the magazine’s photographers had snagged the first photo ever taken of Twain and her husband, Mutt Lange, whom the story claimed is so camera-shy that he wouldn’t even pose for his own wedding photos. So imagine our happy surprise when we saw Twain’s “secret wedding album” in the Star’s Aug. 17 issue, including no fewer than six shots of the dashing groom himself.

And finally, while the public’s grief over Diff’rent Strokes star Dana Plato’s death might not have been on a par with that afforded John Kennedy Jr., the Globe reports that Plato’s 14-year-old son, Tyler, has plans to erect a memorial to his late mother at an Oklahoma sandwich shop. It will be, a source explains, a “small-scale version of Althorp, the shrine to Princess Diana.” Keeping Tabs hopes they all rest in peace.