International Papers

Tina Across the Pond

In the absence of any major international story to dominate the press, newspapers around the world tended to focus Monday on domestic issues. Holiday stories were big in Europe. The Italian papers reported vast traffic congestion in the peninsula and 38 fatalities on the roads. Both La Repubblica of Rome and La Stampa of Turin gave dramatic front-page treatment to the heat wave in the United States, describing its effects as a “massacre.” Both papers quoted the pope as advocating vacations in monasteries and convents. Corriere della Sera of Milan reported a row at the Salzburg Festival in Austria, where the authorities have imposed a ban on under-16s attending an “erotic” edited version of Shakespeare’s tragedies. The 12-hour theatrical marathon in German is titled Schlachten! (Battles!) and is said to include scenes of masturbation and oral sex.

In Britain, a flood of interviews with Tina Brown heralded the launch of her new Hearst-Miramax monthly, Talk. In one article, amid many cravenly anonymous predictions of disaster, Michael Kinsley of Slate warned people not to bet on her failing. In Monday’s Guardian, Talk’s publisher Ron Galotti says, “You can never, never underestimate the fundamental level of interest there is in Tina,” by which he presumably meant the opposite. Brown herself said that during her last six months at The New Yorker she had “begun to miss the theatricality of photography, to be able to use pictures in ways that were really free and uninhibited” and that she “wanted to create a new form for a magazine without the institutional history of any publication before me, or on my mind.”

The piece described the first issue of Talk as more closely resembling “a postmodern version of Life magazine or Paris Match than a Vanity Fair retread.” Brown said Talk was printed on thin paper to have “a roll-it-up-and-put-it-in-your-pocket, European feeling.” The Sunday Times of London saidTalk has “a strangely dated feel.” It said, “Brown wants to give Talk the feel of the best 1950s magazines, such as McCalls and Look, as well as Paris Match. Those magazines have all been widely admired, but it is a long time since they were considered at the forefront of the market.”

In the Sunday Telegraph, interviewer Helena de Bertodano said that her first meeting with Brown had been “tense” because a “PR magnate, an elderly man with a cut-glass English accent” had insisted on sitting in on their conversation but that Brown subsequently arranged a one-on-one meeting for the next day. “I’m sorry about yesterday,” she said when they reconvened. “It was embarrassing. … I didn’t expect it.” On the hostility she was said to have generated, Brown said: “The dogs bark and the caravan moves on, right? That’s just life at the top of the media world.” Brown acknowledged a link between her departure from The New Yorker last summer and the death of her mother from cancer six days beforehand: “[S]he kept telling me that I didn’t have enough fun. I think she was right and I just felt this job would be tremendous fun.” What if Talk fails? “It won’t,” Brown said. “Already the commercial signs are such that it won’t.” Asked where she sees herself in 10 years’ time, she replied: “Sitting in a café in Paris. This is definitely the last big roll of the dice as far as I’m concerned.”

The Sunday Times led with Talk’s first scoop–its interview with Hillary Clinton blaming her husband’s infidelities on a “weakness” caused by childhood abuse. The same paper carried on its front page an interview with Bill Gates’ father, who manages the William H. Gates Foundation. The paper said that, according to Gates Sr., the foundation will announce a number of new funding programs during the next three months that will go a long way toward its ultimate aim of becoming the largest private charity on Earth. “My son is going to have critics all his life because of his wealth,” Gates Sr. said. “But I’m optimistic now that we have put to rest any criticism on the basis of his not being sufficiently generous. We’ve pretty much drowned that out.”

The Sunday Telegraph led with the news that the brain of Iris Murdoch, the British novelist who died of Alzheimer’s disease earlier this year, is to be used by research hospitals to help find a cure for the disease. Her widower, Professor John Bayley, said Murdoch long ago expressed a wish for her body to be given to science. “We were both happy about it in the days when she could be happy about anything,” he said. The Times of London led Monday on a Newsweek revelation that the British NATO commander in Kosovo, Gen. Sir Mike Jackson, refused an order by NATO Supreme Commander Gen. Wesley Clark forcibly to stop Russian troops from occupying Pristina airport when the war ended. “I’m not going to start the Third World War for you,” Gen. Jackson was quoted as saying.

The Mail on Sunday of London reported that Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman have purchased a $3 million, five-story, 18th-century house in the southeast London suburb of Dulwich, where they are thinking of sending their 3-year-old son, Connor, to one of London’s most prestigious private schools, Dulwich College. The paper also ran a feature on a “svelte and clearly self-assured” Louise Woodward, who posed this month for the women’s magazine Marie Claire against the background of an English courtroom. Woodward, who was convicted in Boston of the manslaughter of 8-month-old Matthew Eappen, is studying law at a university in London and maintains a close friendship with celebrity lawyer Barry Scheck (he defended both Woodward and O.J. Simpson), who sometimes takes her out to meals in fashionable restaurants and in whom she confides “about all her problems,” the paper said.