Keeping Tabs

Reduce, Reuse, Re-Quote

How the tabloids get those dishy nuggets from the stars.

With the tabloids once again brimming with news of celebs’ shrinking waistlines, Keeping Tabs almost skipped right over the Star’s recent declaration that Hollywood’s quest for thinness is “really getting out of hand.” “Just ask ultra-lean Frasier star Jane Leeves,” the Star suggested knowingly. Why ask Leeves? Because according to the Star, she’s so “sick of being added to the ever-expanding list of bony leading ladies that she’s forced to eat ‘more than I want’ in restaurants ‘because I’m afraid that somebody’s watching me.’ ” But Keeping Tabs didn’t need to ask Leeves for her thoughts on the Tinseltown thin parade, because she already had–in an interview with the actress that appeared in USA Weekend just before the Star hit the newsstands. Queried about the media’s criticism of her weight, Leeves said, “I’ve been thin my whole life. I do now find myself in a restaurant eating more than I want to because I’m afraid that somebody’s watching me, which is ridiculous.” (Click here to read the rest of the interview.)

This is not the first time Keeping Tabs has caught one of the tabs with its hand in the proverbial cookie jar. While their most compelling assets are those memorable pieces of journalism that certainly won’t appear anywhere else–such as last week’s Globe “Then!” and “Now!” photos of Clint Eastwood’s varicose veins–when it comes to filling the rest of their pages, the tabs are ruthless recyclers. Of course, mainstream publications have been known to borrow a quotation or two, but they usually give a nod to the original source. The tabs, on the other hand, have managed to turn the brazen, uncredited filch into an art form unto itself.

Last week’s Globe, for example, trumpeted that it had snagged “five fun facts” about actress Jennifer Love Hewitt “that might surprise you.” The surprise, however, would only be for those who hadn’t first read those same five facts–with the corresponding identical quotes–in Robert Abele’s November Maxim cover story about the actress. And that Star item about Rosie O’Donnell opening her home to trick-or-treaters seemed awfully familiar, maybe because it had appeared in the New York Observer two weeks earlier. (Unless, of course, O’Donnell spokeswoman Jennifer Glaisek managed to remember and repeat to the Star–virtually verbatim–everything she told the Observer.)

The Star’s regular “Star Style” feature is frequently written in a breezily intimate manner that could fool the unsuspecting reader into thinking that the celebs have actually cozied up, pajama-party style, and dished with the Star about their beauty, fashion, and health secrets. But the only person it would appear the Star has cozied up to is its research librarian. In last week’s column, for example, featuring Felicity’s Keri Russell, the vast majority of Russell’s musings were cribbed word for word from a May People magazine story and an August InStyle feature. Credit for those charming quotes about Russell’s fondness for mangoes and Eggo waffles and the fact that she once had bangs “three tiers high,” for example, should go to People, while it was InStyle’s Lisa Simpson who reported that Russell, an avid walker, says she has “big, huge, happy endorphins” flowing through her body.

This week, the Star runs a two-page “Star Style Special” cover story (“Shania: I’m not beautiful”) that claims to have all the dirt on country superstar Shania Twain’s “secret flaws” and what she’s doing “to make herself perfect,” including using a skin ointment meant for softening cows’ udders. It didn’t take long to trace the sudden interest in Twain’s bovine toilette to the Nov. 2 edition of London’s Daily Telegraph. The Star’s Carolyn Callahan was apparently so enamored of the interview Twain gave to the Telegraph that she tried to replicate it exactly: The first five quotes from Twain in her piece are identical to those in reporter Judith Woods’ original, although Woods and the Telegraph are never mentioned. Surely Callahan just forgot in the rush of her scoop.

While we’re on the subject of editorial déjà vu, Keeping Tabs has become strangely attached to “Tilton Talk,” the part of Charlene Tilton’s new Globe gossip column in which the former Dallas star spouts off about whatever strikes her fancy, with ellipses separating her insights from one another. Recent entries have begun “What’s with all this millennium hysteria?” and “How about those new Target ads?” Reading Tilton Talk always left Keeping Tabs with an unmistakably familiar feeling, until it finally came to her: Tilton has clearly been paying homage to the Larry King-USA Today school of column writing. And why not? Imitation, after all, is the sincerest form of flattery.