Keeping Tabs

Tabloids’ 1999 Secrets Exposed!

The year’s silliest stories, best headlines, and most deplorable trends.

For weeks, Keeping Tabs has been eagerly awaiting the last few tabloids of 1999. With every publication known to mankind kicking out special issues, she was certain the tabs would follow suit and deliver some juicy, best-of-the-year/century/millennium packages. She could even see the headlines: “Machiavelli’s Secret Health Crisis!” “Martin Luther Packs on 30 Pounds!” “Gertrude Stein in Love Nest With ‘Gal Pal!’ “

But much to her chagrin, the tabs have hardly mentioned the dawning of the 21st century (aside from a few New Year’s predictions from their astrologers). Keeping Tabs couldn’t help but wonder if the tabs’ reluctance to reflect might have something to do with their track records. Would the Globe want to be reminded, for example, that its May 4 issue announced that Jennifer Aniston was “about to become a bride and a mother”? (At press time, she and boyfriend Brad Pitt are neither married nor expecting.) What about the Sept. 21 issue of the Globe that explained “why Pierce Brosnan will NEVER marry sexy lover” Keely Shaye Smith? The two became happily engaged the next month, prompting the Globe to claim that its story forced Brosnan’s hand.

Would the Star care to recall the fact that right before Jerry Seinfeld’s engagement to Jessica Sklar, the comedian was reportedly “head over heels” for Gwyneth Paltrow? Does the Enquirer still stand by its July prediction that Prince Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles would publicly announce their secret engagement “at the end of this year,” with a wedding to “follow soon after”?

’Nuf said. Since the tabloids aren’t interested in remembering the year that was, Keeping Tabs has assembled her favorite tabloid moments of 1999:

M ost hyperbolic story: This week’s Star cover story on the “Surprising Hush-Hush Romance” between Prince William and teen pop star Britney Spears. While the tabs are notorious for speeding up celeb couples’ romantic timetables, this romance is so hush-hush that, well, the two have yet to meet. But that doesn’t stop a Star source from speculating that Spears might consider marriage if the prince were to ask.

Most creative use of a prepared statement: A Dec. 5 story on the Reuters wire reported that comedienne Madeline Kahn’s husband, John Hansbury, announced her death outside a New York hospital. “We all suffered a great loss today,” Hansbury told the assembled media. “While we mourn her passing, we celebrate a full and wonderful life.” The following week, the Globe quoted Hansbury “sobbing” those exact words “to friends.”  

Most overused cliché: Celebs dying alone and heartbroken. See, for example, the Star on the “sad, last days” of What’s Happening!!’s Shirley Hemphill; the Star on the “sad, last days” of Ellen Corby of The Waltons; or the Star on the “sad, tormented life” of the late Dana Plato.

Most dubious proof of pregnancy: The Globe’s aforementioned Jennifer Aniston story, in which one of the “strong hints” that Aniston was “in a family way” was the fact that when children come to the Friends set, she is always “the first to rush over and ask if she can hold the tot.” (Keeping Tabs is sure that with that in mind, Brad and Jennifer just skipped the pregnancy tests and started painting that nursery.)

Trend Keeping Tabs would like to go on record as vehemently opposing: The kinder, gentler National Enquirer, which is apparently modeling itself after Reader’s Digest. The Enquirer is now filled with headlines such as “Cat’s Incredible: Kitty walks 2000 miles back home” and “Millionaire Businessman Learns to Read at 56!” The Enquirer has also taken to running “Helpful Household Hints” and paying for readers’ contributions: $10 for “Happy Thoughts” (Sample entry: “To me, happiness is finding that your flashlight works after the lights go out.”) and $25 for “Why I love my pet.”

Secret tabloid technique debunked!: The tabs’ habit of crediting “insiders” and “sources” with information gleaned from talk-show interviews. To wit: the Enquirer’s story on Sopranos star Edie Falco–cribbed entirely from her appearance on the Late Show With David Letterman–and this week’s Enquirer piece on Jodie Foster’s “secret passion” for garage sales. Keeping Tabs now considers herself an “insider,” given that she knew all about Foster’s “secret” passion after watching the actress discuss it at length on the Rosie O’Donnell Show last week.

M ost ironic tribute: The Globe salutes all the “much loved” public figures who passed away in 1999, most notably John F. Kennedy Jr. and Carolyn Bessette Kennedy. “Our hearts are particularly heavy this year as we look back at those we’ve lost,” the Globe writes lovingly. “May they all rest in peace.” Apparently the Globe subscribes to the theory that incessant posthumous prying (“They hadn’t slept together for 12 months” screamed one recent John-and-Carolyn cover) is just the thing for those trying to rest in peace.

Most tedious “World Exclusive: The Star’s six-page spread on Tanya Tucker and her 2-week-old daughter, Layla, which basically consisted of frame after frame of the singer’s head in varying proximity to the sleeping newborn.

Most tabloid clichés in a single story: The Enquirer’s October piece about convicted murderer Susan Smith, who is said to have 1) taken a lesbian lover in prison; 2) lost 60 pounds from bulimia; and 3) become desperate to have a baby.

And finally, the best tabloid headlines of 1999–oh, what the hell, of the millennium: Both were in the Star. In second place: “I Made Love to Potsie in Hot Tub While His Wife Went Shopping.” And the grand prize goes to (drumroll please), “I thought my wife was cheating with Kevin Costner–but I found her with Prince Andrew.”

Happy New Year. May you stay out of the pages of the tabs in 2000.