Keeping Tabs

Bait and Snitch

Falling for another tabloid ruse.

After months of carefully scrutinizing the National Enquirer and its brethren, Keeping Tabs has become a very savvy tabloid consumer, able to see through even the most cunning tricks of the trade. She’s lost her tabloid cherry, so to speak. The most basic tenet that any would-be tabloid scholar must master is that nothing is as it first appears, particularly anything in big type. A Star headline like “Exposed! Shocking sex & booze parties in JonBenet house” can cleverly refer to festivities that happened long after the Ramsey family vacated the premises. “Stunning Exclusive Photos” of “Kathie Lee’s Revenge on Cheating Frank,” teased on the Globe’s cover, turn out to be shots of the singer about to stage-kiss her Broadway co-star. (The caption calls it a “steamy smooch,” even though the couple’s lips aren’t even touching.) It’s not that mainstream publications have never oversold a story. But the tabloids make a high art of it–in fact, it’s precisely the tabs’ ability to go so far with so little that makes them so endearing.

Still, once in a while, a story manages to slip through Keeping Tabs’ vigorous defenses and catch her off guard—an experience that feels much like falling for one of those junk e-mails disguised with subject lines such as “re-Your Phone Call” and “Thursday’s meeting.” Case in point: last week’s Globe cover about the late John F. Kennedy Jr. Posthumous attacks on the strength of the Kennedys’ marriage are the flavor of the month in Tabloidland, with the Globe (as usual) leading the pack. And while Keeping Tabs confesses to having an unusually high tolerance for tabloid high jinks, she finds this particular brand of snooping flatout odious, both because she subscribes to the old-fashioned notion that the dead should be allowed to rest in peace and because–in the interest of full disclosure–she has had a long-standing professional relationship with George, the magazine Kennedy founded.

Accordingly, KT has looked the other way at most of the recent JFK coverage, including the Globe’s veritable dissertation on the fact that the “fairytale marriage was OVER” that set the trend in motion. (The Star, for its part, has not jumped on the “he died brokenhearted” bandwagon; it has focused on the supposed internecine family battles over Kennedy’s “Million$” and the “Big Cover-up” of the plane crash investigation.)

But the Globe’s Jan. 11 cover seemed too straightforward to explain away: a “World Exclusive” on “JFK’s Final Hours With Another Woman!” complete with a photo of Kennedy walking with, and then kissing, an attractive brunette who is definitely not his wife. Keeping Tabs must confess she fell for this one, hook, line, and sinker. She actually felt genuine embarrassment for John Kennedy and his family–it appeared, quite simply, that he had been busted.

But the more Keeping Tabs looked at the cover, the more something about Kennedy looked, well, wrong–his hair seemed different, his clothes a little unfamiliar, somehow.  And sure enough, the explanation is in a caption on Page 25: The “other” woman turns out to be Kennedy’s ex-girlfriend Julie Baker, and the photos of them were taken in September 1994, two years before Kennedy married Carolyn Bessette and almost five years before he died. Suckered again!

The story never suggests that Kennedy and Baker were romantically involved after their 1992 breakup, but rather that she was his “closest confidante.” Those final hours they spent together? She reportedly met him for breakfast the day before he died. (Just in case you were wondering, “He ordered pancakes and she picked poached eggs on an English muffin.” And when the two had dinner with Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, she served “broiled lemon sole.”) Just underneath the “JFK Jr. & Another Woman!” subhead, the Globe reports that “pals insist the relationship was platonic.” The pair is said to have shared a  “close, eight-year friendship” that included meeting for “deep, meaningful talks at exotic locales like Aspen, Quebec, New Orleans, Rome, Paris and Reykjavik, Iceland.”

As tempting as it is to quibble over just how exotic a locale Quebec is, KT won’t, because the Globe’s mention of Aspen is much more intriguing. Coincidentally or not, Aspen is the hometown of one Sybil Hill, who appears on the cover of the National Enquirer this week under the heading “JFK’s Secret Lover.” The Enquirer goes for the gusto, right down to supposed on-the-record quotes from Hill (“There was no one else but me”), although she is said to be “too pained” by Kennedy’s death to elaborate. But friends fill in all the details of the couple’s supposed relationship, including–you guessed it–what they ate. For their first get-together, Hill reportedly “made veal marsala from a recipe a friend gave her.”

Is there something important about what’s on the menu that we’re not getting? The Star’s account of actress Sarah Michelle Gellar’s “steamy fling with married hunk” David Boreanaz reads more like a cookbook than a romance novel. They were seen “hugging in between bites of tuna sandwiches and sips of soda” at Jerry’s Deli, “drinking hot cider out of the same cup” at a Christmas party, and “munch[ing] on steamed chicken and vegetables” at Gellar’s favorite Chinese restaurant.

The way to Gellar’s heart, apparently is through her highly selective palate. “If all [a man] wants is hamburgers and french fries, Sarah’s not interested,” says an “insider.” No word on whether veal marsala or broiled lemon sole does the trick for her.