Keeping Tabs

Bringing Up the Rear

The tabloids’ butt obsession. 

You heard it here first: The butt is back! At least that’s what the Star says, based on a rigorous analysis of the plumper derrières of Jennifer Lopez, Mariah Carey, and Salma Hayek. Expert plastic surgeon— you knew there’d be one—Dr. Charles Messa affirms that “more frequently than ever before, women are asking for fat to be taken from the waist and injected into the buttocks, and even the hips, to give them more shape.”

It must be National Body Scrutiny Month in Tabloidland. Carey and Lopez also have the dubious honor of being included, along with notables such as Elvira, Tori Spelling, Anna Nicole Smith, and the former pro wrestler known as Sable in the Globe’s “Match the Famous Stars to Their Cleavage” spread. (Keeping Tabs failed miserably at said matching and wondered how the most scrutinized breasts in Tabloidland—those belonging to Pamela Anderson—flew under the radar on this one.) Both Lopez and Carey manage, however, to elude the prying eyes of the Enquirer, which has delivered yet another cover story on “Plastic Surgery Secrets of the Stars,” replete with lots of before and after photos of the usual suspects, including Joan Rivers, Dolly Parton, Farrah Fawcett, and Melanie Griffith. Keeping Tabs is never one to turn down news of a surreptitious nip or tuck, but do we really need the Enquirer’s experts to tell us that Michael Jackson is “the ultimate plastic surgery junkie”?

When they’re not looking at celebrities’ bodies, the tabs are scrutinizing their families. In keeping with the Halloween spirit, there’s been an almost Faulknerian, gothic vibe in play for the past couple of weeks. Both the Enquirer and the Globe have haunting stories about Rosie O’Donnell’s traumatized 3-and-a-half-year-old foster daughter, Mia, who screams in terror for hours every night loudly enough to frighten the neighbors; Rosie has apparently appealed to viewers for their advice. We barely blinked when the Globe called on our favorite tabloid shrink, Dr. Jamie Turndorf, to offer her professional insights into the situation, but in a truly singular piece of journalism, the Globe also records the thoughts of its gossip columnist, former Dallas star Charlene Tilton. Tilton “praises Rosie for taking on the responsibility for such a troubled child,” the story explains. “Hang in there!” Charlene advises. “Rosie, you’re a hard-working mom and a great humanitarian who has given four kids a chance at a good life.” We’re hoping the New York Times will follow suit on this journalism-cum-greeting card thing; we’d really like to know if Maureen Dowd has any thoughts or prayers for Rosie.

We liked the Star’s story on the troubling legacy Lisa Marie Presley may have inherited: She “could follow her doomed dad down the same slippery slope of junk food and fad diets as she fights a desperate battle of the bulge, friends fear.” In other troubled family news, there’s Lara Flynn Boyle (did her father coldly walk out on her 22 years ago, or did she spurn his efforts to stay in touch? the Star wonders), Julia Roberts (she hasn’t spoken to her brother Eric in 10 years, reports the Star, because each blames a different parent for their “hellish” childhood), and the comedian Gallagher, whose ill father sends an open letter to him in the Enquirer, begging to end their vicious family feud “while [he] still has time.” The Globe has an uplifting story about the four Viramontes brothers of Arizona, all of whom are convicted murderers, while the Enquirer reports that Liza Minnelli’s recent brush with death actually had a “wonderful silver lining”—it ended the longstanding feud between Minnelli and her sister, Lorna Luft.

Keeping Tabs was most perplexed by the conflicting accounts of Oprah Winfrey’s feud with her niece and, for that matter, the conflicting accounts of just who qualifies as Oprah’s niece anyway. The Globe teased a story on last week’s cover (“Oprah Murder Scandal: Favorite Niece in Shocking Trial”) claiming that Winfrey has “turned her back” on her “beloved niece” Alisha Hayes. Hayes, says the story, is “terrified that she’s been marked for death” after testifying at the murder trial of her “best pal” Crystal Armon, who is also later described as being “considered” Oprah’s niece, since she was “almost raised by Oprah’s mom Vernita Lee.” (We thought that would more properly qualify her as a surrogate sister, but families are complicated, we know. Witness the Star’s story on how Jamie Foxx’s mother is legally his sister, since her adoptive parents later adopted him as well.)

“I called Oprah to ask her for help,” Hayes complains to the Globe. “Her people wouldn’t even put me through to her at first, even though I told them who I was. I had to say it was an emergency. Oprah didn’t want to hear anything about my problem. She told me she wasn’t going to help me out any more than she already has. … She turned me down flat. I’m scared for my life, but she won’t give me money to escape.”

The Star’s account (“Oprah’s ‘Niece’ Serving 35 Years in Prison—After Shooting Husband in the Back”) puts the focus squarely on Oprah’s dealings with the woman she “considered her niece,” Crystal Armon, relegating Oprah’s “actual” niece Alisha Lee (we’re guessing she’s the Oprah niece formerly known as Alisha Hayes) to a supporting role. We were relieved to read that Oprah was anything but unmoved by the dreadful situation. Rather, she “hung her head in prayer, then burst into tears” upon hearing the news of Crystal’s 35-year sentence. Oprah’s mother, Vernita, tells the Star that “Oprah is upset about the whole affair, especially now that there’s nothing further she can do to help.” And rather than turning a deaf ear to Alisha, the Star says that when Alisha called to tell her about Crystal, “together they prayed for Crystal. Then both burst out crying. They couldn’t stop.” The Star’s story says nothing of Alisha’s pleas to Oprah for her own well-being. “There’s not much anyone, including me, my grandmother and Oprah, can do to help Crystal now. We’ll all miss her a lot—but all of our lives must go on,” she’s quoted as saying. Whew! So glad we got that cleared up.

Directly across the gutter from the Star’s Oprah story is an equally compelling story about Oscar winner Hilary Swank’s cousin, who has just been arrested for “sexually preying on his stepdaughter.” “Hilary will be broadsided and saddened by the news,” her mom tells the Star. “Unfortunately, tragic and embarrassing things happen in all families.” Ah yes. And it’s a good thing for the tabs, isn’t it? They’ve got to fill the space between all those plastic surgery stories somehow.