Keeping Tabs

Jumping the Gun

The tabloids leap on a Hollywood murder case and prematurely write off Tim McVeigh. 

It’s always a noteworthy occasion when a story achieves the rare tabloid trifecta: i.e., when all three of the illustrious magazines put the same story on their covers. The murder of actor Robert (“Baretta”) Blake’s wife, Bonny Lee Bakley (who apparently also went by Leebonny), provides just such an occasion this week, containing just the right mix of tragedy, intrigue, and gore to titillate the tabs en masse. Coming in a close second is Tom Cruise’s $100 million defamation lawsuit against a gay porn star who supposedly told a French magazine that the two were lovers. That story graces the covers of both the Star and the National Enquirer but not the Globe, whose cover is almost entirely devoted to a menacing banner headline announcing “New JonBenet Crime Scene Photos.” “For the first time, the full horror of JonBenet Ramsey’s grisly death is being exposed,” reads the lead story. For the first time? Keeping Tabs supposes she’s a tad more familiar with the Ramsey saga than most but has to confess that she feels quite comfortable that she’s already been exposed to the “full” horror of the little girl’s death, having seen almost all of the supposedly “new” photos before, with the notable exception of the truly awful X-ray of JonBenet’s badly broken skull. (The Globe prints that one twice, just to make sure we get the point.) For the record: No, it will never end.

But back on the Blake front, the Globe resurrects an exclusive interview with Bonny Bakley herself, which Keeping Tabs figures is the tabloid equivalent of the Clinton camp unearthing that photo of the former president shaking hands with John F. Kennedy. “He terrifies me. He’s not someone you want to mess with!” Bakley supposedly told the Globe of her husband before she died. “He can be really scary. I wouldn’t want to get on his bad side.”

Bakley’s friend Robert Stefanow tells the Globe that she claimed that her husband had offered her own brother Joey Bakley $100,000 to kill her. “Joey, who lives in Florida, turned him down and called Bonny Lee to warn her,” Stefanow reportedly told the Globe. (What this has to do with living in Florida Keeping Tabs is still trying to puzzle out.) The Globe also reports Stefanow’s claim that Bakley told him she feared for her life around her husband, who she said had a “bad temper and mob connections,” an unfortunate combination if ever there was one.

In an unmistakable reminder of the O.J. Simpson case, the Globe claims that Bakley was so “terrified” of her husband that she began “gathering evidence in case she was murdered,” putting aside “incriminating tapes against Blake,” and keeping a diary. She reportedly told close friend Jay Howell that if anything ever happened to her, he should tell the police “that Blake had killed her and everything would become clear once police heard the tapes.”

The Star also reports that Bonny Bakley was anticipating her own demise, but it makes the story a tad more personal, claiming that she left a message for her sister Margerry, instructing her to speak only to the Star in the event of Bonny’s death: “She told Margerry that if she died unexpectedly, her sister should contact longtime Star reporter Chris Bell.”

The National Enquirer leaves no question about where it stands with a blaring headline claiming, “Robert Blake Murdered Wife—so he could keep their baby; Family’s Shocking Charge Against ‘Baretta’ Star.” Bonny’s mother, Lois Carlyon, supposedly told the Enquirer, “I am 100 percent sure that Robert Blake was responsible for murdering my daughter!” And we couldn’t help noticing that Margerry apparently disregarded her sister’s wishes and did indeed give an interview to the Enquirer.

The best part of any tabloid trifecta, however, is comparing the various renditions of what was said by the victim or the victim’s loved ones in their distress. According to the Globe, Blake appeared at the home of his friend Sean Stanek, which was across the street from where he discovered his wife’s body, saying simply, “My wife’s hurt and bleeding.” Stanek reportedly told the Star that a “frantic” Blake “screamed,” “My wife’s been hurt. She’s hurt real bad. You’ve gotta help me.” (The Star also reports that Blake “found his wife, mortally wounded, with her head blown off.”) But the Enquirer takes things up an emotional notch, with Blake appearing on Stanek’s doorstep crying, “She’s hurt! I need help! Dear God, someone please help me!”

Also said to be crying for help is convicted bomber Timothy McVeigh who, according to the Globe’s “McVeigh’s Secret Breakdown” story, “changed from a merciless tough guy into a bawling wimp terrified of meeting his maker” as the “final days to his date with destiny wound down.” The only problem, of course, is that the Globe’s story didn’t anticipate the recent FBI snafu and was clearly written—in the past tense, even—with the assumption that McVeigh would be dead by the time it appeared. (For weeks, the Globe has been thoughtfully counting down to McVeigh’s execution with a cheery calendar graphic that reads “Date With Death”; this week’s calendar reads “Judgment Day.”)

According to the Globe’s account, in his supposed “final days,” McVeigh was “tormented” by terrible nightmares. “One night he woke up crying, ‘No! Don’t kill me! I wanna live!’ ” claims an “insider.” The Globe paints a sad portrait of the hypothetical McVeigh, saying that “as the days and hours slipped away,” he became a “sorry, pathetic punk” who “messed himself” with diarrhea, vomited, and “whined” for a doctor saying, “It hurts. It hurts.” “The guards had total contempt for him. He virtually collapsed as the end neared,” says an “insider.” “The truth was, McVeigh was scared to die. … When it came to his moment of truth, he showed just what he was—a yellow-bellied, sniveling creep who was scared by the prospect of burning in hell for all eternity.” Given that said “moment of truth” has yet to arrive, Keeping Tabs can’t help but suspect that we’ve caught the Globe indulging in a little wishful thinking. But we’re sure it won’t happen again.