Keeping Tabs

Tabloid Eating Binge!

Gorging on Julia Roberts, Chandra Levy, and more.

The last two weeks in Tabloidland have been some of the most jam-packed in recent memory. The sheer volume of stories in play has been so astonishing that Keeping Tabs barely knows where to begin: Houston mother Andrea Yates’ heartbreaking murder of her five small children? The surprise split of Ü ber-couple Julia Roberts and Benjamin Bratt? The deaths of legends Carroll O’Connor and Jack Lemmon? The cellulite problem plaguing Hollywood? (Don’t laugh! It made the cover of this week’s Star.)

As if that weren’t enough, it’s been a particularly busy anniversary season as well, with the tabs marking not only the day that would have been Princess Diana’s 40th birthday but also the two-year anniversary of John Kennedy Jr.’s death, which brings the requisite onslaught of adoring photo essays. The Globe reverentially notes that Kennedy is “still in our hearts,” a sentiment they apparently best saw fit to celebrate by publishing several long-lens paparazzi photos of him. On the whole, the tabloids appear to take anniversaries a tad too seriously. The Globe claims that Prince William was absolutely livid that his father chose to kiss Camilla Parker-Bowles in public a few weeks back because the timing of the kiss was “insulting to Diana’s memory—only four days before her birthday and a month before the fourth anniversary of her death.” (For the record, you’d better be nice to Keeping Tabs; it’s only 122 days till her birthday!)

And in the last two weeks the tabloids have finally moved into full-on JonBenet-Darva-Monica mode in covering the disappearance of Washington intern Chandra Levy. Despite what Police Chief Charles Ramsey seems to think, the tabs are currently very invested in the idea that Levy committed suicide. Last week the Star suggested that after leaving a chilling final one-word message—”Goodbye”—on Rep. Gary Condit’s answering machine, a “distraught” Levy “threw herself into Washington’s Potomac River.” This week, however, both the Star and the Globe posit a theory that Levy killed herself inside Condit’s apartment, perhaps even in his bed; while the National Enquirer is strangely silent on the case.

The price we readers have to pay for all this quantity is apparently a little slacking off in the quality department: For all the tabloid sizzle out there, there’s very little steak, as if in their scattershot attempt to get to all these stories, the tabs forgot that they were actually supposed to say anything about them. And for that, Keeping Tabs would like to formally recognize a few highlights:

The Biggest Stretch Award To …
The Globe’s “Diana: Child of Destiny” spread, described in the subhead as an “Intimate Peek at HAUNTING PHOTOS from tragic princess’s PRIVATE FAMILY ALBUM.” The stretch in question is in the caption to a photo of a preadolescent Diana in which “her piercing eyes and somber look foreshadow tragedy to come.” Which tragedy? Puberty?

The First Annual “Keeping Tabs Really Just Can’t Bring Herself To Care” Award
A tie, between the Globe’s story on what Jennifer Lopez’s boyfriend Cris Judd was like in high school (“Diva’s DANCER HUNK was a teen babe magnet—with hair!”) and the National Enquirer’s exclusive interview with Kelly Ripa’s high-school boyfriend. “We were teenage lovers, and teenage lovers usually break up!” he lets on.

Quickest Recovery From Dire Marriage Crisis Award
In the last Keeping Tabs, we reported on the Globe’s story about the supposed “cheating crisis” in Matt Lauer’s marriage: His very pregnant wife, Annette, was said to be petrified that her husband would cheat on her, particularly “during her first year as a mom, when she’s preoccupied with the baby and trying to get back into shape.” What a difference a week makes! The Globe has now proclaimed the Lauers’ crisis officially over, solved instantaneously by the arrival of their newborn son. “Matt was so moved by the birth, and so overwhelmingly grateful to his wife for delivering this little miracle, that Annette’s doubts about him disappeared,” says a friend. “Matt showed himself to be the man that she had hoped and prayed fatherhood would turn him into—a committed husband and a doting dad whose life revolves around his family.” (See, Matt? That training at the Evelyn Wood School of Changing-the-Focus-of-Your-Life was worth it!)

The Least Loyal Former Employee Award
According to an “investigation source” in the Star, former Condit aide Vince Flammini supposedly told the FBI that the congressman had a weakness for the ladies but always drew a line in the sand: “If the women ever told him they loved him—or asked him to leave his wife—he’d coldly dump them on the spot.”

The Least Anonymous Anonymous Source Award
The Star’s story on Marie Osmond’s reaction to the Andrea Yates tragedy quotes her at length telling a “friend” her thoughts on Yates and postpartum depression, from which she herself suffered. But it didn’t take long for Keeping Tabs to realize that Osmond somehow managed to have the same conversation—verbatim—with the Globe. Nexis, anyone?

The American Media Inc. Corporate Synergy Award
KT always likes it best when the tabs put their own telltale stamps on a major story, adding the kinds of details that wouldn’t see the light of day elsewhere. (See, for example, last week’s Enquirer, which runs a photo of Timothy McVeigh’s death certificate. Thanks for sharing!) Even better is when the three tabs are wildly at odds with one another (see below). But no such luck on the Julia Roberts-Benjamin Bratt split; the tabs don’t bring anything new to the gossip table and seem to be marching in lockstep with one another. The Star’s “Why Julia Got the Boot” story explains that Benjamin Bratt “called it quits because he was eaten up with jealousy over [Roberts’] flirtatious romps with [George] Clooney.” The Enquirer’s take? Virtually identical. KT was hoping that the Globe’s story on the “Real Reason … Why Ben Dumped Julia” would deliver some juicy inside dope, only to be vexed again: The “real reason” turns out to be “because he was fed up with her refusal to settle down and her endless flirting—especially with movie heartthrob George Clooney.”

And Its Inverse: The “How’s That Again?” Irreconcilable Explanations Award
The Globe’s “Carroll O’Connor’s Final Revenge” story says that the “tv legend … died knowing he’d succeeded in destroying the man he blamed for the tragic suicide of his cocaine-addicted son.” The Star, on the other hand, says O’Connor “Died of a Broken Heart”: “That drug dealer not only caused [O’Connor’s son’s] death, but he effectively killed Carroll as well,” says a source. Well, so glad we got that cleared up.