Keeping Tabs

There’s Nothing Like an Exclamation Point!!!!

Tabloid stories come in with a bang and go out with a whimper.

While Keeping Tabs is well aware that it is her duty to keep you informed as to the ridiculousness of the tabloids, occasionally a story is so breathtakingly, mind-bogglingly stupid that it deserves very special mention. Ladies and gentlemen, this week we have such a story. And while that spread of exclusive Enquirer photos showing Anthony Hopkins trimming his nose and ear hair in a parking lot is a close second, the one-of-a-kind story we’re talking about is, of course, from the Globe. (Did you even have to ask?)

The winning story addresses the recent birth of Elizabeth Hurley’s first child, a 6-pound, 8-ounce bundle she promptly dubbed Damian Charles. (A lovely English moniker, if KT may say so herself.) Little Damian’s paternity has been famously called into question by his putative father, Hurley’s ex Steve Bing. Apparently, lacking any other good dirt on Hurley, the Star and the Enquirer both make the requisite tabloid claim that Hurley and the baby were both close to death and required emergency surgery, although People reports that she had a routine, scheduled C-section. Ah, yes, but the Globe does them one better by making the spectacularly insipid assertion that “some people” believe that by naming her child Damian, Hurley is taking a “dig” at Bing.


Who those “people” are remains unclear. The only person to whom such beliefs are actually ascribed is one Lois Mueller, a psychologist who says that Hurley’s choice of a name “shows she may have been taking a shot at the reluctant father.”

“There’s nothing inherently wrong with the name Damian,” explains Mueller. “But in the movie The Omen, Damian is the son of Satan. And the association with the devil’s son seems like a jab at Bing after his coldhearted rejection and denial of fatherhood.” Ah, yes. Good thing Hurley didn’t go with her first choice for a name, Stevebingisanasshole.

Maybe it was the reference to Satan that got her started, but KT spent much of this week thinking about alphas and omegas. Beginnings and endings, that is. Every tabloid story seems to start off with an emphatic bang, beginning with the cover headlines. It’s exclamation point madness! The Globe offers, “Mean Martha Stewart Exposed!” “Russell Crowe Bit Me!” “Garth & Trisha To Wed!” (That’s what being seen once together in public will do to you in Tabloidland, BTW.) “Camilla’s Face Lift!” (turns out to be a photo simulation) and “Donahue: He’s back on TV to get away from Marlo!” (The Star says it was Sept. 11 that got Donahue back to work, but does it really matter, so long as he’s back?) From the Star, we get “Cindy Crawford’s Hubby Caught Cheating!” “Katie Couric Calls Off Wedding!” “Boozing Britney out of Control!” and “$1 Billion Oprah: I’m Miserable!” The Enquirer apparently did not get the exclamation point memo, weighing in only with a few exclamatory headlines, including, “Britney Spears Goes Topless!” (Sit down. All you see is her bare back.) and “‘Kim Basinger Is a Nut Case!’” an apparent quote from an exclusive interview with her former brother-in-law Billy Baldwin.

And those are just the cover stories. Inside headlines include “JAG Beauty goes to war!” “Sarah Jessica’s News Flash!” “Poor E.T. Rotting Away! (Apparently, time has not been kind to the foam rubber puppet.) “Andie MacDowell Goes Shagadelic!” “Dudley’s Ex Scores Perfect ‘O’!” and “Salma Hayek & Ed Norton Tying the Knot!”—not to mention the classic Enquirer story “Fried Alive!” about an electrocuted tree trimmer. All this gratuitous punctuation!! Just what is everyone so excited about?!?

Lest you think it’s confined to the headlines, the tabs are suckers for punchy, exclamation-point-infused leads, too. And there are apparently extra points to be had for a little wordplay. The Enquirer story about James Gandolfini’s divorce, for example, begins “James Gandolfini’s jilted wife Marcy is telling pals she’s planning to put a ‘hit’ out on the Sopranos star’s lady friends—in court, that is!” A Globe story about the purported romance between Calista Flockhart and Harrison Ford begins “Calista Flockhart has run over ex-boyfriend Garry Shandling with her new Ford—her latest beau, Harrison Ford, that is!” We’re laughing so hard we’re crying.

The Star seems to have the biggest problem refraining from using exclamation points in their leads. The aforementioned E.T. story, for instance, begins: “Never mind phoning home—E.T. needs to phone a repairman!” How about the intro to the Star’s piece about Hugh Grant’s, erm, enthusiasm for shooting love scenes? “Suave leading man Hugh Grant admits he’s always a little stiff and awkward during movie love scenes with beautiful co-stars—in more ways than one!” The headline, by the way, is “Hugh Grant Having Hard Time With Love Scenes.” Wink, wink, nudge, nudge. The Star’s“Shakira: Her Amazing Makeover” story begins: “Today, sexy singing sensation Shakira is battling Britney Spears for the title of blonde pop princess, but just a few years ago, the Latin lovely was chubby, brunette and couldn’t carry a tune!” (A deadly trio for an aspiring pop superstar if ever there were one.) Oh—and if you harbored any hopes that Alex Michel, the squeaky clean TV bachelor currently being courted by 25 female contestants, would not yield any tabloid dirt, think again. A Star story titled “Caught! TV Bachelor a Love Cheat” begins with this telling sentence: “The Bachelor has been caught cheating—and Star has tracked down the gal he had a fling with!”

What’s so interesting is that while most tabloid stories come in with a bang, they usually go out with little more than a whimper. Straight from the Margaret Mitchell “tomorrow is another day” school of last-line writing, the tabs love to end stories with their worst cliché, sappiest quote, and most cringe-inducing philosophizing. There’s an incredible wet blanket feeling that accompanies the end of any tabloid story, as if all the emotion that came before somehow needs to be stamped out like a kitchen fire. The Star story about Mr. Cindy Crawford’s supposed act of infidelity, for example, ends with an “eyewitness to [his] shenanigans” sighing, “[I]f a beautiful supermodel can’t trust her husband to behave, then no woman in America is safe from that sort of heartbreak.” An Enquirer story about how Jennifer Connelly was dumped by her boyfriend just prior to the Oscars ends on a similarly sour note: “The woman is a size three and still thinks she’s fat,” notes an insider. “An Oscar hasn’t brought her happiness.” Going weepy is always an option as well; a Star story on Prince William’s final meeting with his newly departed great-grandmother, the queen mother, ends with an “informed royal aide” pointing out that “the advice he was given by his great-grandmother during their last meeting will be worth more than any money can buy.”

The tabs love to play it droll in their last lines as well. The Globe’s piece about the upcoming trial of Kennedy cousin Michael Skakel ends with a source sniffing that “in the unlikely event Michael walks away from this trial a free man, the only person who’ll want to play golf with him is likely to be O.J. Simpson.” And speaking of O.J., the Star reports on the recent arrest of one-time Simpson girlfriend Tawny Kitaen, who was apprehended for allegedly battering her husband with a pair of high-heeled shoes. How does the story end? “When she was with O.J., Tawny would often try to beat him up and he would just laugh it off,” says a pal. “But her husband isn’t laughing.” KT hopes you, on the other hand, are. Till next time, tabloid fans.