FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Kim Kardashian and Global Warming

by CLANCY SIGAL

Thou shalt not go up and down as a talebearer among thy people.”

— Leviticus 19:16

There is only one thing in life worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.”

— Oscar Wilde

Waiting around in doctors’ offices my eye will greedily fall on gossip magazines like People and US.  I would happily read the National Enquirer and The Star if available, but usually the only other options are Golf Digest and Time Sharing Today.

Since boyhood I’ve been an insatiable scanner of celebrity gossip.  In olden days, on drug store magazine racks, in fanzines like Photoplay and Modern Screen, movie studio p.r. departments peddled gloriously false profiles of their stars or worked equally hard to cover up blemishes like abortion, drug overdose and murder.

Blame my fondness for gossip on an abusive childhood.  That is, abused by Chicago’s two great Hearst tabloids screaming headlines like “24th WARD RABBI SLAIN IN SECRET LOVE NEST = WIFE ARRESTED!”.

When I should have been doing my arithmetic tables I devoured columnists like Walter Winchell, Leonard Lyons, Ed Sullivan, Louella Parsons and “Cholly Knickerbocker” – all of whom had a distinct political or personal agenda.   (See Burt Lancaster as the venomous gossip columnist in Sweet Smell of Success.)  With a single keystroke the scandal mongers made and broke lives and cemented in us readers a reflex of permanent excitement.

My mother was horrified by my childish fondness for the “goings about town” of famous people. Yet she too couldn’t stop from peeking at accounts of Charlie Chaplin’s underage sexcapades or the child custody trial of, say, the movie actress Mary Astor whose diary, in open court, checked off, by the numbers, how many orgasms her latest lover had given her.  I didn’t know what an orgasm was, but my redheaded mother sure did.

The latest gossip hooks, of course, are “household names” like Justin B; Woody-and-Mia-and-Dylan-and-Ronan-maybe-out-of-Sinatra; Julia Roberts because the half sister killed herself blaming Pretty Woman in a five-page rant; royal Will & Kate; “Patrick Swayze’s Widow Finds Love Again”; Sharon’s Struggle With Aging (“I looked at my body and I cried”); Charlize and Sean “Moving In?”; Kanya and Kim.

Kim who?  If you don’t know about this bigassed reality show “star”, my dear, you’re not in the swim.  (Note: bigassed is not sexist, racist or insulting since Kim deliberately has herself photographed in skimpy bathing gear to sell her bum-bum, JLo redux.).

How can any person who pretends to be serious or have a political brain digest this licensed sadism?  Who has the time or the taste for such drek?  As we used to say in the army, “Sir, no excuse, sir.”

If you add up the circulation figures for People, Cosmo, O, Maxim, ET, Vanity Fair, GQ, Star etc. plus TV’s (unapolegetically racist and sexist) TMZ, and Wendy Williams, View (what? you don’t know about Barbara Walters’s vibrator), you get a fair sized audience probably exceeding the Tea Party, MoveOn, Rachel Maddow’s viewers and probably all the combined other parties as well.

Each celebrity-gossip outlet has its demographic niche – and its agenda.  The trick is to decode it if you’re interested, which I am.  (Full disclosure: I worked on British Vogue and various other glossies.)  Layout, typography, placement and choice of items, use of color (yellow is best for magazine racks) reveal the psyches at work in editorial offices.  There’s open season to be nasty on some personalities (Woody Allen, Justin Bieber, Alex Baldwin, Lindsay Lohan et al), taboo on others.  On race, for example, the gossips shrewdly navigate the p.c. minefields.  Denzel is out of bounds but not certain rappers.  Let’s not even talk sexism which is embedded in the very birth throes of the gossips.

And, as we have seen in Graydon Carter’s spineless spiking of an assigned piece on Gwyneth Paltrow in VF, celebrities very often wield a powerful veto, especially those who are domiciled in the UK with its punishing libel laws.  Celebrities like to play a Laingian double bind game pioneered by the British royal family: please shower us with publicity without which we would die but don’t you dare actually do a little digging or suffer a lawyer’s writ or, worse, your name spitefully excluded from next year’s Honors List.

No issue of a gossip mag is complete without crocodile tears for a cancer survivor, romantic breakup or disabled child’s remarkable recovery.  (See Nathaniel West’s Miss Lonely Hearts for a diagnosis.)  Readers like me eat up this stuff, identify, empathize, shake our heads or sneer “Who made her President” when some publicity hound teenager muscles his or her way onto a cover.  The trick is to know who these people actually are.  Most are incredibly obscure sit-com or sit-drama actors who inhabit the cultural 7th circle of Hell few of us dare enter.

Kim Kardashian and global warming?  A scientist friend is teaching me, a previous skeptic, about the “ocean’s death march”, acidification and the blocking effect of carbon dioxide on the sun’s radiation.  The problem is, my science friend cannot take on board how the same mind can embrace the dangers of excessive quantities of CO2 as well as Kim Kardashian’s derriere.  You see his problem?

Clancy Sigal is a screenwriter and novelist. His latest book is Hemingway Lives

 

 

Clancy Sigal is a screenwriter and novelist. His latest book is Hemingway Lives

Weekend Edition
February 12-14, 2016
Andrew Levine
What Next in the War on Clintonism?
Jeffrey St. Clair
A Comedy of Terrors: When in Doubt, Bomb Syria
Ismael Hossein-Zadeh – Anthony A. Gabb
Financial Oligarchy vs. Feudal Aristocracy
Paul Street
When Plan A Meets Plan B: Talking Politics and Revolution with the Green Party’s Jill Stein
Rob Urie
The (Political) Season of Our Discontent
Pepe Escobar
It Takes a Greek to Save Europa
Gerald Sussman
Why Hillary Clinton Spells Democratic Party Defeat
Carol Norris
What Do Hillary’s Women Want? A Psychologist on the Clinton Campaign’s Women’s Club Strategy
Robert Fantina
The U.S. Election: Any Good News for Palestine?
Linda Pentz Gunter
Radioactive Handouts: the Nuclear Subsidies Buried Inside Obama’s “Clean” Energy Budget
Michael Welton
Lenin, Putin and Me
Manuel García, Jr.
Fire in the Hole: Bernie and the Cracks in the Neo-Liberal Lid
Thomas Stephens
The Flint River Lead Poisoning Catastrophe in Historical Perspective
David Rosen
When Trump Confronted a Transgender Beauty
Will Parrish
Cap and Clear-Cut
Victor Grossman
Coming Cutthroats and Parting Pirates
Ben Terrall
Raw Deals: Challenging the Sharing Economy
David Yearsley
Beyoncé’s Super Bowl Formation: Form-Fitting Uniforms of Revolution and Commerce
David Mattson
Divvying Up the Dead: Grizzly Bears in a Post-ESA World
Matthew Stevenson
Confessions of a Primary Insider
Jeff Mackler
Friedrichs v. U.S. Public Employee Unions
Franklin Lamb
Notes From Tehran: Trump, the Iranian Elections and the End of Sanctions
Pete Dolack
More Unemployment and Less Security
Christopher Brauchli
The Cruzifiction of Michael Wayne Haley
Bill Quigley
Law on the Margins: a Profile of Social Justice Lawyer Chaumtoli Huq
Uri Avnery
A Lady With a Smile
Katja Kipping
The Opposite of Transparency: What I Didn’t Read in the TIPP Reading Room
B. R. Gowani
Hellish Woman: ISIS’s Granny Endorses Hillary
Kent Paterson
The Futures of Whales and Humans in Mexico
James Heddle
Why the Current Nuclear Showdown in California Should Matter to You
Michael Howard
Hollywood’s Grotesque Animal Abuse
Steven Gorelick
Branding Tradition: a Bittersweet Tale of Capitalism at Work
Nozomi Hayase
Assange’s UN Victory and Redemption of the West
Patrick Bond
World Bank Punches South Africa’s Poor, by Ignoring the Rich
Mel Gurtov
Is US-Russia Engagement Still Possible?
Dan Bacher
Governor Jerry Brown Receives Cold, Dead Fish Award Four Years In A Row
Wolfgang Lieberknecht
Fighting and Protecting Refugees
Jennifer Matsui
Doglegs, An Unforgettable Film
Soud Sharabani
Israeli Myths: An Interview with Ramzy Baroud
Terry Simons
Bernie? Why Not?
Missy Comley Beattie
When Thoughtful People Think Illogically
Christy Rodgers
Everywhere is War: Luke Mogelson’s These Heroic, Happy Dead: Stories
Ron Jacobs
Springsteen: Rockin’ the House in Albany, NY
Barbara Nimri Aziz
“The Martian”: This Heroism is for Chinese Viewers Too
Charles R. Larson
No Brainers: When Hitler Took Cocaine and Lenin Lost His Brain
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail