Tabloid stories usually have some vague, distant relationship with the smallest sliver of a fact, but some are such ludicrous fantasies that they deserve special attention.
"Inside Versace Killer's Bag of Death!" is one such a gem. The National Enquirer tells us, in its trademark ungrammatical style, that the backpack belonging to the fashion designer's killer Andrew Cunanan "holds key to shocking slaughter!" As the bag's contents are "unveiled for the first time," we learn of the "explosive evidence" inside "the killer's sack that contained everything he needed for a quick escape" as the assassin "planned to flee the country." Fighting back our excitement, barely able to breathe, we learn that Cunanan's getaway kit comprised "a brochure for a hotel on Catalina Island, Calif., a bottle of Nair hair remover, a lubricated condom and an X-Acto knife without the blade."
No passport (which the Enquirer fails to mention was found near the crime scene inside a red Chevy truck Cunanan had stolen.) No giant wad of cash. And no weapon (though perhaps a bladeless X-Acto knife could be used to poke people pretty hard).
An empty envelope, and a receipt for sliced meat, cheese and crackers, completed Cunanan's supposed "bag of death." One can see how the Enquirer believes that Cunanan planned to flee the country, because he had a brochure for an island in the Pacific (albeit 26 miles off the coast from Los Angeles). But the clincher is the Bottle of Nair: if Cunanan could use depilatory cream to make unsightly hair disappear, it's a short step to making himself disappear. And we know he must have been a slippery character, because he was carrying a lubricated condom.
The rest of this week's tabloids are hardly more inspiring.
"Obama and Hillary ordered FBI to spy on Trump!" screams the Enquirer cover, heralding a story that boasts a "six-month investigation." It's slightly disappointing, then, to find the Enquirer allegations are merely a critical reinterpretation of long-known details like this: "The Russia probe is a frame-up – based on bogus intelligence reports – masterminded by Obama and the crooked Clintons." Seems fair and balanced to me.
Mariah Carey's "Satanic Sex Shocker!" is touted as an "Enquirer Exclusive," though it seems a little less exciting when we learn that the singer was allegedly just a child when dragged along by her mother to witness occult rituals. This information reportedly comes from Carey's sister Alison, who the Enquirer helpfully describes as "a mother of four and a former heroin addict who worked as a prostitute." Sounds like an impeccable source to me.
Elton John's announced retirement from touring gives the Globe full license to proclaim "Elton's Parkinson's Nightmare!" In smaller print you'll find the addendum: " . . . pals fear." Because in Hollywood, celebrities' friends are all medically trained to diagnose a star's illness.
Nostradamus should have seen this coming: the National Examiner reports on the 16th-century French seer's "amazing predictions coming true by Easter." That's right: unbeknownst to every scholar who ever studied the works of Nostradamus, he gave clear indications of what would happen in the first quarter of 2018. These include, and I kid you not, a new chain of "vodka saunas" where clients relax in liquor vapors, Beyoncé losing her voice, actor Dwayne Johnson announcing a run for the White House (because everyone knows Nostradamus was a big fan of The Rock), and an elderly Hollywood actress "will be impregnated by an alien."
Us magazine devotes its cover to country singer Carrie Underwood promising "The Truth About My Marriage." It's unclear what lies or misconceptions Underwood hopes to clear up, but "the truth" is stultifyingly boring: She and hockey star-husband Mike Fisher "make it a point to focus on communication," says the magazine, and then quotes a 2016 interview in which the singer urged couples to spend "as many hours together as possible." Truth.
People gives its cover to U.S. Olympic gymnast Aly Raisman, still reeling from molestation by the team's now-incarcerated doctor, assuring readers that she is "Taking Back My Life." Raisman explains: "I lost a part of myself, and I'm getting it back by speaking out." That's great, but I guarantee that if People had managed to get exclusive photos of Kylie Jenner's newborn baby, Raisman would have been relegated to the back of the mag.
I have dismissed repeated rumors that Jennifer Aniston and husband Justin Theroux are about to divorce, but this week People magazine devotes two pages to an at-home photoshoot with the couple – which makes me think the rumors must be true. It's the sort of PR push we've come to expect just weeks before divorce papers are filed. Adding fuel to the fire: None of the photos inside the couple's happy home show the duo together in the same frame. Maybe they need to talk with Carrie Underwood.
Fortunately we have the crack investigative team at Us to tell us that Heidi Klum wore it best, figure skater Karen Chen's "favorite way to relax is to take a bath," that alpine ski racer Mikaela Shiffrin carries Advil, a foam roller and a can of Red Bull in her High Sierra U.S. Ski Team backpack, and that the stars are just like us: they get haircuts, take selfies, eat food and toss trash.
But celebrities aren't like us, because the one thing they lack is privacy, as all these intrusive candid shots show. Us devotes a page and a half to photos of actress Natalie Portman playing tennis on five different occasions, wearing five different outfits – meaning that paparazzi hounded her on five different days while she just wanted to play tennis. It makes me proud to be a journalist.
Onwards and downwards . . .