Tabloid headlines are from Mars, tabloid stories are from Venus. That's how far removed are this week's stories and the headlines that top them.
"Scott Peterson murdered 2 other women!" screams the National Enquirer cover. No he didn't, says the story inside, despite the spread headline: "Scott Peterson a Serial Killer!" Convicted wife-killer Peterson is nothing more than a possible suspect in two cold case deaths to which he has the most tenuous of connections.
"Jen Garner Recruited by Hollywood Cult!" proclaims the Enquirer. No she wasn't, says the Enquirer story. Rather than being recruited, actress Garner is simply the subject of an alleged crush by Scientology chief David Miscavige. Garner herself appears unaware of any interest in her by Scientology, but that's enough for the Enquirer to say: "Friends fear she's vulnerable to recruiters." Right.
"Money-hungry Meghan turns back on America!" yells the Globe cover. "Gives up U.S. citizenship to avoid taxes!" No, she hasn't, says the story inside. The Duchess of Sussex "is still an American citizen," an IRS source reportedly tells the Enquirer. And if she were to relinquish her U.S. citizenship it wouldn't be to avoid paying taxes, but to avoid exposing the sources of her income – Prince Harry and the Queen – to unwanted scrutiny by America's IRS. The Palace tells the Enquirer "there's no truth" to the story. Indeed.
Cindy Crawford and husband Rande Gerber face a "billion dollar divorce shocker!" reports the Enquirer. No, they don't. She's simply been photographed without her wedding ring, for which there could be a hundred rational explanations not involving a marital split. And anyway, the couple aren't worth anywhere near a billion dollars.
Other tabloid stories perpetuate their traditional tenuous connection with reality.
Singer Diana Ross is "broken down" and "could barely 'keep on hanging on'" as she was pushed in a wheelchair through New York's JFK airport recently, says the Enquirer. But literally hours before the photo was taken at JFK, thousands saw her perform at the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree lighting, where she was clearly far from broken down. Can't a girl just take a rest once in a while?
Bruce Springsteen "Lives in Fear of His Fans!" states the Enquirer, above a story claiming that the rocker has built a panic room in his Los Angeles home, "to protect family from kidnappers." Let's be clear: kidnappers aren't fans. They're businessmen with questionable morals and social issues.
"Kate Hudson's Stripper Pole Secret!" is revealed by the Enquirer. Except it's no secret. The actress has discussed exercising with a stripper pole for years, has been photographed on stripper poles before, and recently posted a heavily pregnant Instagram photo of herself standing beside her home stripper pole. Some secret.
T'is the season when a news-starved Globe fills its cover and 11 pages inside with "79 legends we loved and lost in 2018," avoiding the necessity to come up with anything new. Rather than tributes to the dear departed, it's a cavalcade of scandal and disdain: Aretha Franklin was a "royal pain," Austin Powers' Mini-Me actor Verne Troyer "killed himself with booze," Burt Reynolds "lost [the] will to live," Jerry Van Dyke was a "jealous monster," John McCain was a "ladies man" who was "destroyed by Sarah Palin," Margot Kidder "put herself out of pain," and Harry Anderson "hated Night Court 'til the day he died!" All this under the banner: "Thanks For The Memories." With thanks like that, who needs criticism?
George H.W. Bush receives the tabloid equivalent of a hero's farewell, with a spread in the Enquirer celebrating "A Life Well Lived!" while the National Examiner dedicates a full page to private love letters between Bush and wife Barbara that "reveal a love that never died." I'm teary-eyed. Cue Celine Dion singing "My Heart Will Go On."
Fortunately we have the crack investigative team at Us magazine to tell us that Nicole Kidman wore it best, that Rachel Brosnahan "once burned spaghetti," that Jessie James Decker carries cash, gum and sunglasses in her Céline tote (revelatory, as always), and that the stars are just like us: they pump their own gas, play sports, and carry their own luggage. Like we've never seen that before.
Once again I can't help wondering how sick and dying tabloid readers must be, judging by the advertisements aimed at them. This week's offerings include ads for a medical alert panic button, anti-aging cream, a pad to "turn off your brain at night so you can sleep," a therapeutic cushion to relieve sciatica, and a health supplement to reverse dementia. That's in addition to editorials on flu shots, weight loss, heart disease, asthma, erectile disfunction, a mystery disease crippling children, how to "walk off 20 pounds in a month," night blindness, baldness, Alzheimer's, breast cancer and high cholesterol. Medical opinion is still clearly divided as to whether it's reading tabloids that makes you sick, or if you have to be sick to want to read the tabloids.
Onwards and downwards . . .