Like a third-rate children’s party magician who’s given up caring, this week’s tawdry tabloids indulge in some heavy-handed misdirection.
There's no rabbit pulled out pf a hat, but when the 'Globe' tops its front page with the words "Explosive Proof" you know you're going down the rabbit hole.
"Kim Jong-un Is Dead!" screams the headline. "Photos unmask body double."
As the article goes on to explain: "Brutal North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un has been secretly murdered by his blood-thirsty sister Kim Yo-jong, experts confirm – and replaced with a body double!" Those must be some highly-paid experts.
Did they examine Kim's corpse looking for forensic evidence of foul play? Did they run toxicological tests finding lethal doses of drugs or poison?
No such luck.
The tabloid's "experts" apparently compared old photos of the "real dictator" with recent photos of the dictator appearing in public in North Korea, branding the latter a "fabulous fake," concluding that the photos depict two different people.
That's quite a magic trick, for the two photos look almost identical, though the "experts" note that the recently-sighted Kim Jong-un has puffier eyelids, longer eyebrows and different lips.
Perhaps the experts are unaware that people can look different in photographs taken from different angles, and that the dictator may have gained a pound or two.
What makes the magic trick so clumsy is that even the most amateur observer can see that the alleged doppelgänger has the distinctive forehead crease above his right eye that has been a signature feature of Kim Jong-un in recent years, while that crease is missing in the photo of the "real dictator"!
Why didn't the 'Globe' experts conclude that Kim Jong-un had previously been represented by a body double, and is now finally back in charge?
Because the old photo appears to have been snapped in a brighter light, and the higher exposure has smoothed out the dictator's signature forehead crease.
What's more, even if Kim's recent appearance was by a body double, that would only prove that Kim sometimes uses a body double It doesn't amount to proof, let alone "explosive proof", that the dictator has been murdered.
The 'Globe' has a similar problem of willful misdirection with its story about former president Obama's First Lady: "Michelle: I Never Wanted To Be A Mom!"
The story takes its source from a recent Netflix documentary on Michelle Obama, reporting: "Michelle Obama wanted a high-flying career – not kids."
But that's not what she said in the documentary.
Michelle certainly said that she had to put her career on the back burner in the service of her husband's career and looking after their two daughters, but she never said she didn't want children. That's something completely different.
The 'National Enquirer' gets in on the magic act with its own twisting of the truth: "Shocking Claim: Kobe Caused Own Death!"
It's a remarkable piece of misdirection, since absolutely nobody has claimed that basketball star Kobe Bryant caused his own death.
The brother of the pilot whose helicopter fatally crashed simply said that Bryant and other passengers were aware of the risks of helicopter travel. That's very different from blaming Bryant for his own death.
"Prince Andrew Broke & Facing Eviction!" screams the 'Globe' cover, which a smoke and mirror trick if there ever was one.
We should all be so broke.
The prince, with an estimated net worth of $45 million, has been sued for being four months behind on the promised repayment of around $7.27 million in shares and interest for his 2014 purchase of a $14 million Swiss chalet in the resort town of Verbier.
Yes, the plaintiff – the chalet's original owner – could ultimately evict Andrew if she prevails in the lawsuit, but it's not his primary residence, and he still has his $10 million Royal Lodge in Windsor Park, England, to fall back on, plus a substantial fortune in the bank.
Even if he was forced to sell the chalet at the price he bought it to pay the debt, Andrew would still have $7 million left over, which is hardly chump change.
But the 'Globe' considers that to be "broke."
This is the same Prince Andrew who the tabloids recently claimed has been under arrest in the Tower of London for his alleged part in the Epstein pedophile sex ring scandal, is under a suicide watch, and who has been indicted by a U.S. grand jury on unspecified charges and is being extradited to America – all events that are about as real as the fake flowers a magician pulls out of his sleeve.
An 'Enquirer Exclusive' reports breathlessly on what has been widely covered by publications worldwide: that Prince Harry and wife Meghan are relying on the kindness of friends while they find their feet in America, having stayed at a friend's home in Vancouver Island, Canada, before now staying as a guest at the Beverly Hills home of movie mogul Tyler Perry.
Or, as the 'Enquirer' puts it: "Harry & Meghan Royal Freeloaders!"
In a remarkably clueless picture caption, as Harry & Meghan are photographed distributing charity meals to housebound AIDS patients and cancer victims, the 'Enquirer' writes: "Even during a pandemic the Duke and Duchess of Sussex are only thinking of themselves, insiders spilled."
Far be it from me to question the authenticity of their sources, but some of the story's quotes certainly seem too good to be true.
"They're nothing but royal couch-surfers, trading cachet for cash and expecting their friends to pick up the tab for their lavish lifestyle," says a "high-level palace source" who appears to have mastered Americanized tabloid-speak remarkably well for a staid English courtier.
The 'Enquirer' devotes its cover to the story of the Hollywood lawyer whose hacked database is being threatened with exposure: "$21 Million Extortion Plot! Top Lawyer to the Stars Hacked. Hollywood A-Listers' secrets stolen."
Of course, it's a $42 million extortion plot now – the hackers jacked up the price.
"Superstars living in fear as private files are held for ransom," gasps the 'Enquirer,' claiming that stars nervously biting their nails include Robert De Niro, Madonna, Barbra Streisand, Bruce Springsteen, Elton John, Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett.
"Evil blackmailers have A-Listers' emails, contracts & financial data," claims the rag.
If the hackers' claims are true, they could have some embarrassing business and financial details that celebrities would rather keep private, but the 'Enquirer,' always looking on the bright side of things, imagines there could be so much more dirty laundry lurking in the lawyer's vaults.
"If a star had been having an affair that ended badly or if they'd been arrested, their first call would be to their lawyer," says an unnamed "legal source," who explains: "If those emails are revealed all heck would break loose."
The 'Enquirer' can dream, can't they?
No good deed goes unpunished, and there are some people who just can't do anything right in the eyes of the tabloids.
Prince Harry recently sold his rare hunting rifles for $60,000, a mark of his respect for wife Meghan, who has made clear her dislike of hunting.
The 'Globe' however, slams "henpecked" Harry for selling the weapons "under the guise of pleasing his wife," but with the real intention of grabbing "quick cash to help cover expenses." Apparently being a free-loader comes with high living costs.
Summer must be coming, because 'Us' magazine brings us an edition packed with "diet and workout tips," with a heavily airbrushed Julianne Hough on the cover offering "My Best Body!" Perhaps she keeps all her other, lesser bodies, in the basement at home?
By contrast, 'People' magazine goes for nonagenarian porn with this week's cover story on Queen Elizabeth: "Keeping Calm & Carrying On . . . at 94!" Inexplicably Her Majesty isn't pictured in a bikini like Julianne Hough, which makes one think that the Queen is keeping her Best Body for private viewing only.
Thankfully we have the crack investigative team at 'Us' mag to tell us that Stephanie Sheperd wore it best (though she must be wondering why the identical dress was also worn by Maria Menounos, Carly Rae Jepsen, Renée Bargh, Emma Willis and Charlotte D'Alessio), and that actress Hilarie Burton makes her own dandelion wine because "my favorite book of all time" is Ray Bradbury's 'Dandelion Wine,' (though perhaps we should be grateful that her favorite book isn't Deborah Blum's 'The Poisoner's Handbook.')
Apparently this week the stars are not "just like us," but their kids are: Kate Hudson's daughter Rani gardens, Michael Phelps's son Boomer sips hot chocolate, Kylie Jenner's daughter Stormi plays tennis, and Hilary Duff's son Luca takes Instagram photos. Fascinating, as ever.
The 'Globe' has to reach back 12 years to find a story that's actually true: Fredric Baur, who in 1966 invented a way of stacking potato chips that led to the creation and distinctive packaging of Pringles, had some of his ashes buried in a Pringles can when he died in 2008.
Not exactly breaking news, but better late than never.
No word on whether he's passed his expiration date.
Onwards and downwards.