British pantomime embraces an ancient tradition of audience participation, in which the great unwashed throng cheerfully yell at the actors.
The panto's villain will invariably be stalking the hero of the piece, and the audience will shout: "He's behind you!"
The hero, failing to spy the villain, will reply: "Oh, no he's not!"
And the audience dutifully yells back: "Oh, yes he is!"
Diving into this week's tabloids feels a lot like watching a pantomime. Not only are the rags are full of fairytales, but when they present alleged evidence of new scandals they insist are the truth, it's hard for readers not to yell back: "Oh, no it's not!"
The 'National Enquirer' brings us not one but two fact-challenged "Death Mysteries" for its cover story, featuring singers Whitney Houston and Kenny Rogers, sharing only a similar absence of evidence in both reports.
"Whitney Autopsy Cover-Up!" screams the 'Enquirer.' "Explosive new evidence found after eight years!"
No, it's not!
This story emanates from an 'Enquirer' ex-cop "investigator" taking a look at the 2012 coroner's report and asking questions that were answered and safely put to bed eight years ago.
Houston was ruled to have died of atherosclerotic heart disease and cocaine use, and the coroner found her "acutely intoxicated from cocaine." Drug paraphernalia including a "small spoon with a white crystal-like substance" and a rolled-up piece of white paper were found in her room at the Beverly Hills Hotel.
The 'Enquirer' investigator inexplicably concludes: "All of these seem like props deliberately planted to support the premise Whitney overdosed."
Oh, no they don't!
Why would anyone need to plant drug paraphernalia in Houston's room when her body was riddled with cocaine?
The 'Enquirer' correctly reports that the coroner noted that "a 'plethora' of prescription medication bottles had been removed from a brown bag before he arrived on scene."
Yet the 'Enquirer' fails to mention that those drugs had not been removed or hidden, but were simply placed on view in the room – 12 different prescription drugs including anti-anxiety meds Xanax and muscle relaxant Flexeril.
It's an old story with no new input and an old murder conspiracy rehashed without new evidence.
The 'Enquirer' claims that its "new autopsy analysis" – actually new analysis of an old autopsy – offers sufficient evidence to "Exhume Whitney Houston!"
Oh, no it doesn't.
And what are we to make of the 'Enquirer' headline: "Kenny Rogers' Body Vanishes!"
Oh, no it hasn't!
It's simply the 'Enquirer' reporters who don't know where Rogers's body might be in repose, though they give a giant hint in their own story: "Sources close to the singer said he'd been cremated."
An anxious source allegedly declares: "Kenny's body is missing, as far as most people are concerned. There's no place fans can go and pay their respects."
But Kenny's not missing. He's simply in an urn somewhere. Get over it.
And is "$250m at stake!"
Oh, no it's not!
Rogers's estate will be divided up among his heirs whether he's buried, cremated or has his remains flown into space.
This story might as well have been written by a pantomime horse with four left feet.
Thankfully the 'Enquirer' knows real news when it sees it: "COVID Bio-Attack Is Causing World War 3!"
The story repeats the rag's well-worn conviction that coronavirus is a Chinese bioweapon being used to destroy the US, and yet this important detail is mentioned nowhere in the story outside of the headline.
And China is not acting alone, apparently.
"Military insiders warn China, Russia and their tyrannical accomplices in Iran, North Korea, Syria and Turkey are bracing to launch a coordinated attack against America and the west that could end in nuclear disaster!"
It's good to know that in the face of WWIII, Whitney Houston and Kenny Rogers can still command the front page.
The story delightfully concludes with the line: "The China, Russia, North Korea, Turkey, Syria and Iran embassies did not respond to requests for comment."
Hardly surprising really, especially considering that North Korea, Syria and Iran do not have embassies in the US, which the 'Enquirer' would know if they had bothered trying to contact them.
The 'Globe' plunges into the Jeffrey Epstein sex scandal involving his former lieutenant Ghislaine Maxwell and former friend Prince Andrew, under the headline: "Epstein Madam's Love Letters to Andrew! All The Shocking Details Inside!"
Oh, no they're not!
There's not one shocking detail inside. Not even one small, shop-worn, unsurprising detail.
Despite an impossibly small and illegible cover photo of a letter that appears to be in Maxwell's elegant handwriting, the inside spread does not include the content of a single letter, nor photographs of any missives, love letters or otherwise. Not a sentence. Not a word. Certainly not "all the shocking details."
The story claims Maxwell is "burying Prince Andrew under an avalanche of love letters proclaiming she'll defend the disgraced British royal – and begging him to return her loyalty and affection."
But there's zero evidence of such letters, and the tabloids were reporting earlier this year – equally improbably – that it was Andrew bombarding Maxwell with letters begging her to clear his name.
It all reeks of tales from Mother Goose.
The 'Globe' tells of singer Dolly Parton's alleged plastic surgery extravaganza: "Dolly's $2m Nip/Tuck Binge At 75!" (
But even if Parton actually underwent a "head-to-toe remake before her birthday" as claimed, it's almost impossible to spend $2 million on such surgery, unless doctors threw in a heart and lung transplant and a small beachfront condo in Florida.
"Lock Her Up!" screams an 'Enquirer' headline, though for once it's not talking about Hillary Clinton, but about Angelina Jolie, claiming: "Scared Brad wants Angie behind bars."
Oh, no he doesn't!
Pitt is allegedly threatening to have Jolie "dragged to jail if she refuses to end her harassment campaign against him."
Even if she were making life uncomfortable for Pitt, no judge presiding over a divorce custody case would use that as justification to put a mother behind bars, when there are so many other less Draconian legal remedies available.
Turning its attention to Ben Affleck and girlfriend Ana de Armas, the 'Globe' reports: "It's Splitsville For Ben & Ana!"
Oh, no it's not!
Affleck and de Armas are apart because he's filming in Ireland, and she has stayed in Los Angeles. Someone should tell the 'Globe' that's not what "Splitsville" means.
The 'Enquirer' reports of Britney Spears: "Toxic Britney Barred From Signing Her Own Name!"
Oh, no she isn't!
Spears can sign her name and write autographs for fans as much as she wants, until her hand turns numb. She simply can't sign her name to a legal document while under a conservatorship. Which she has been under for 12 years. Nothing new to see here, move along.
'Us' magazine devotes its cover to singer Carrie Underwood: "The Truth About Carrie's Darkest Days." She discusses her "secret surgeries, accused of faking her accident, and unthinkable family heartbreak." Isn't that what being a country singer's all about?
'People' mag gives Matthew McConaughey its cover to promote his new memoir, Greenlights, under the headline: "Being a Dad Was Always My Dream."
"Life is the stage," he says, paraphrasing Shakespeare. "Be your favorite character." Right. I'll be a Power Puff Girl then.
Thankfully we have the crack investigative team at 'Us' mag to tell us that Izabel Goulart wore it best (she's a former Victoria's Secret Angel and 'Sports Illustrated' swimsuit model, and if she can't wear it best, who can?), that 'Superstore' actor Ben Feldman hates tomatoes and karaoke (though not necessarily in that order), and that the stars are just like us: they play tennis, do yoga, dine out and eat snacks. What fascinating lives those celebrities live.
Oh, no they don't!!
The 'Globe' brings us the salutary story of Brian J Perry, aged 50, who shot himself to death in Bellevue, Washington, while taking a gun safety class.
The rag fails to mention that this suicide occurred in 2013, or that several children were attending the class at a local shooting range when Perry put the gun to his head and pulled the trigger.
One eye-witness, sadly not quoted in the 'Globe' story, said of gun ownership: "I still think it's a valid home defense."
Oh, no it isn't!
Onwards and downwards . . .