Insiders, sources and pals–the dubious origins of this week's tawdry tabloids

"Don't blame us – we didn't invent this shit!"

That seems to be the subtext behind a recent phenomenon in the 'National Enquirer' to follow many of its story headlines with a small-print attribution to its supposed origins.

"Royal Backfire! Harry & Meghan TV disaster spews toxic cloud of shame – Sources."

"Nic Does It Again! Bride No. 5 – & baby on way – Pals."

"Ex-Boyfriend Is Breckin' Drew's Heart! – Insiders."

Suddenly the 'Enquirer' is awash in these attributions, with large headlines followed by teeny-tiny sub-heads: I counted eight stories with headlines credited to unnamed "sources" and two ascribed to "insiders" this week alone.

It's hardly new that the tabloids attribute their fact-challenged stories to dubious unnamed sources – that's their stock in trade.

But what's unusual is seeing the headline trying to shift the blame for the story's existence from the reporters to the source.

This might reflect the realization that it's the headlines – aggressively declarative statements of undisputed so-called-fact – which attract the legal letters, lawsuits and costly out-of-court settlements, while the stories often hedge their bets by making outrageous claims which are then slowly eroded by details and denials within the story.

But the effect of nervously adding such attribution to the headlines, rather than burying them in the body of the story, is to makes it appear that the 'Enquirer' doesn't entirely believe the stories it's presenting to its readers. (Shock! Horror!)

It's as if the editors are saying: "Here's an outrageous story – but we don't believe it ourselves; it's just what people are telling us."

Those unidentified "sources," "insiders" and "pals" invariably all speak in the same American supermarket tabloidese slang that makes one question their veracity, or very existence.

Would a Buckingham Palace insider, raised to speak the Queen's English and communicate with finesse, really say this week of Meghan and Harry: "They may think they've brought the royals to their knees with their accusations of racism and allegations their cruelty sent Meghan spiraling into a suicidal nightmare.

"But the truth is The Firm is in control – it's always in control. No matter what vitriol Meghan may throw at them, they will survive. But first they will retaliate with their own brand of revenge."

It's like something out of a script from 'Dynasty' or 'Days of Our Lives,' rather than words that would slip from a courtier's stiff upper lip.

Still, one can hardly blame the 'Enquirer' for wanting to distance itself from some of the stories that grace its pages this week.

"Brad & Sandra: 'Bullet Train' Speeds Bond," writes the rag, suggesting that Brad Pitt and Sandra Bullock are more than friends and co-stars in their currently-shooting movie 'Bullet Train.' The couple "have been crushing on each other for years and jumped at the chance to finally work together!" say unnamed "insiders." It's much the same nonsense that has plagued George Clooney and Julia Roberts in recent tabloids: if they are filming together there must be an affair. As if.

Songbird Mariah Carey is lavishing a fortune on her coming wedding as "a smokescreen to deflect attention from her bitter siblings' lawsuits," claims the 'Enquirer' under the headline: "Mariah Pours $5M On Wedding To Drown Out Sibs! – Sources."

Readers are expected to believe that Carey is so concerned about litigation by her brother Morgan and sister Alison, who claim they were defamed in the singer's recent memoir, that she is staging a "fairytale wedding" as a diversion. Almost the only people reading about Carey's siblings' lawsuits are tabloid readers, and the odds of Carey spending $5 million just to make them look the other way is questionable, to say the least. Maybe she just wants a fancy wedding?

The 'Enquirer' devotes its cover to "Tiger Woods Brain Injury Nightmare!" a story inspired by the fact that witnesses found the golfer unconscious in his crashed vehicle last month.

"It's likely he also suffered a concussion," claim "some experts," which isn't an unreasonable possibility, but then inspires the 'Enquirer' to claim: "experts warned he could have suffered a traumatic brain injury leading to life-threatening health issues!" Woods' doctors haven't mentioned any injuries except his crushed and broken right leg, but the 'Enquirer' helpfully notes that a brain injury "may not appear until up to six months later." Or his brain could be fine.

"Untold story behind Harry's TV betrayal" proclaims the 'Globe' cover: "Brainwashed By Meghan!"

Prince Harry is allegedly "trapped in a life he hates! Held hostage by lies!" and "cut off from his family and friends after being brainwashed by his wife, Meghan, palace insiders claim."

Just to be clear, it's "palace insiders" who Harry and Meghan claim undermined them and made them feel trapped when living in Britain, so that's hardly the best source to be commenting objectively on the royal "renegades."

A "high-level; palace insider," again speaking like a guest star in a five-episode arc of 'Genera Hospital,' says: "Harry was a lovestruck pawn in Meghan's plot to escape royal life when her fairy-tale dream turned into a nightmare because she couldn't get her own way . . . the truth is Meghan was just using her husband to rewrite another chapter in her own make-believe story."

Well, you can't argue with the truth as told by a high-level palace insider.

Are Kid Rock and country legend Loretta Lynn lovers? You might think so from the 'Globe' headline: "Kid Rock, 50, Sleeping With Loretta, 88!"

But it's not what it seems. The story claims they are merely friends, and that Lynn has a spare bedroom in her Tennessee home where he can sleep when he's visiting. Hardly what the headline implies – evidence once again that it's the headlines that can land the tabloids in trouble.

'Us' magazine's cover yet again writes checks that its story can't cash, with the headline: "Breaking His Silence After TV Tell-All – William Fights Back."

Well, not quite. Prince William has said just one sentence about his brother Harry and Meghan's CBS TV interview with Oprah Winfrey: "We are very much not a racist family." And that's all he's said.

William and Harry allegedly spoke by phone after the interview aired, and an unnamed source claims: "William is furious that Harry would do this." Understandable, but that's hardly fighting back.

"What's Really Going On," promises the cover of 'People' magazine on the same subject of Harry and Meghan's TV tell-all, teasing: "Your burning questions answered."

Apparently those questions include: "What is the difference between 'The Firm,' the family and the institution?" . . . Who exactly are the people in 'the institution'? . . . Who are the 'senior royals?'"

No, they're not exactly burning questions, unlike: "Which member of the Royal family questioned how dark Meghan's baby would be?" . . ." Did Harry and Meghan seriously expect they wouldn't be burning bridges with the Palace by giving their interview?"

As for "what's really going on," it's hard to tell by reading 'People' magazine. Prince Charles is reportedly "enormously let down," William "is very protective of Kate and can get very angry," and the Queen does not want "family conflict at this stage of her reign." But what's really going on behind Palace doors is anyone's guess.

Fortunately we have the crack investigative squad at 'Us' mag to tell us that Sofia Richie wore it best, that tennis ace Naomi Osaka is "crazy about brushing my teeth,"and that the stars are just like us: they eat cereal, dine out, grocery shop and blow their nose – do we really need to see paparazzi shots of Arnold Schwarzenegger sneezing into a crumbled tissue?

Only a week after the threadbare feature 'What's In My Bag?' returned to the hallowed pages of 'Us' magazine after a year's absence, it's gone again, Perhaps the editors decided that readers can't have too much of a bad thing. Or perhaps it's become an annual feature – we'll look out for it again in early March 2022.

Just to confuse matters, the mag carries a full-page advert with the headline: "What's In Your Gym Bag?" promoting a protein bar, energy drink, snack packs and hand sanitizer – about as fascinating as the regular feature.

'Globe' magazine, which loves to revive ancient stories as if new again, reports: "Before hitting it big in Hollywood, teenage Christopher Walken had a summer job as a circus lion tamer and was a backup dancer in a Madonna video!"

Madonna might be old, but she's not that old.

It's true that Walken claims to have performed as a circus lion tamer at the age of 16, but his 1992 appearance in Madonna's music video for the hit 'Bad Girl' came when he was 49 years old and had already won an Oscar.

Which reminds me of my local tattoo parlor which has a photo of the actor posted in its window, above the words: "Walkens Welcome."

Onwards and downwards . . .