Wednesday, January 7, 2009

E-Pop! Issue # 20: Let's Talk About Talk Magazine and Its Demise

E-Pop! is ready to leave a bag of rocks a la the Blair Witch outside your tent (and you know who you are) if one more conspiracy theorist writes about the strange occurrences surrounding Kennedy deaths, Nerine Shatner, or even the incredibly lame The Blair Witch Project.

But if you can bear one more look at strange coincidences, then consider this: Joe DiMaggio Jr. died very quietly on the anniversary of Marilyn Monroe's death, which is the same week that Richard Nixon resigned the Presidency twenty-five years ago. Nixon died the same week as Jackie O. Nixon and JFK were bitter enemies. Kennedy and Marilyn had a well publicized liaison. The new Oliver Stone film has a revived Marilyn pulling the trigger of the missing second gun from behind Oswald at the Book Depository. Gladys Kravitz died the day The Blair Witch Project opened.

But in the spirit of the new Talk magazine, please don't find any interlocking connections between these events. That's not what we do anymore in the age of "Talk" and Hillary.

Since August is a slow news month, there's still fallout from the revelation in Talk that Hillary considers Bill's cheating a "weakness" and that he - separately, mind you - was scarred by abuse at a young age trying to please both his mother and grandmother.

But, what did we learn? Certainly not that people have complicated pasts. We knew that. Give us credit. Maybe what we learned is that America really values silence in this age of spilling your guts. Maybe Fran Lebowitz wasn't so off when she wrote "Spilling your guts is attractive as it sounds" back in the 1970's. Whatever the motivation behind these revelations from Hillary, her stock has dropped only with the media-savvy, educated intelligencia. But we aren't her crucial voting block, are we? Polls from suburban New York State upped Hillary 10 points in the past two weeks.

And you thought the Web site campaign for the Blair witch was good marketing?!

But in general, if the last three years of the Clinton presidency taught us anything, it's that Americans value silence as a rare commodity. We see stoicism in it. And the more Clinton appeared stoic and silent under attack from "loudmouths," the more we liked him.

Now Hillary is talking. Hell, she even revealed that she isn't the "Waspy-shiksa-four-eyed Goddess" from Yale we thought her to be. Nope, she's a Yenta. I am just waiting to see her outside Xabar's handing out free bagels and schmear.

Hillary is like that Calvin Klein Contradiction ad - "She is always and never the same."

But her brief soundbytes about Bill's one-step-up-from-Jerry-Swaggart
-confessional-post-infidelity aren't the only reasons to check out Talk. Famed Algonquin Round Table writer Dorothy Parker once described herself as a mess pretending to be a tragedy.

It's an apt comparison for both Hillary and Talk. Talk, the child of Tina Brown's own post New Yorker "Listening Tour" is full of a lotta talk and not much action.

In fact, it drove me back to a dictionary to make sure I understood the word "talk." In all his wisdom, Webster points out four possible uses of the word "talk":

A) talk back : to answer impertinently
B) talk sense : to voice rational, logical, or sensible thoughts
C) talk through one's hat : to voice irrational, illogical, or erroneous ideas
D) talk turkey : to speak frankly or bluntly

Of these four, the new magazine "Talk" does C) and D) to the extreme, A) moderately, and sadly, B) far too infrequently.

Some of the articles are unusual, such as a very international piece on "The Old London Theatre", and a new point of view, pop-culture stab at explaining the complexity and mentality of the middle east in "Disarming Iraq-Saddam Hussein."

Just as the format of "Rolling Stone" mixed with "Paris Match" meets the sensibility of "Vanity Fair" with a dash of "The New Yorker", along comes "The National Enquirer" to give us the rest of the articles such as:

* The Hip List. Possibly the oddest "Hip List" ever, the only way I can explain the inclusion of "Thick cut bacon, snow cones, chimichangas, and scabby knees" is this: Tina Brown must have been working really late a lot, hungry, and falling down in her quest to fetch dinner from the delivery man at the Hearst security desk.

* The Party Scene. Sad paparazzi photos of a "C" list party scene with a standout photo of the increasingly-grizzled-and-pointless wax figure Tony Curtis with his terrifying "Brigitte Nielsen's-bigger-sister" amazon wife Jill. For a better example of how paparazzi photos can look reasonably interesting with fun captions, check out the last two pages of "Detour".

* The Requisite JFK Jr. tribute article. This one is just a few pictures from Peter Beard. How do you say in French, "Afterthought?" One eerie aspect of the photos, however, is the early relationship between John and his cousin Tony Radziwill, who just died this past week at 40.

* Al Fayed's Revenge. A tribute to conspiracy theory in the form of an open diatribe by Al Fayed basically accusing Prince Philip of killing his son Dodi and Princess Diana. But, by the time of publication, this theory was dismissed even by Al Fayed and knocked off of the pop-culture radar screen by the new Diana book, alleging that Diana had borderline personality disorder (but with the author's general description of it --- "impulsive, charming, perfectionist" - then everyone I know is "borderline personality disorder."

* The Payback Quotient. If there is any question that Tina Brown, the consummate publishing politician, is on the "payback trail", then consider her list of "The 50 Best Talkers", including Jesse Jackson, Alec Baldwin, Barbara Bush, Loud producer of "Die Hard" Joel Silver, Barry Diller, Beck, Arianna Huffington, and "drag queen pundit spouse" Pat Buckley. With the exception of newcomer Beck, who is more notable for his Carnaby street suits than his talk, this list reads like a "Where Were You In The 80's" article from "Vanity Fair."

So after all this, what is "Talk"? If E-Pop! was writing the media kit, what would we say in a positioning statement? How about this:

Talk isn't cheap. It's $2.95. Talk is gun rage, summers at the beach and the "non-child porno" series of Calvin Klein ads. Talk makes you take your clothes off and go dancing in the rain. It's about livin' la vida loca even if you aren't hispanic. Talk is the Algonquin meets a rent boy. It's stoic Republicans, cheating, abused Democrats and funny black people. It's Asians who are living the American dream. Talk is Krispy Kreme doughnuts and Tae-Bo and Balthazar. It's Lorna Luft on her old friend Gregory Peck. It's Martha Stewart flinging her K-mart panties at Puff Daddy. And it's also Puff Daddy catching them in his Ferrari speeding down Further Lane toward his Mansion. Talk is Gwyneth Paltrow visiting Uganda and writing about it in her journal when she's really clear after yoga class. It's what life is like for the receptionist at photographer Patrick Demarchelier's downtown studio. It's Jackie Collins picking her ideal dinner companions, none of whom read her books. It's celebrities who write Haiku, and celebrities who sun unashamedly on the mattresses at Mondrian's Sky Bar. It's British actresses who want to be Cher. And it's Cher revealing that she doesn't know who the hell she is. Talk is gay men and lesbians who love architecture but dispel the commonly held notion that they must love disco. Talk is the "Friends" TV show cast on what God looks like from the Hollywood Hills. Talk is Queen Latifah wearing real fur that she can verify was already dead when she bought it. Talk is Viagra, Botox, and real Ginseng capsules, not that crap you get in a Snapple. Talk is Jerry Seinfeld when he takes off his baseball cap. Talk is two geishas revealing ancient Chinese secrets to Madonna over whispered giggles and lemongrass tea. Talk is the feeling you get when you are on the Jitney, tired and droop-eyed on a Friday, speeding past Commack but not yet in Southhampton. Talk is not Linda Tripp. Talk is a bitch, it's a lover, it's a friend, it's a brother. Do you believe in Talk? Do you believe in Talk after love?

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