Sunday, September 17, 2006

Janet Charlton Arrives at The New York Times

For those lamenting the demise of The New York Times' attempt at a gossip column, we have good news.

"Boldface Names" was never a true gossip column. It mainly told you who arrived where. The sort of tidbits Liz Smith wouldn't toss out on the slowest news day. But it did sport a cheeky sense of humor at odds with the paper's own self-view.

For those who have felt gossip derived (and possibly also missed "White House Letter" -- whose passing was less remarked upon), good news: Janet Charlton has arrived at The New York Times.

On September 13th (and who says thirteen isn't a lucky number?), the paper ran the latest by the Bobble Head Pundit who's apparently attempting to recast herself. With "Dance of Diplomacy Provides Grist for the Gossip Mill," Helene Cooper grabbed for the Charlton.

For 19 long paragraphs, Gal-Pal Mob member Cooper wrote up the rumors swirling around Condi Rice. Well not all the rumors. Of course, not all. We're never supposed to note the big rumor. We're all supposed to avoid that closet in the middle of the room.

So Helene sticks to an R.E.O. Speedwagon type of gossip ("Heard it from a friend who heard it from a friend who heard it from another . . .") Can you dig it? Can you feel Helene?

Since Rice is the Secretary of State, it's no doubt important to gush over Condi's clothes ("black stiletto knee-high boots with an above the-knee black skirt"). She didn't wear that on her trip to Nova Scotia (what Helen's supposed to be reporting, er, gossiping about) but that outfit is obviously seered into Helene's mind.

"Until now, Ms. Rice's rumored matches have been, shall we say, unlikely ever to appear on the cover of GQ magazine." Shall we say you've dispensed with the biggest rumor, Helene, about as delicately as anyone in the gossip biz could?

Fortunately, Helene's allowed to dispense with anything that might resemble reporting in the tradition the paper supposedly holds dear -- which is how you get, in the news section mind you, this panting factoid on Peter MacKay: "routinely named Canada's sexiest M.P. by The Hill Times in Ottawa".

Do you picture Times readers saying, "Oh. My. God. Peter MacKay is MacDreamy! Oh. My. God."? Helene appears to.

She then trots out the tired rumors of Condi with Italy's Massimo D'Alema and England's Jack Straw. But she avoids the biggest rumor of all (or at least the biggest one of all that got ink) and that's why we'll have to thumbs down her first stab at gossip columnist.

Oh, Helene, how could you gossip and not note the biggest rumor to make the tabs in this country?

Thumbs down, Bobble Head Pundit, thumbs down. Unwilling to really dish and writing very poorly, Helen serves up a gush-fest that would embarrass even Elisabeth Bumiller at her most shameless.
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