SUBJ NAME CALLING, ERA OF POLITICALLY INCORRECT
(NORTH BEACH BUREAU)--Media big on the Era of Political Correct has to look at itself in the mirror, example below published in 1988 in the Pittsburgh Press:
Magazine attacking famous without fear
WASHINGTON — Spy magazine exists, on some level, to provide a little solace for those of us who are not rich or famous. The purpose of this year-old publi-cation is to take the hot air out of Manhattan's stuffed shirts, to tweak the powerful in Washington, to bleat a raspberry at the established every-where. The magazine is sophomoric. It is underhanded. It is unfair. And when it lands in my mailbox, it is the first thing I read. Reading Spy is like having your boss criticize you for lack of fore-sight as he walks into a parking meter. You laugh and then you think, how terrible of me to laugh at someone's adversity, and so you tone it down to a snicker which you try to hide as a sneeze. If the victim were a bag lady, you wouldn't laugh. But unlike some publications, Spy doesn't go after the weak and infirm. It goes after the powerful. As co-editor Kurt Andersen ex-plained it recently: "We don't pick on little guys and nobodies. We go for the overdog." Thus, to read Spy is to wonder why one of their large and powerful subjects hasn't sued the short pants of f these boys. (Andersen is 33; co-editor E. Graydon Carter is 38. They bring the average age of the staff up, way up to, oh, the mid-twenties.) Suppose, for example, that you are the chairman of Revlon and you marry a very prominent newspaper gossip columnist who likes lucious red lip gloss. OK, maybe this merits a few snickers at the Harvard Club. But Spy does a whole article called "Roy Cohn called them the Perfect Couple." The article is introduced this way: "A marriage like that of Revlon chairman Ron Perelman and gossi-peuse Claudia Cohen is a boon to everyone concerned. It is conve-nient. It helps two parvenues up the greasy social pole. And it takes two unpleasant people out of circulation. But come to think of it, that's probably the wrong way to introduce this story, because what it's really about is how Ron and Claudia - • two very special, very caring people - - overcame the obstacles of wealth, power and ego to fall in love." Or suppose you are Lawrence Tisch, owner of CBS Inc., and until you owned the network, you were mostly addressed in the hushed, reverential tones people normally reserved for the rich and powerful. Spy routinely refers to Tisch as a "budget-crazed dwarf billionaire " After the first reference, Tisch's public-relations man called to say that he wasnl technically a dwarf
Height is a big deal to Spy's staff. In June, they featured a chart show-ing seven very rich but somewhat short men whose height was adjusted for net worth. H. Ross Perot, for example, was 5•foot-6 really, but with assets of £2.5 billion his height is adjusted to 7-foot-7. Tisch went from 5.5 to 6-3. To be tall doesn't mean that one is off-limits. Last April they offered a piece entitled: "After searching three continents, Lawrence O'Don-nell Jr., found Six Smart Models (including the only person on earth named Cricket whose favorite book is The Brothers Karamazov)." Andersen says the article that has generated the most mail so far was their feature last May called "Col-leges of the Dumb Rich." They heard from a lot of alumni. Nevertheless, they have not been sued for libel. The main reason, of course, Is that these people are public figures who have almost no chance of winning such a case these days. More to the point, the plaintiff has to prove that the story is untrue. So we have the courtroom scene, with the judge, jury and two rows of bored, gum-chewing journalists looking for a reason to stay awake. The aggrieved's lawyer explains to the court: "Your honor, my client is here to protest that she is not a 'bosomy dirty-book writer.' " How many seconds would it take before every phone in the courthouse is Instantly attached to a reporter? Spy is only one year old and not making money. So it seems a little early to complain. The only people doing that are the subjects — i.e., targets — of Spy's voyeurism, and even then only in a whisper. What happens if developer Donald Trump protests publicly? The an-swer is that the news moves out of Spy. leaps onto the AP news wire and settles into the People columns of every newspaper in America. As it is now, only the 65,000 subscribers to Spy magazine also know the very rich and increasingly famous Mr. Trump as the "ugly cuff link buff" or more recently, the "short-fingered Bulgarian."
(Eleanor Randolph is a columnist for The Washington Post who writes on media issues.
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