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October 19, 2002
It's My Party And I'll Lie If I Want To

Apparently hungover from attending one too many of "the world's conservative parties," Mark Steyn wet-heaves 10 quick paragraphs about how the First Amendment doesn't necessarily apply to rich liberals. Or something like that - amidst the viscous cliches and hot chunks of disinformation, it's hard to identify an actual point.

That, of course, is the mark of a true pro: if you can't puke out a column based on nothing more than five minutes of CNN-watching and two minutes at The Drudge Report, then you have no business being a columnist.

Comrade Reynolds says Steyn's piece is "too good to excerpt," but I actually think it's too good not to excerpt.

Here, then, is the sentence Steyn kicks off with:

One thing I like about the world's conservative parties is that there's minimal risk of running into celebrities.

The idea that celebrities and politics don't mix is a tried-and-true foundation on which to build a column, of course, because the common man hates it when celebrities talk about politics (which is why the Gipper always talked about old movies instead of the issues of the day).

Next, Steyn pukes up a few odd paragraphs about how a couple of English politicians have bad taste in music. I'm not sure exactly how this relates to celebrities - is bad taste in music proof that you don't know famous people or something? Or did Steyn, in the throes of some particularly violent wretching, simply forget his theme for a moment?

By paragraph four, however, he's back on course, declaring that Bush doesn't really know any celebrities either:

"My Who's Who Of Republican Celebrities - an attractively bound, exquisitely tooled single sheet of paper - listed just two celebrities from the Bush 2000 campaign."

Here Steyn carefully uses humor, or at least an attractively bound, exquisitely tooled facsimile of humor, to suggest that few conservative celebrities exist. Thus, if anyone points out that Harrison Ford, Kid Rock, James Woods, Kelsey Grammer, Charlton Heston, Ted Nugent, Bruce Willis, and even noted liberal Steven Spielberg, to name just a few, have all publicly expressed their support for George W. Bush, Steyn can say: "I was being humorous there. Didn't you get it?"

Next, Steyn heaves up the following:

Over at the Democratic party, alas, ageing pop stars are all the rage...Once upon a time, there were New Democrats and Yellow Dog Democrats and all kinds of other Democrats, but now there just seem to be Streisand Democrats.

To illustrate how celebrities are in charge of the Democratic party, Steyn offers the following proof: Harry Belafonte appeared on CNN and criticized Colin Powel and Condoleezza Rice, and Barbra Streisand sends letters to elected officials. Exactly how Belafonte's cable TV appearance and Streisand's armchair politicking transmutate into official party policy Steyn never details - primarily, one imagines, because they don't.

But so what? For Steyn, reality isn't a necessary element of punditry: he seems satisfied just to imply that because celebrities are congenitally silly, and because all celebrities are Democrats, Democrats must be congenitally silly too.

It's a nice performance, but for my money Steyn takes it one step too far, perhaps lubricating his muse with a little hair o' the dog before composing his final paragraph:

It's increasingly obvious that Barbra is some deep sleeper planted by the Republicans to discredit the very concept of activist celebrities. Poor old Democrats, in thrall to her fundraising: people who need Barbra are the unluckiest people in the world.

I mean, even the Perfesser has to recognize the irony of such sentiments: without activist celebrities, Richard Nixon would be the modern Republican Party's greatest icon. And who would you rather have your elected officials in thrall to: some goofy celebrity who's happy to spout off at fund-raising dinners in exchange for her contributions, or huge corporate hornswogglers who expect multi-million dollar tax breaks in return for their support?

Of course, with so many conservative parties to attend, who has time to contemplate such questions?

Posted by Greg Beato at 01:50 PM
October 18, 2002
Mag Hag

Advertisers are sparse, readers don't care, but diehard magazine lovers refuse to give up the dream of starting their own publications. The WSJ reports on a new round of hopefuls, and two of them are magazines I'd probably subscribe to:

Good Music: Bad, bad name, but I think there's a market for a music magazine for older folks like me. However, the prototype sports a Bob Dylan cover and touts articles on John Coltrane and the Strokes, which makes Good Music appear to be little more than Rolling Stone, circa May 2002. A better ambition: a magazine that covers acts like Imperial Teen, Chris Isaak, Eels, Nick Cave, Sinead O'Conner, and Fountains of Wayne. If you have to, put Courtney Love on the cover. In fact, you know what - partner with Courtney, call the magazine C, and put her on every cover. And please observe this rule: for every article you do about Lenny Kravitz, you have to do five about David Lee Roth.

Radar: "an irreverent general-interest magazine." Its cover mock-up makes it seem like a cross between Talk and Spy, and that seems like a pretty good combination, especially if they mostly ignore the Talk part of it. Actually, I always thought Talk was better than people gave it credit for, but Spy is still the better model. Virtually no magazine today is doing the-cool-kids-have-taken-over-Time-magazine pop-culture trend pieces that were Spy's forte in the late '80s: Radar has a great opportunity to step up and fill the void.

The WSJ article mentions two other potential magazines: Chow, a hip food magazine, and Fuel, a hip car magazine. I don't think I'd subscribe to either, but they're actually smarter, more original ideas than the ones I might subscribe to. (And it's amazing that Maxim publisher Felix Dennis hasn't created a hip car magazine already, isn't it? It seems like such a natural, obvious idea.) Finally, there's one gloriously bad idea too - Fix, which its creators describe as "InStyle + Oprah + AA."

Certain advertisers probably love the concept, but will readers? Magazines are supposed to be fun - they cater to indulgence, bad behavior, aspirational escapism, and schadenfreude. People buy magazines to forget about the fact that they're losers, not to confirm it. Or maybe that's just me...

But really, does anybody want to read about Matthew Perry's newfound acceptance of himself, just as he is? Destructive, self-loathing, and gobbling a Chex party-mix of assorted pain-killers, Matthew Perry is endlessly fascinating. But happy and balanced? I think I'd rather read a dozen back issues of Cabling Installation & Maintenance.

The WSJ says Fix will target alcoholics, smokers, junkies, and others who are "trying to kick a range of unhealthy habits." Maybe the first issue will have a feature that outlines a twelve-step plan for would-be publishers who just can't stop themselves from creating bad magazines.

Posted by Greg Beato at 11:11 AM
October 17, 2002
Quiet House

A few years ago, my first stay at the Hyatt House on Sunset Boulevard was pretty disappointing: the hotel was under renovation at the time, the halls were cluttered with drop-cloths and debris, and the room I got was small and generic.

The only highlight was sharing an elevator with reggae legend Lee "Scratch" Perry, who, with his glassy eyes, gum-ball machine jewelry, and ragged head-wear, looked like a tiny homeless zombie (with a six-foot-plus fashion model on his arm).

On, Tuesday, however, I checked into the Hyatt House and it was a whole different story. My room was much bigger, and best of all, it had a balcony with a sweeping view of the city.

I was in town to interview Snoop Dogg for a Spin feature that's scheduled for the February 2003 issue: the plan was to interview him Tuesday night, then leave Wednesday morning. But I was warned that the interview might not actually happen Tuesday, and that I should be ready to stick around for awhile just in case...

After seeing my room, I was more than willing to hang out for a few days, drinking on the balcony and throwing TVs down on the traffic below, just like all the rock stars who gave the hotel its "Riot House" nickname in the '70s.

Unfortunately, Snoop Dogg was a paragon of reliability, and the interview happened around 10:30 p.m. on Tuesday night, at one of his houses in the suburbs of L.A.

By the I got back to Sunset Boulevard, it was 1:30 a.m., but before going to the hotel I stopped at a liquor store - to get a package of Pop-Tarts and a small carton of milk. Then I went back up my room, put the new Snoop Dogg single in my laptop, and listened to it quietly while enjoying a late-night snack on the balcony with the incredible view.

It was definitely the least rock 'n' roll moment in the history of the Riot House, probably the least rock 'n' roll moment in the history of Snoop Dogg, and possibly even the least rock 'n' roll moment in the history of Pop-Tarts.

Posted by Greg Beato at 11:23 AM