Sugar Water: Parade (of Lies!)

Written by Current Events, Sugar Water

I should start subscribing to the newspaper again on Sundays. But the only part of the paper I’m interested in is Parade magazine, particularly Walter Scott’s Personality Parade, the regular page-two feature where Scott answers readers’ questions about various celebrities’ careers, love lives, and deeply offensive character flaws.

Judging by his responses, I’m guessing that Scott is somewhere around the age of 117. He’s a curmudgeon who thinks Hollywood doesn’t make them like they used to, whether the “them” in question is movies, movie stars, or the tawdry things those stars do in public to keep Scott’s readers interested and thereby keep his mailbox full. Flash your unmentionables at the paparazzi all you want, Paris and Britney, but Walter Scott remembers a time when unmentionables with true talent were the talk of the town, and they were being violated by real celebrities like Fatty Arbuckle.

The people who send in questions to Personality Parade seem just as salty and centennial as Scott. Here’s a question from the January 6 issue, followed by Scott’s answer:

Q: Why do celebrities like the Olsen twins go around with long, stringy hair? Don’t they care what they look like?

A: Sure. However, they don’t want fans to think they care. Like ripped jeans, stringy hair is one way stars have of saying, “I’m so cool, it doesn’t matter how I look.” They should glance in the mirror.

Move over, Mr. Blackwell, there’s a new geriatric fashion sheriff in town! Here’s another Q and A, from the December 26 issue:

Q: Can you tell me why Wayne Newton and Kenny Rogers — two guys in their 60s — go around with such fake-looking faces?

A: They must have been childhood fans of Howdy Doody.

Oh no he didn’t! I’m not sure if Scott has always been this catty, but I do remember being surprised by one of his answers for the first time back in 1998, when a reader asked why Hollywood movies use so much foul language. Scott didn’t have enough space to explain how the Motion Picture Association of America dropped the Hays Code and its strict censorship guidelines in the late ’60s, or how many filmmakers strive to write and present dialogue that’s natural and immediate no matter how coarse it may sound. Instead he said something along the lines of “Hollywood movies use so much foul language because there aren’t any creative people left in Hollywood making movies.”

Walter Scott’s Personality Parade has been my favorite op-ed page ever since. The content may be shallow, but the soapbox reaches all the way to heaven. And once Scott does get to heaven — say, in 40 years, after he celebrates the big one-five-oh — the curmudgeon in training whose words you’re reading right now will be ready to take his place.

To be fair to Scott, he doesn’t always take the bait:

Q: Why won’t stars like Jennifer Lopez and Penelope Cruz admit it when they’re pregnant?

Yeah, why won’t they? They’re celebrities — they don’t deserve privacy. They don’t even deserve opinions about the welfare of their unborn children! Get ’em, Walter!

Scott answers his reader’s question by saying that Lopez wanted to wait until she’d made it through her first trimester before publicly confirming she was pregnant — you know, like any other woman on the planet would do. He also explains that even though Cruz has allegedly been knocked up by No Country for Old Men‘s Javier Bardem, her agent, manager, etc. all deny it, and a recent photo of the actress in a wet bikini — printed beside the answer strictly for scientific purposes — doesn’t reveal any “bump.” Therefore Walter Scott has proven that good-looking Spanish and Latina actresses aren’t filthy liars after all.

But you know who is a liar? Walter Scott.

That’s because Walter Scott isn’t Walter Scott. He’s not even the Walter Scott who wrote Ivanhoe. (That’s the biggest disappointment of all.) This Walter Scott is a complete fabrication — it seems I’ve been wasting my precious slings and arrows on an invisible man.

According to some minuscule research I did on the Internet five minutes ago, Walter Scott is a pseudonym for Ed Klein, the author of The Truth About Hillary: What She Knew, When She Knew It, and How Far She’ll Go to Become President, as well as four books about the Kennedy dynasty. He’s also a former editor for the New York Times Magazine and Newsweek.

According to a 2005 New York Observer article, when Klein began his double life as Walter Scott in 1990 (I don’t know if there were other Walter Scotts before Klein assumed the role, although I bet Sean Connery would’ve been great), he was reportedly earning $300,000 for his services. Yowsah! That’s a lot of scratch for answering leading questions about celebrities in one paragraph or less while preaching to the choir. If we adjust for inflation, how much would $300,000 in 1990 be worth today? If someone would help me onto my high horse, which is where I keep my calculator, I’d be happy to do the math.

Walter Scott’s Personality Parade isn’t the only entertaining feature Parade has to offer, of course. Sometimes they have nutty cover-story headlines, like this one from January 6: “Is Benazir Bhutto America’s best hope against al-Qaeda?” Well, no, Parade, not anymore, considering she died on December 27. Did your entire editorial staff take a two-week vacation at Christmas?

Nowhere in the January 6 issue is it mentioned that Parade is aware of Bhutto’s assassination ten days earlier. Publisher Randy Siegel told the Associated Press that the issue went to press on December 21 and was already in transit to the 400 newspapers that distribute Parade when Bhutto was killed. So Parade sits in a corner at your local paper’s printing press, completely finished, for a week or more before it’s stuffed in the Sunday paper on Saturday night?

Parade left it up to the newspapers themselves to point out to baffled readers why it was still pretending Bhutto was alive, although Parade did update the story on their website. But how much would it have cost to update the print version? Yelling “Stop the presses!” wouldn’t have worked if the January 6 issue was finished before December 27, but clearly a recall was needed, as were major revisions to the Bhutto story. Would such a major undertaking have cost somewhere around $300,000? Is that roughly a third of what “Walter Scott” made in 2007 writing Personality Parade? If someone will help me climb onto my newer, even higher horse — now able to leap tall soapboxes in a single bound! — I’ll be more than happy to crunch the numbers again.