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Posted by on May 26, 2015 in News | 0 comments

Walking The Gossip Tightrope

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VIVA Oct. 1976Why do l have such mixed feelings about gossip? Editors, not to mention publishers, are supposed to have strong negative or positive opinion s, not a little of each. Because this issue is a wholehearted romp in gossip and scandal, the natural assumption would be that l revel in reading (if not creating) gossip. I do. And I don’t.

While it’s delicious to learn that famous people have affairs and are unhappy and happy and quirky like the rest of us, it becomes much less tasty when public knowledge of those quirks and affairs ruins the lives of the subjects of the tongue-wagging. In the past, people talked about movie stars and society figures, revelations of “illicit love” between Clark Gable and Carole Lombard, or Ingrid Bergman and Roberto Rossellini, or George S. Kaufman and Mary Astor, served only to enhance their mystique. It was permissible, even preferable, for glamorous people to act out the yearnings of more anonymous folk. Sometimes tiresome forces of “public morality” would censure those involved in unlicensed relationships, but that usually just meant longer lines at the box office.

Within the last year or so, it’s become a well-noticed trend to gossip about political, rather than show business, figures. Much of the bite had been lost as marriage licenses became optional; new taboos had to be cracked. Suddenly JFK’s agility in the White House bed room is more significant than his agility in Cold War maneuvers for assessing his presidency. Some women (perhaps) and some agents and publishers (definitely) get rich, and no one’s the worse off-except for his widow, but she has a seemingly limitless capacity for abuse. So far the national penchant for delving into politicians’ sex lives hasn’t harmed anyone I particularly relish defending. We’re probably much better off without Wilbur M ills and Wayne Hays. That’s beside the point.

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Where does the public’s right to know end? A friend and coworker tells me that she thinks an individual’s conduct of his or her personal life is a good indication of the value he or she puts on people, and thus is as important to know as is a politicians voting record or personal finances. That’s true, on the surface, but personal lives are a bit trickier to monitor than tax payments. Whose standards of propriety are to be used? How can you insure that all facts of all politicians’ lives are revealed, so that none appears innocent just because less investigated than his peers? My objection to the idea of public disclosure of personal matters goes beyond the logistics of the operation to the rationale. It sounds too similar to political witch-hunts of days gone by. I shudder when a respected writer (and past contributor to Viva) like Caryl Rivers states that ”A man who cynically and habitually uses women, as some of our public officials do, is not a man who represents my interests.” Wayne Hays’s crime was in putting his mistress on a government payroll. Beyond that, we are not knowledgeable (or superhuman) enough to judge his relationship to his mistress, or to decide whether his personal feelings dictate his political behavior.

That was the negative side of my feelings about gossip. On to the positive: the features in this jam-packed issue. Allen Churchill’s look at scandal throughout the twentieth century is enlightening and made me even more eager to get into the current stuff! Rosemary Kent, that master of gossip (who was dropped from Andy Warhol’s Interview when her gossip column became too bitchy), tells us on page 48 who the top professional gossips are (and why they’re the best) and then, on page 56, tells us how we all can become top gossips. Linda Abrams presents the more serious side, and offers help in deciding “What Do You Do When They Talk About You?” What with the gossip quiz (I got them all wrong), the story of celebrities whose agents created gossip to get them to the top, and our own “Suzy’s” guide to gossip books, there’s a scandalous amount of delicious reading.

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And don’t forget the king of the paparazzi, Ron Galella. I know l never shall because of the New Year’s Eve when someone told him that Bob and I were having a huge party. Ron appeared at our door and interrupted what the publishers of the country’s sexiest and hippest magazines do to usher in the New Year, namely, have dinner with our parents. Ron found this difficult to believe and stood on our doorstep for close to an hour. Maybe there’s the answer to my opening question, you get mixed feelings when you become the subject of gossip. But I get only one feeling when I look at Ron’s inquisitive photos of unpre­pared people, relief that I’m not among them!

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