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The Age


Date: 23/01/2001
Words: 1000
          Publication: The Age
Section: Today
Page: 12
MAGWATCH No more being mean

* THIS column's new year resolution was to be nicer to the mass-market weekly magazines of Australia. We are ashamed of the meanness we exhibited last year when we accused them of exaggerating, sensationalising, using deceptive coverlines, inventing quotes from "friends" of the famous, making absurd predictions about alleged relationships based on minimal evidence, repeating the same stories in barely different words week after week, and sucking up to pseudo-celebrities of minimal interest to the majority of Australians.

You have only to look at this week's editions of the Big Three gossip weeklies to see how unfair this column used to be. New Idea brings us the news that Jo Beth Taylor is pregnant to Thomas Muster, a former tennis player she married four months ago. We must admit to having some difficulty recalling the significance of Jo-Beth Taylor. Was she a spokesmodel on a game show, or an actress in Neighbours? Our ignorance is our loss. As long as she's happy.

Woman's Day offers the coverline "Russell's breaking my heart", with a photo of Meg Ryan. Back in our cynical days, we'd have thought this was a pretty ancient story, and wondered if the quote was invented. But no - Woman's Day quotes Meg Ryan's "close friend Ruth Lehman" as saying that Ryan used those very words to her husband Dennis Quaid. How long ago that might have happened, we do not need to know.

The wonderfully mischievous NW reveals this week that Liam Gallagher, of the band Oasis, has six toes on one foot, offering a blurry photo as proof. That's hot. But we have to wonder about the way in which NW addresses its readers in captioning three photos of the actor Heath Ledger playing football. It says this: "What we wouldn't give to be in a scrum with Heath"; "Mmm, we wouldn't mind him wrestling us to the ground" and (with a photo of Ledger holding a soccer ball against his groin) "What we wouldn't give to be that ball".

Who is the "editorial we" speaking for NW in this case? Six pages later, NW's editor, Philip Barker, writes a personal note in which he mentions his "Wifey", so we assume the "editorial we" who was fantasising about Heath Ledger's groin could not be him.

No, no. In assuming that, this column is just being narrow-minded. After all, NW's cover story, headlined "Girlfriends!" implies that a number of women previously thought to be heterosexual are currently dabbling in lesbianism. It reports that Helen Hunt was "hugging and kissing up a storm" with a friend named Mandy Ingber, Portia de Rossi had an intimate lunch with a friend who "couldn't keep her hands off Portia's lustrous hair", and Alec Baldwin may have split with Kim Basinger because of "the time, money and attention she had been lavishing on her new 'friend"' (a woman). Sympathetically exploring the issue of bisexuality, NW shows it has a social conscience to match its news sense. -- DAVID DALE, SMH

Just shoot 'em

* NOEL Gallagher has just figured out why Oasis records haven't been selling too well in the United States. Americans, clearly, are idiots. "Americans have got very bad taste, hence the Backstreet Boys", said Gallagher at a news conference in Venezuela, after his band closed the four-day Caracas Pop Festival on the weekend. Borrowing a line from Joe the Cameraman, Gallagher added that the Florida group (pictured above) "can't sing, can't play, can't dance," that they sang blatant "rubbish" and that, through promoting soft drink, they ensured kids had bad teeth. Basically, said Gallagher, "they ought to be shot".

Big time Yowie Man

* AFTER entertaining locals for years with his general strangeness, Tim the Yowie Man has hit the big time. The Big Foot hunter and director of the Australian Centre for Mystery Investigation has made an appearance on the Entertainment Weekly website, having searched out the Survivor 2 location and publishing maps of it at his own web address.

Some US sites "have been really ticked off that an Aussie dude has been taking all their traffic", says Tim, who tells EW he trekked more than 18 hours, "along a crocodile-inhabited riverbed", to find the northern Queensland site. He made it all the way to the Tribal Council set, he says, before any contestants had seen it, and received regular correspondence from a Survivor insider, who provided daily call sheets, as well as one Richard Hatch. "I can't be sure it was the real one, but he told me what a great job I was doing," said the Yowie Man.

So, any scoops? "One challenge involving boomerangs took the contestants three days to rehearse before they even filmed it," said Tim, now considering becoming a career TV-and-movie-set crasher. "Which only proves how much of this is a set-up."

Aaron's seat safe

* HEARTENING isn't it, to know that celebrities can't always get away with everything. Shortly after Aaron Baddeley's friend was kicked out of the seat beside him in Rod Laver Arena on Saturday night, as Carlos Moya and Lleyton Hewitt went at it, a rather gruff, yellow-shirted attendant emerged, demanding the young golfing superstar present proof he was entitled to be sitting where he was. The back-to-back winner of golf's Australian Open (pictured) was, for the record, only too pleased to flash his guest pass.

ANTARCTICA CALLING Belly dancing beats the boredom

DATELINE: The Antarctic, on board the Polar Bird. The 14th day the ship has been stuck in polar ice. Yesterday, at 9.30am was the first Antarctic belly-dancing, anti-boredom exercise session. Five women participated: the entire female population of the Polar Bird ship. No male spectators allowed.

Due to white-out, minus 8 temperature, and icy decks where it's impossible to even walk to the ship's hold for gym (even wearing boot chains over sneakers), exercise is imperative. The bar was the only communal space available that was not filled with Norwegian sub-titled action movies. When Julia suggested exercising to music, I offered to share my belly-dancing skills learnt while researching a book.

In keeping with our Antarctic wildlife surrounds, we improvised the penguin wiggle, the albatross flap and the Minke whale wobble, followed by the hip flick.

On a news-starved and rumor-prone ship, it only took minutes for our belly-dancing activity to become public. The deputy voyage leader jokingly reprimanded us that segregated activity was "sexist". So we agreed that if we were ice-bound for THREE MONTHS, then we'd do a public demo.

Rikard, the Norwegian bosun, volunteered chiffon dancing veil material from his "chest", a massive sea-container accessible only by struggling across a murderously slippery deck to the hold stairway.

Inside were bags of clothing, mainly ex-T shirts with logos of long past expeditioners. But there was no chiffon!

However, we now had sweat shirts. As we struggled up the snow-covered gangway, sliding across the sleety deck, clutching recycled sailors' gear, I wondered who else would venture out in Antarctica, to find impromptu belly-dancing outfits in the hold of a Norwegian ship, stuck in polar ice? "Exercise class, same time, same place for the next three months?" They nodded, as I pulled off my fur-lined polar boots and ice-chains. At home, we belly dance in bare feet. -- HAZEL EDWARDS

nafffact: People blink, on average, 25,000 times a day.


The country would be better off if you were president.

Matt Damon wishes Laura Bush all his best.


All the news that was

* AUSTRALIA'S oldest man has hit the headlines again, notching up another year to hit 110 and nominating last year's Olympic torch run as his number one highlight. "They wanted me to go all the way over the hill," said Jack Lockett from Bendigo (pictured), who received celebratory telegrams from Steve Bracks, wife Terry, and the governor, John Landy. "I think I did it well." Figures released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics today are expected to reveal visitor arrivals last year almost reached the five million mark, play was disrupted at the Australian Open when an orange flare was thrown on to court one, and the Prostitutes Collective of Victoria has poured cold water on the suggestion prostitutes were involved in the international cricket corruption scandal. "There is no way that a madam would be giving out addresses or phone numbers of their girls," said PCV general manager Karen Sait. "It just does not sound right."


Christy Turlington

* Has announced her engagement to director/actor guy Ed Burns.

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