TABLOIDED: Patrick Swayze’s Cancer Diagnosis


As the old adage says, don’t believe everything you read or hear. That seems to be the theme of today’s big story: the revelation that actor Patrick Swayze has pancreatic cancer. The National Enquirer (the connotation of “tabloid” if there ever was one), broke the story yesterday, reporting that the Dirty Dancing star had only weeks to live. As the news made its way through all the usual online gossip outlets, Swayze’s publicist eventually confirmed the diagnosis, but denied some of the more sordid details of the Enquirer‘s story, which included that the actor had lost a significant amount of weight and that he could not keep solid food down.

Well, there’s no crueler beast than a gossip reporter scooped. The Post‘s Page Six rebukes publicist Annett Wolf in today’s column, as Page Six claims they had the Swayze cancer news a month ago, but Wolf, whom they call a “fork-tongued flack,” denied the story and told them that the actor was hospitalized in early February for a “gastrointestinal procedure.” The Post continues to admonish Wolf, who used Swayze’s privacy concerns as her reason for not fessing up. This leads Page Six to note, “professional publicists avoid lying to reporters by declining to comment.” Page Six reports that Wolf “is banished to our Liars’ Corner,” and then lists several of her clients, noting that readers should not trust anyone who she represents. But who is to trust Page Six, we wonder?

Both the Post and the News have the Swayze story on the front page and in the actual news section of the paper. The Post doesn’t acknowledge the Enquirer scoop in its page-3 article, but the News does. Both of these pieces read like obits, including highlights from Swayze’s career. Since the actor hasn’t really been a major marquee star since 1990’s Ghost, the Post hunts down his Dirty Dancing co-star Jennifer Grey to get her reaction to the news. Grey admits that they really haven’t seen each other in the past 20+ years, but that she’s “shocked.” This nostalgia narrative will be interesting to follow if Swayze does die in the next few weeks (pancreatic cancer is a pretty aggressive form of the disease), as we’re bound to see stories about a spike in rentals of Dirty Dancing, Ghost, Road House and possibly even Red Dawn. (Our tip for Swayze greatness: his turn as the creepy motivational speaker in the cult hit Donnie Darko.)

Meanwhile, the “back from the grave” narrative continues with Hillary Clinton. The News has “Hil/hell” pun headline in its political coverage (“WE’RE IN FOR ONE HIL OF A FINALE”), and the Post puts an “exclusive photo” of Bill and Hillary (Billary?) Clinton going out for a stroll in Washington on its front page as if they’re the hot celebrity couple du jour. Bringing up Bill is quite the paradox, as both papers note that keeping Bill out of sight is what helped Hillary win the last few primaries in the first place. Perhaps this is the Post‘s subtle way of reminding us that Bubba is still out there.

Other bits of political news in the tabs today include a column in the Post by Michelle Malkin where she rails against an episode of NBC’s Medium for a storyline involving a former POW Senator who survived in captivity after he and his fellow soldiers ate one of their friends. The usual “liberal Hollywood, we’d never have an episode of Law & Order with a female Senator who kills to keep a secret” argument applies.

McCain still is getting only minor–almost perfunctory–coverage in the tabs because he no longer has a discernible opponent. Even the coverage of his meeting at the White House where he received President Bush’s official endorsement seemed to concentrate more on Bush and his tap-dancing for the crowd (literally) than on the Arizona Senator. We wonder if Mac is annoyed that he has seven more weeks of Clinton/Obama to deal with.

The most shocking visuals in today’s papers are from the Sean Bell trial. The case is at the point where visual evidence is being presented, and yesterday that evidence was the gun that killed Bell. The Post has pictures of each of the guns used by the cops on trial. What’s creepy about the accompanying graphic is that each gun is pointing at an officer’s headshot. It’s chilling, far more than the evidence photo used to accompany Michael Daly’s column on the trial. The News also includes a large photo of Bell’s mother, Valerie, whose birthday was yesterday. Inset is a photo of her and Sean in happier times. Both tabloids also choose to include a “quote of the day,” but neither seem all that scintillating. The News chooses Police Officer Robert Maloney’s “I’m from narcotics. We have two perps shot.” The Post goes with Sgt. Donald Kipp, who testifies, “He [Michael Oliver] handed me the firearm and two magazines. They both were empty. There were no rounds left in the firearms or magazines.”

Both issues closed before the Times Square bombing, so we’re hoping for some over-the-top headlines there.