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Musing #33: Hollywood Blind Items Have Poisoned My Soul (or, Part of Your World)

Yup. Paste me boob shells and call me Ariel.

Musing 33

If you read this column, you know that I deplore Disney’s THE LITTLE MERMAID, and that I find the lessons of THE GRADUATE to be far healthier for “bright young women.” (Maven of unpopular opinions, up in here.) But I’m about to discuss the most vapid, soul-sucking, arguably immoral facet of the world to which I aspire, so the image above is apropos.

“What are Hollywood blind items?” you might reasonably ask.

Wikipedia defines a blind item as “…a news story, usually gossip, in which the details of the matter are reported while the identities of the people involved are not revealed. The invention of the blind item is credited to William d’Alton Mann (1829 – 1920), publisher of Town Topics, who often used it for blackmail.” That’s the entry in its entirety; shocking in its brevity, given the colorful history of the blinds and the Internet’s unslakable thirst for gossip.

Following the link to the Wikipedia entry for Town Topics, one finds a similarly surprising dearth of information. But the entry does include both an explanation of Mann’s slick trick and the name of his most famous casualty:

“Under Mann, [the magazine] ripened into a scandal sheet, faithfully reporting high-society peccadilloes and often identifying perpetrators by name. … The main method it used was to print an innocuous article with the name of the individual on which it had a piece of hot gossip. On the other side of the page would be a blind piece going into the scandal without the name of the person involved. By running the article giving identification and the scandal separately it was possible for Mann to avoid liability for extortion, libel and slander. The publication was responsible for the divorce of Emily Post from her husband, Edwin, in 1906, when the magazine’s most popular feature, titled “Saunterings,” exposed Mr. Post’s affair with another woman.”

That’s right. Ms. Manners herself was once Jennifer Anistoned…courtesy of this fine, upstanding, fluffy citizen:


William d’Alton Mann
(or, as I like to call him, Whiskers McGillicutty)

And now, a look at the February 2, 1922 issue of the esteemed publication in question:


Under the title “Saunterings” (which is a fantastic word), the blind item comes first. It’s about a crumbling marriage among the Newport summer set. The adjacent column is about the Vanderbilts and Whitneys. Not exactly Windtalker code.

Don’t get me wrong. Col. Mann was slug slime, but would Jazz Age Stacy have loved his smut rag? She would have.

[If you’d like to read more about ridiculous-looking Civil War vet Col. W.D. Mann and his 21st-century legacy, I recommend this great 2012 piece by Carrie-May Siggins for The Awl.]

Disliking the Internet though I do, I’ll own it that my ongoing steerage of Scylla and Charybdis is made infinitely more palatable by the Everlasting Gobstopper of Smut that is the Web. Blinds-binging can really assuage the slog of slow work days for desk rats like myself. But I’m not interested in the modern-day Newport set.

I prefer the Hollywood trash, especially “Old Hollywood” items. I want blinds comin’ at me 24/7, as fast as they can be published, British rags included. The Brits are outdone in trashy only by their tabloid nemeses, the Germans. Yes, I look at all German nude Kate Middleton photos (shamelessly). No, I will not crack another World War joke. 

And this seemingly benign addiction is wreaking havoc in my head.

Seriously, I tossed and turned all night after reading the most horrific blind I’ve yet encountered. And then I couldn’t stop talking about it for a good week. I won’t tell you what it said, because frankly I can’t mentally go there again. It’s that disturbing. But I will tell you the answer (shamefully): Haley Joel “Dead People” Osment.

I talk to my therapist about this truly sick addiction all the time. Not because I have any intention of curbing that shit, mind you. I talk about the absurdity of me being so affected by it…and about how much my personal absurdity pisses me the fuck off. Chasing this dragon has me so fucked up, you’d think the items were about my sorry ass! And therein lies the rub.

These are tales of film industry denizens, and I want to be part of their world. (But unlike Disney’s fishy bitch, I’ll never sell my poisoned soul to get there.)

Please note that I did not say “tales of the rich and famous.”

I don’t care about wealth and fame. (Well, maybe wealth. OK, wealth.) All I really want in life is to successfully navigate the narrow strait between the six-headed monster of paying for life as an artist and the giant whirlpool of giving up on being one. I ache to be a full-time, other-than-starving artist. In the film industry. And, regardless of whether the blinds are true, the thought of being targeted by them (which could only ever happen if my wildest dreams come true) is fucking terrifying.

I tell myself that, in sponging up all this dreck, I’m self-arming against naiveté of the Dark Side, so that I’m never caught off-guard if/when faced with it. Moreover, I tell myself the blinds comprise a great manual regarding What Not to Do.

I’m quite good at convincing myself of things. Not quite so good at convincing myself that I already know I’m wrong about them. Being fully cognizant of the paradox therein, I then berate myself for being an irrationally stubborn lunatic of my own design. It all spirals into a black hole of solitary Inceptionthat bizarrely began with the likes of Haley Joel.

And don’t even get me started on the issue of trust at this far-gone stage of my addiction.


I’ve all but eradicated the word from my vocabulary.

Profoundly ridiculous am I.

But at least I know it. That means I’m not crazy…right? 😉

Until next month, “Damn the personal absurdity, full speed ahead!”


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