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Thursday, August 14, 2008

Long live National Enquirer!

It happened Saturday, as it nearly always does, when I’m introduced at a party by anyone who’s known me for the past 15 years or so.

“This is Chris. He writes for National Enquirer.”

I could have become indignant and pointed out I haven’t written a word for the notorious supermarket tabloid in more than seven years. I could have mentioned Esquire, Sports Illustrated, People, Playboy or nearly a dozen other mainstream publications deemed more prestigious than the Enquirer.

Instead, I just nodded my head. In a way, I’ll always be writing for National Enquirer. It was there from 1992-1999 that I cranked out more than 1,000 stories. I still look at every potential story through the journalistic prism I learned at their Lantana, Florida, offices.

It’s not, “Will this be relevant?” “Will this alter policy?” Or “Will this effect the lives of readers?”

No, it’s always “Will this be fun?”

The Enquirer is one of the last bastions in the publishing world where wage-earning reporters and editors understand the exuberant joy of really great storytelling.

That’s why at parties I’m always happy to acknowledge my Enquirer days and stories like, “Town Saved by Giant Ball of Twine!” Or “Man Struck By Lightning Never Feels Cold Again!” Or “Baby Born with Wooden Leg!”

I did mostly the wacky features, but also did my share of celebrity skullduggery. I nearly got arrested trying to crash Julia Roberts’s 30th birthday party, I snuck flowers to Tammy Wynette in the hopes of getting a death bed interview, and I checked into rehab with Courtney Love (I don’t think it helped either of us).

If you’ve never done so, please visit the National Enquirer page at www.chrisrodell.com. It features my three greatest hits including the time I gained 20 pounds in one week eating like Elvis Presley. It’s all true and was based on the popular Elvis cookbook, “Are You Hungry Tonight?”

And I still contend Eats Like Elvis would be a really nifty name for aspiring punk bands.

So you see, I have great affection for the Enquirer, the people there and what it’s meant to me and my career.

It’s why I was rooting for the Enquirer to be on-the-money when it first published the story that John Edwards was having an affair way back in October 2007. At the time, I was a staunch Edwards supporter and I still believe no one would do more to help the godforsaken poor than John with the dreamy hair.

But when it comes to pure partisanship, I’m more National Enquirer than Democrat. I guess it comes from all the “true” journalistic types who’ll always look down their noses at me for having reveled in the tabloid world.

This was from media critic Howard Kurtz of the August 11 Washington Post:

“Those who blithely dismiss a brash supermarket tabloid -- what New York Times Executive Editor Bill Keller called the "hold-your-nose quality about the Enquirer" -- had better check the record. The Enquirer's reporting of the O.J. Simpson extravaganza of the '90s was good enough to be cited by the Times itself. In 2001, the tabloid reported both that Hillary Clinton's brother had been paid $400,000 to secure a presidential pardon for a convicted businessman, and that Jesse Jackson had fathered an out-of-wedlock child. In 2003, Rush Limbaugh acknowledged an addiction to painkillers after the Enquirer reported that Florida authorities were looking into his drug use.”

So there.

Oh, and that story about the baby born with the wooden leg? That was one of my favorite stories from the uproarious Weekly World News, the Enquirer’s now-defunct sister publication.

Like a lot of publications, they wouldn’t hire me because I worked for National Enquirer. For them, I was just too mainstream.

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