Life is pretty hectic for me now. Meandering through Harvard Square late at night, I keep a sharp eye out for martians ordering yogurt cones at Belgian Fudge, or hirsute werewolves hailing taxis in front of the Coop. Back at my room, I turn on the radio to catch any late news flashes--did Marie Osmond find a new pimple on her chin? Why has Farrah Fawcett stopped eating bananas? But unfortunately, the radio coverage isn't satisfying, so I head for bed and sleep fitfully, anxious to read the morning news and rediscover the fantastic world of events.
You see, I've stopped digesting the Globe and the Times with my morning Maltex oatmeal and o.j. Reports of Hanafi gunmen upset my stomach, and interest rate changes give me heartburn. So I read the weekly accounts of amazing occurences that are happening right under our very noses: your nose, my nose, Walter Cronkite's nose. I read the schlock news, in papers like Midnight, National Enquirer, and the Star.
Don't laugh too loudly. Schlock news is distributed in national publications which reach millions of American readers with stories of uncanny happenings in politics and science, weird adventures in exotic settings like Antartica and Peoria, and the all-important goings-on of movie and television "celebrities."
Take this week's Midnight. Its front page dazzles the eye as well as befuddling the mind with headlines that drip with gore and gush. Did you know that the Russians may have been behind the recent "cold wave" which paralyzed half of the U.S.? That a C.I.A. clerical error cost President Kennedy his life? Or that Toni Tennille, who is apparently a "singer" of paramount ability, attributes her "success" to fate?
Perhaps such unskippable revelations fail to make your heart throb. Well, let us peruse the headlines of the Enquirer, an infinitely more respectable tabloid which boasts "the largest circulation of any paper in America." There is an account of escape from a bullet-riddled helicopter flying through the air, followed by the author's religious conversion. (Shades of Chuck Colson!) Then golf star Gary Player's "recent brush with death" when he was almost struck by lightning on a South African golf course. (Presumably he avoided other unimportant violence in the area, which the space-conscious Enquirer issue fails to mention: like terrorist violence, Soweto riots, and other events irrelevant to our lives.) There are other goodies too: deaths by freezing, psychic phenomena, and this week's cure for cancer.
The Star is worthy of a passing glance in this tabloid line-up. It boasts no accounts of the strange or bizarre; but it does provide some new insights into the lives of personalities like Connie Francis, Sammy Davis and John Wayne. (We can all rest easy once again--the Duke is back with his wife after a two-year separation, according to the Star.) The New York Times didn't have that story, did it?)
I wonder who reads this kind of publication besides myself. Are there other news schlock fanatics out there somewhere, eager to explore a fantasy world more "real" than everyday life because it appears in print? I'm not sure there are. Perhaps most of the shlock readership is made up of housewives, middle-American prisoners of the vacuum and the mop, crying babies over their shoulders and Rice Krispies cookies in their ovens. The Star, after all, is ostensibly for "American Women." The Enquirer and Midnight claim a more diverse audience.
In the long run, I suppose it doesn't matter who the readers are; the point is they must be out there, gulping in huge dollops of information and advice about the "real" world. The schlock tabloids might tell it like it isn't, but no one seems to be complaining. They are, after all, a basic form of entertainment media. And like our other media, they aim to titillate rather than inform.
I'm not upset that there may be millions of people in this country who believe in flying saucers, or cancer cures, or Farrah Fawcett Majors. But I wish we could feel a part of the "beautiful people" universe, rather than just having to read about it all the time. After all, while I am studying my Economics or sitting in the cafeteria eating a Jimmy-Carter-and-jelly sandwich, there are people dying and fighting giant cockroaches in Egypt and kicking strange monsters out of upstairs attics. Barbara Walters may get to meet them, and I suppose even Marie Osmond gets to meet them. But the rest of us never get to meet them, and so we may spend our lives feeling that they known something we do not.
Hopefully, that is not hte case. After all, our lives are just as meaningful and exciting as any celebrity existence; it is all a matter of perspective. By the way, do you known what I heard yesterday? This giant asteroid is supposed to have landed in the yard, but the University police hid it in Dean Epps's office until they could get it to Washington for study. Then, three men in black coats walked into Lamont Library and demanded all he Government 40 readings........