Hollywood Unconfidential: Travolta and Sheen hijack tabs

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Today's tabloids, Jan. 28, 2011. ()
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Each day, the New York tabloids vie to sell readers at the newsstands on outrageous headlines, dramatic photography, and, occasionally, great reporting. Who is today's winner?

Daily News: "Hiatal hernia has often been called the 'great mimic,'" I read this morning, because its symptoms can so readily be mistaken for a heart attack: Shortness of breath, chest pains and heart palpitations. But the protrusion of part of the stomach up past the diaphragm where the esophagus is supposed to be is really not very serious and often asymptomatic; it's associated with heavy vomiting, coughing or sneezing, constipation, stress, and drug use (particularly cocaine). But Charlie Sheen, according to a friend, got the unglamorous ailment by laughing too hard at the television, which we take to mean he was not watching his own CBS sitcom, "Two and a Half Men."

Other websites report that the actor had had a briefcase full of cocaine delivered to his house, where he was entertaining five women, two of whom are porn stars, but the friend denies this.

The five women are the reason the News wood reads "5-ALARM SEX ROMP," though none of the many other news sources quoted in the article has anything to say about whether Sheen was having sex with the women. (On the other hand, one of the women claimed online somewhere that she'd drunk two bottles of vodka, a bottle of wine, a pint of whiskey and some beer during the 24-hour-long party that started Wednesday, so reliability may be an issue here.) "Sheen rushed to hosp after porn-star party with 5" is the dek, though the significantly insignificant ailment for which he is hospitalized is not, in fact, drug addiction or alcoholism. But "Rushed to hosp with hiatus hernia," even if it is the Great Mimic, doesn't have quite the pizzazz of "porn-star party."

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One of the women is pictured: Kacey Jordan, in a string bikini the top of which she appears to be in the process of sliding out of. It's certainly a hard sell.

The New York Post: The News isn't the only New York paper with a Hollywood dateline this morning. The Post goes big on a dinner held by John Travolta at Amici, the L.A. trattoria, with a cast of characters that included the director Nick Cassavetes (who did not take off his baseball cap!); John "Junior" Gotti, son of the famous Dapper Don John Gotti; Mark Fiore, who served time for a boiler-room investment scam he ran and who the feds have wanted on murder and racketeering charges for ages; actor Leo Rossi; and former Howard Stern sidekick Stuttering John Melendez, who is Fiore's partner in a film company that is presently making Mob $treet, an autobiopic of Fiore written by actor Chazz Palmintieri. The group is making a movie about John Gotti, after Sylvester Stallone angered the imprisoned don by refusing to cede creative control of the biopic to his son. So this group looks ready to cooperate!

Oh, and pretty-boy actor James Franco is up for the role of Junior. (See the resemblance? No?)

"DON TRAVOLTA" is the headline. "Yo, I'll play Gotti, star tells 'Junior'" reads the dek, in a somewhat charitable interpretation of what Travolta, once a proud man of Brooklyn, sounds like these days. The picture is Travolta and Junior standing outside the restaurant looking like dealmakers after a dinner of steak, pasta, fish and chicken parmigiana. Watch out for the Great Mimic, guys!

Observations: I am having a hard time understanding what two stories about downward-trending Hollywood celebrities are doing with full front-page takeovers. Travolta and Sheen and the porn star and the Gotti kind of sell themselves without needing all the real-estate, don't they? And we end up with two tabloids about Los Angeles this morning as a result. But flipping through the inside pages and seeing headlines like "Kraft chews fat on meats biz," it makes more sense. Maybe the story about Ronald DeShields, the con man who smooth-talks his way into police stations posing as a fire marshall and, allegedly, steals Glocks? OK, right, no.

So assuming that this was the best we could do this morning, we're left wondering which middle-aged middling talent out of Hollywood makes for better wood: Charlie Sheen and the porn star, or John Travolta and the mobster? For that we may as well go with the dictum that movies—even ones written at the behest of a Gotti—are more upscale than television. And then there's the fact that Fiore gave the Post the story of the Gotti movie, whereas the News seems to have done little more than read websites yesterday to cobble together its cover story. If it was all over the web yesterday, does it really need to lead today?

Winner: The New York Post.