The Salman Rushdie-Devorah Rose story: Why?

Today's tabloids, Dec. 2, 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: Go ahead and brew yourself a General Foods International Coffee Swiss Mocha and curl up with a hand-knitted afghan while I tell you the story of Monsignor Robert Ritchie.

Back? OK! He has a dog he loves named Lexington, after the street where he bought the Yellow Labrador Retriever purebred at a pet store. He's in charge of the crèche at St. Patrick's Cathedral, and this year he decided to buy a new statue for it from the place in Italy where the church gets the rest of its nativity figures. It's a dog that looks kind of like his! (Actually the figure is of a Golden Retriever, which is a different breed of dog.)

This is unorthodox because the Bible makes no mention of a dog at the manger where Jesus lay. But actually it's very common to have them in crèches. But the News interviewed one parishioner who said it was weird. What do you think?

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"The priest, his dog & St. Pat's manger" reads the headline with a picture of Ritchie petting the dog statue in the straw. "A CLASSIC N.Y. CHRISTMAS STORY" reads the knockout-white text on a red stripe at the bottom. Sure, the editor's letter to Virginia has nothing on this!

A little more seriously: Mariano Rivera is about to have a throat biopsy for what his doctor tells him are probably benign polyps. "MO: I'M SCARED" reads the giant black type (this is the news hole). "Facing throat biopsy, Rivera tries to stay positive." He does better than that: he succeeds! "I'm positive," he tells the News.

New York Post: OK, it's Day 2 of the Salman Rushdie-Devorah Rose internet love-spat. I may have glossed over some things yesterday, when a Page Six report was flagged on the front of the Post, because yesterday's story was so incoherent, frankly.

It begins with Rushdie telling Page Six he's "mortified" that a picture of him having dinner last week with Rose might give rise to rumors the two were romantically involved. Then the Post says it saw a Facebook message he sent to Rose (unclear when) where he appears to break off a relationship (which means it seems there was one at some unspecified time). Then, "months later," over Thanksgiving weekend, Page Six reported, he sent her a note that said "you look so gorgeous and hottt! see you v. soon." Then we have Rose and Rushdie meeting for the first time in Southampton last Summer. Then they went to dinner a lot, at a few places, over an unspecified time. Then Rose, through a representative, issues an incoherent statement that addresses none of these random things and says her tweet ("Come back to the states soon so that we can have a do-over," issued at an unspecified time) was friendly and that Rushdie's response (unspecified) was "out of proportion." Got it?

Today's front page is half taken up with a blurry photo of the two at dinner last week with the headline "Rushdie love fatwa." (It's billed as a "Page Six EXCLUSIVE.") Today's Fluxus soap opera of the absurd begins with Rose giving Page Six a text she received from Rushdie that read, "If you continue to place material in the public domain, I will have to consider all my options," and "Cease and desist instantly."

If he's talking about a defamation case, he'll have to explain what it is Rose is actually saying about him, because I can't tell. Then we have many quotes from Rose: Rushdie was her idol, and now he is using his position to bully her. She was "so happy" and "relieved" that Rushdie only wanted to be friends (wait, what? When was this?) But then he started telling her she was sexy. She doesn't want this (whatever it was) to happen to other girls.

I should say that in the course of yesterday's Page Six item there was a reference to some of the correspondence between the two leaking on the Web (place unspecified), which read to me like an admonition to the reader to go Google the couple and figure out what the hell this story is themselves. So what's Page Six's job?

Thank God for Dr. Mohsen Hosseinkhani, for giving us a less-challenging narrative. Fired from a research job at Mount Sinai Medical Center, the hospital now says he broke into research labs and switched around all the rats. "LAB RAT!" reads the bathetic headline. "Mad doctor in 'beastly' vengeance." The picture of him is even blurrier than the picture of Rushdie and Rose.

"Giants plan to 'Pack' a punch," reads a little box referring us to sports.

Observations: It's a tough call between the touching story that isn't touching and the scandalous story that only implies a scandal.

On the first, let me just say I feel bad for Monsignor Ritchie, who likely has no idea why he is on the front page. It's not your fault, it's an editor's. I'd be embarrassed too, buddy. You have a nice dog.

The latter situation is almost the reverse. Its co-star is Devorah Rose, a socialite who was given one of those magazines that basically sells ads like yearbook pages to a network of friends, the same friends who appear in the magazine in lobotomizing profiles, interviews and house tours. The New York Times' Laura Holson wrote of Rose in June, "One part Lily Bart, one part Holly Golightly, Ms. Rose has a well-honed talent for self-promotion, a keen instinct for when cameras may be hovering nearby and a seemingly unerring belief that being fabulous can be a full-time career."

Holson was less kind but no less accurate when she wrote that Rose "seems to be modeling herself after a reality television brand like Bethenny Frankel." I will guess that Page Six has chosen to facilitate this mission in the (not-unreasonable) hope that readers will enjoy the sight of something vaguely ugly and undignified happening in public to two people they don't like very much. I don't care to know much more about it, myself.

So if it's between the LAB RAT! and the polyps in Mariano Rivera's throat, I pinch my nose and go for the rat guy.

Winner: New York Post.