Dominique Strauss-Kahn: orgy connoisseur, prisoner, eternal New York media character

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Today's tabloids, Feb. 22, 2012. ()
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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?

New York Post: He's back on the front page! Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the former chief of the International Monetary Fund who was under investigation for the rape of Nafissatou Diallo, a midtown hotel maid, before the Manhattan district attorney's office dropped the case, is once again behind bars, this time in Lille, France.

It's a little difficult to understand French law on this, but basically, though prostitution is legal in France, almost anything one could do to support a business in prostitution or hire a prostitute is illegal. And it is on charges like this that Strauss-Kahn is being interviewed by French police.

Basically, a series of orgies that Strauss-Kahn has admitted to attending were, according to French investigators, stocked with working girls by a prostitution ring that paid for their time with funds embezzled from a construction firm. Strauss-Kahn comes under fire as a john who, authorities will likely argue, must have known that his escorts were being paid for their services. The investigation isn't new; it was last year that it became clear that Strauss-Kahn was a target. But it's only now that he's being held for questioning.

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Perhaps my favorite thing about this story is a quote from Strauss-Kahn's lawyer saying that his client could not have known the women were prostitutes because they were naked. “He could easily not have known, because as you can imagine, at these kinds of parties you’re not always dressed,” his lawyer told reporters last year. “And I defy you to tell the difference between a nude prostitute and a nude classy woman.”

To the front: The main hed reads, in knockout-white type over a large profile picture of Strauss-Kahn sitting in the backseat of a black car, "HO LA LA." "Here oui go again … DSK jailed in hooker probe" reads a dek, also in white.

Daily News: But the Post this morning is leading its website with another story—the same one we get on the front page of the News. "$1.2M FRISK" reads the knockout-white type against a black backdrop. Pictured on the right is a silhouette of former Playboy playmate and current spiritualist Stephanie Adams (who claims among other things to be descended from John Quincy Adams). In the picture on the front, she's decked out in a black evening gown with a plunging neckline that emphasizes her buxomness. What the News didn't use, unaccountably, are the pictures that appear in the Post from Adams' website, goddessy.com, which include pictures of her in a Hot Cops uniform of hotpants and bare-midriff shirt with police badge and utility belt, holding a gun. That picture is worth a thousand words, when you consider that her complaint was about the trauma of being held at gunpoint by police officers.

Of course it has no real bearing, but Anderson looks on the cover like someone photographed for a New York Social Diary step-and-repeat. In a big loss for the city, a jury awarded her $385,000 more than she'd sought in recompense for the event, in which an officer pushed her to the ground and held her there. The jury deemed it excessive force, after the officer admitted that the model's clothing was so skimpy he could not reasonably have thought she was concealing a weapon.

The unspoken name here is Sanford Rubenstein. In the News' inside picture, Anderson is standing in his law office, smiling; behind her is a wall of framed tabloid news stories about big judgments Rubenstein has won over the years. The civil-rights attorney (who advertises during daytime television advising viewers to reach him at 1-800-447-HURT) has won major settlements in high-profile cases like the police abuse of Abner Louima, the shooting of Sean Bell, and many others. He's one of those names that appears constantly in city tabloids without ever being bold-faced. That he's behind this settlement almost makes it not news.

Aside from a "FREE LIN POSTER" advertised in a strip along the left, the rest of the page is reserved to continue the white-ethnic boroughs-love for the man we must now call Timothy Cardinal Dolan. He's pictured at his "homecoming" smiling and glad-handing a crowd, an NYPD drummer in a black tam smiling back at him.

Observations: While the Strauss-Kahn story is almost not important to New York readers, the hay the Post made of his New York travails makes him an instant and obvious front-page character; and though I know I said yesterday that the misdeeds of European elites were distant concerns to most city tabloid readers, I also said that tabloids were in a position to make someone a character for those readers if they take the risk of sticking with them long enough. The tabloids already managed that feat with Strauss-Kahn, and so he is an instant cover star. The fact that the best and most salacious punning so far this month belongs to today's Post front seals the deal.

Winner: New York Post.