Day 2 of Patricia Krentcil: Fun with body dysmorphic disorder

Today's tabloids, May 4, 2012. (Click here to enlarge.) ()
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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: I am aware that sometimes an "ick factor" kicks in for me a little earlier than it does for a wide audience. Today it happened for me with the Post when I saw its gleeful Day 2 cover about the New Jersey tan-mom, Patricia Krentcil.

Tanorexia, the style-section name for compulsive tanning, actually papers over the problem somewhat, which is that only recently has excessive tanning been studied as a possible feature of body dysmorphic disorder, the mental illness that people commonly associate with eating disorders, but which often involves an inability to accurately perceive one's own appearance across a broad spectrum of preoccupations. Not much discussed is the fact that the particular preoccupation of people with B.D.D., 73 percent of the time, is actually skin; 22 percent focus on weight, according to B.D.D. expert Katherine A. Phillips.

It's not that I expect the Post to use the case of Krentcil, who may or may not suffer from body dysmorphia after all, as some kind of rallying cry for more studies about psychology and skin health. But it is precisely dysmorphia that creates the joke on today's front page.

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"I'M HOT STUFF," reads the main headline in knockout-white type over a Splash News paparazzo shot of Krentcil walking to her car. "Tanorexic mom says folks are just jealous."

All the same, I think it's probably a success. The amazing misperceptions some people have about themselves, whether they are a function of mental illness or not, were always a bit part of the gasp factor on shows like "Jerry Springer." It works.

It's Derby weekend, everyone! The only narrative I can really pluck out so far is that No. 3, Take Charge Indy, is being jocked by Calvin Borel, who has one three of the last five Derbys. Not this year, it seems, if the Bettor's Guide by Ed Fountaine is to be believed: "Pace scenario might work against him, and [the horse] appears a cut below his top foes," Bodemeister, Gemologist and Dullahan.

Below the box advertising the Derby Bettor's Guide is a tout for the paper's top sports story today: "Mo career in peril" reads the yellow text over a close-up of Yankee Mariano Rivera, whose torn ACL will likely have him benched for the season and, possibly, for life.

Daily News: Speaking of Tan Mom, are you curious about her "dark past"? Perhaps you suspect her of having one, since she so obviously has "issues."

In a splashy, full-page treatment inside, the News takes you on a dark tour through her credit report, which includes a $468 unpaid bill to Hackensack Radiology Group, a lot of unpaid tickets and back-taxes, and about $4,411 she's being chased after for by a collection agency. Perhaps the paper knows it's a bad sale, because they've crammed it into a tiny skybox, opposite the News' Mo Rivera story (better poised for general-interest readers than the Post's, in my opinion, with the headline "MO SUFFERS FREAK FALL.")

No, what the News really focuses on today is a picture of Osama bin Laden, pointing his Arsenio-Hall style finger up in that pose of instruction, his face hovering over the word "BINSANITY." (In case you don't get the pun on bin Laden, the first three letters are highlighted in red. But then, if you didn't get it, I'm not sure this or anything can help you.) "REVEALED: Diaries of a monster."

Inside, an assessment (available everywhere, really) of the 173 pages of letters found in bin Laden's warren after he was killed in a Navy SEAL operation. The letters cover just under five years, and there aren't too many big surprises. The most interesting things are bin Laden's understanding of the United States. For instance, the fact that bin Laden's perception that Joe Biden is completely unprepared to be president made President Barack Obama a more attractive target; also that al Qaeda might consider trying to send materials to an "unbiased" American news source. (Bin Laden suggested "60 Minutes," a fact which will create a headache for CBS News to be sure.)

Observations: It's hard to say whether the News, eschewing its usual local fare, has made a wise decision today. To be sure, some national stories rise to the level where, as I've said before, the "take" of a trusted go-to local source on the matter is important to readers. Is this one of those cases? But if so, the News is just doing mission work today—not finding new readers on the newsstand. Anyone who heard about this yesterday can be relatively well assured that any paper they pick up will have extensive coverage.

And another thing: There are two versions of the News out there. And the "SPORTS FINAL," which I think is the last edition (though not the one I got), actually flips the bin Laden and the Mo Rivera stories, and ditches the tan mom altogether. So a giant Mo, grimacing in pain during a practice, lies on the ground beneath the words "NO MO!" and "BINSANITY" takes the entirety of the strip above the flag.

I think, frankly, that either way, gawking at the likely mental illness of Krentcil is the money-maker today.

Winner: New York Post.