Billy Joel is "on the roll of the decade."
John Irving's new book is "rife with good intentions."
"Young guys seem to really like me," says Cher.
"Neat fact Number One: Paulina Porizkova, the world's hottest model, reads books."
You can discover all this and more in the first issue of the "new" Us magazine, which hits the newsstands today. It presents, boasts editor-in-chief Jann Wenner, "the wide, wide world of what's hot."
(Is it mere coincidence that the first issue also contains an approving review of the widely panned movie "Perfect," in which Wenner stars as himself, editor and publisher of Rolling Stone? "So what?" Wenner says. "I'm supposed to publish a magazine and have it attack me?")
Wenner and Telepictures Inc., producer of television's "The Love Connection" and publisher of "Muppet Magazine," bought the biweekly last month for about $14 million and plan to spend another $14 million upgrading it.
But the new version, even after a wholesale clean-out of the former staff, looks a lot like the old, with a prose style of lukewarm cliche's and a slew of gushy celebrity profiles. It has "exclusive" photos of Liz Taylor "showing why she's still Hollywood's reigning glamorpuss." In one shot she stands in a pool, visible from the shoulders up and bedecked in knuckle-sized jewels. There's a section of "Dynasty" gossip and a lot of old news -- Bruce Springsteen's wedding, gossip from Cannes.
However, Wenner, who surprised the publishing world with the remarkable success and tenacity of Rolling Stone, is hoping that Us' new all-color photographic format will give some competition to People, the Time Inc.-owned giant of personality journalism.
Us "won't imitate People," he said in an interview. "We'll stick more to the entertainment business."
About 40 percent of People's stories focus on celebrities, while 60 percent are human interest features about ordinary people in the news -- the Frustaci septuplets, for example.
People, Wenner told Newsweek, is "doing the ghetto tree doctor and the nun with herpes." Later, speaking to USA Today, he said his rival magazine ran too many features "about ghetto nuns and tree surgeons with herpes." It sounded better the second way, he explained.
People, with booming ad sales and a circulation of 2.8 million (versus 950,000 for Us), says it isn't worried. "We barely notice that Us exists," said Assistant Managing Editor Jim Gaines. "Wenner is a smart guy, but I don't think he's going to bite off any of People's audience."
Jesse Birnbaum, another assistant managing editor, said People has not considered changing in response to the new competitor. The inside format of all black-and-white photographs "gives a sense of immediacy that you don't get with color," he said.
"If you stick with 100 percent celebrity stories," he added, "you run out of credibility pretty fast. You have to be careful not to become captive of press agents. It is healthier to have a broader appeal with other types of stories."
Wenner says he's "pleased" with the new product, but promises it will get better. "I think we did a pretty good job in three weeks," he said, adding that "it will get younger and hipper" in subject matter.