With its December issue, Regardie's presents its second batch of profiles of presidential candidates. Combined with the November installment, they total 14 -- in addition to the familiar Democratic and Republican six-packs, the magazine decided to write in two candidates who profess not to be, Mario Cuomo and Howard Baker (both profiled last month).
With all the words being churned about these people, what's so special about the Regardie's portraits? A number of things. First, these pieces are relatively short, so you can give a moment's consideration to even the most unlikely or unlikable candidate, and they are reliably sassy ("irreverent," in magazine editor parlance) so you can count on being entertained.
Another reason has to do with the arranged marriages of writer and candidate, which range from the merely interesting to the wildly perverse. The best pairings from November: Jack Newfield on Cuomo, Timothy Leary on Pat Robertson, Roger ("No Relation") Simon on Paul Simon, Jon Margolis on Baker. And from December: Garrett Epps on Albert Gore, Craig Copetas on Michael Dukakis, Nelson W. Aldrich Jr. on Pierre S. (Pete) du Pont IV, Richard West on Bruce Babbitt.
The final reason, only worth mentioning because it is so extraordinary, is the superb art commissioned for each profile. While you're at the newsstand, check out Sean Erleley's Robertson, Anthony Russo's Simon and Marshall Arisman's Alexander Haig in the November issue; or Jamie Bennett's Dick Gephardt, Stan McCray's Bob Dole and C.F. Payne's Babbitt in the December issue. Some enterprising gallery has the makings of an exhibit here.
The gross national product of sports is not, as you might expect, loud belching. It is about $47.2 billion.
The figure was compiled by a new magazine called Sports inc. with the help of Wharton Econometrics Forecasting Associates. The number is reached, according to Richard Sandomir's story in the premier issue, by adding together "gate receipts, concessions, sporting goods, books, advertising, licensed products, broadcasting fees and stadium construction" and many other things -- including sports magazine purchases, which last year amounted to $412 million.
With so much money coursing through the sports industry, it is no wonder that a new magazine has been launched to (a) write about it and (b) get a piece of it. Along with news and features reflecting its business spin, Sports inc. follows current magazine fashion and sports tradition by littering its pages with stats: cost-per-victory baseball team standings, a demographic profile of the American bowler, a best-seller list of sports books.
It's a promising package. Times Mirror, the media giant, is behind the venture. Assuming it flies, the magazine will appear weekly. For a year's subscription, send $69.95 to Sports inc., P.O. Box 1564, Neptune, N.J. 07754-9918.
Extra-Virgin Snake Oil
The youngest and classiest entry in the travel magazine field, Conde' Nast's Traveler, is also the spunkiest.
The "Stop Press" section -- produced by "Paul Grimes and the Conde' Nast's Traveler news unit," no less -- trains its squinted eyes upon such things as the shocking weaknesses in hotel security, and bargains and rip-offs in the duty-free shop. This is not a magazine that its advertisers in the tourism industry will always love to read, which is a good recommendation.
One potential violation of the public trust, however, was too monstrous to be contained in "Stop Press," so it stands on its own as an "investigation" in the December issue: How is it that nearly three years after a catastrophic freeze destroyed most of the olive trees in Tuscany, the flow of expensive extra-virgin olive oil from the region has not dried up? How to explain, in other words, "the relative abundance in the United States of a product that is now virtually nonexistent in its place of origin ..."
The answer, uncovered by reporter Dalbert Hallenstein, is that the olive oil producers are no fools. They substituted "blends" for the real thing. As one of them put it, "We realized that if we didn't sell our products for five years, our clients would simply forget us." A Tuscan olive grower delivered more devastating, though less surprising, news: "The Americans don't know what they are buying."
Not all of the Tuscan oil is bogus, by the way. The magazine explains how the buyer can beware.
The Trouble With Public TV
Twenty years after it was chartered, public television in America is "rotten and failing ... a chaotic patchwork of redundantly overlapping fiefdoms, a honeycomb of waste." This anniversary bouquet is delivered in the December Connoisseur by Jamie James, who is said to have "written extensively on American broadcasting."
It is hard to argue with the author's conclusion -- or perhaps it is a premise: The best stuff on the Public Broadcasting Service is foreign-made, and the feudal arrangements under which public TV labors seldom serve its larger purpose. The success stories of public television -- "Eyes on the Prize," "Frontline" -- are exceptions, James writes, that prove the rule.
In laying the blame for this sorry state of affairs, the indignant James leaves no cause unmentioned: There's too much money, and too little; power is in the hands of too many, and in the hands of too few; the programs pander to vulgar popular taste, and they are snooty and foreign.
Responsible opposing viewpoints, assuming they exist, are welcome.