Ihave this vision. It is of a room. A large room. Lots of high-tech equipment inside. Levers. Buttons. Flashing lights.

Entrance to this room is rare. A sign outside reads “AMERICAN BUZZ.” The door is always locked.

But a select few have the key. And those who do get to insert the topic they want the whole country to be talking about, pull the levers and watch their power work. In recent months, George Lucas and his “Star Wars” people were in there. So were the Kennedy family mythologists.

Last week, the room was in full swing again. And behind the dials was a sharp-tongued, well-connected, British-born editor named Tina Brown.

Now, if Tina Brown walked down any street in Wisconsin, Montana, Oklahoma or Mississippi, not a soul would look twice. Ditto for Alabama, Illinois or pretty much any other place besides the richest streets of Manhattan and a few blocks in Washington, D.C.

Yet based on the hype and noise last week, you’d have thought Tina Brown was America’s guest, as famous as a president, as powerful as the chairman of Microsoft, as recognizable as Mel Gibson and Julia Roberts rolled into one.

What did Tina Brown do to reach this exalted status? Launch a magazine. That’s right. A magazine. Never mind that magazines are launched every week. Never mind that many fail.

Those magazines do not have what this magazine had.

This magazine had Tina Brown.

And she had the key to the room.

A picnic with Miss Liberty

And so, as if hypnotized into duty, every newspaper in this country did a fawning profile on the “powerful” and “special” Ms. Brown, who used to edit Vanity Fair and the New Yorker, two magazines most of America does not read.

And TV talk shows fought for a few precious minutes of her time.

Photographers were dispatched to a special launch party, which Tina threw at the Statue of Liberty. Gourmet food was served, picnic style. Madonna was there. I have no idea whether Madonna even knows how to read, much less reads the magazine. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that she was at Tina’s party.

And we were not.

By we, I mean the great unwashed. You know. The rest of America? Those of us who do not live on Park Avenue, do not vacation in the Hamptons, do not have Barbara Walters’ home phone number. Those of us who do not attend black tie dinners in Washington, do not begin our Sundays with the New York Times Week in Review, do not step over each other to mutter a few lines on Don Imus’ radio show.

In other words, the vast majority.

Who happen to be the people they want to buy this new magazine. So, my unwashed friends. Are you talking about Talk?

First lady gossip

That, by the way, is the name of the magazine. Talk. I figured to mention that earlier, but then I realized that, despite last week’s cluster bomb media coverage of what Hillary Rodham Clinton said in one of Talk’s articles — suggesting her husband’s childhood problems might have led to his infidelities
— the fact is, this dang magazine was made available only in New York, LA and Washington.

The rest of the country won’t even see it until later this week.

But then, that’s the whole point, isn’t it? You in the great unwashed don’t really matter to this precious little clique. You are simply supposed to get in line. Follow suit. Do what you’re told, which is buy this magazine because, after all, Madonna was at the party! Tina’s editing! Larry King is hyping!

I don’t know. It seems to me everything worth hearing in that Hillary article already has been told a million times.

And for all its bluster, this magazine is still financed by a movie studio, Miramax, and — what a coincidence! — actress Gwenyth Paltrow, who stars in a Miramax film, happens to be on the cover. Which makes it seem like a big commercial.

One media expert summed it up this way: “Tina Brown and Hillary Clinton travel in the same circle. Talk will have the point of view of that circle.”

Then again, the only point of view in a circle is people looking across at one another.

Sorry, Tina. I’d like to help. But when I go to the Statue of Liberty, it’s to look at the statue, not to pluck caviar. Besides, being one of the great unwashed, I need to take a shower.

I’ve got to get this buzz off of me.

MITCH ALBOM can be reached at 313-223-4581 or albom@freepress.com. Hear
“Albom in the Afternoon” 3-6 weekdays on WJR-AM (760).

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