Thursday, March 06, 2008

How Esquire Crossed The Line Into Complete Tastlelessness

Oh, Esquire.

Such a story behind your existence; so back and forth. Once a wink-wink-nudge-nudge men's magazine, you ran wonderful, groundbreaking features decades ago before sliding into your own shadow somewhere -- and then, lately, you've been catching up to your old, clubby self.

Well no more.

My dear friend Mr. Stevens passed along this story to me -- one called "Heath Ledger's Last Days," by Lisa Taddeo. In it:

"To write a conceivable chronicle of Heath Ledger's final days, writer Lisa Taddeo visited the actor's neighborhood, talked to the store owners and bartenders who may have seen him during his last week, and read as many accounts and rumors about the events surrounding his death as possible. She filled in the rest with her imagination. The result is what we call reported fiction. Some of the elements are true. (Ledger was in London. He was a regular at the Beatrice Inn and the Mirö Cafe. And he was infatuated with Nick Drake.) Others are not."

To which Mr. Stevens responded -- and I agree -- "How does this stuff get greenlit? I mean, how do you even clear this? Legally? As "reported fiction"?

And frankly, I'm not truly up on defamation laws enough to know -- but what I do ask myself is, "how tasteless is this?" It's certainly lacking tact. Why you would run such an exploitative feature -- I may have just answered my own question here -- is beyond me, whether it's a short time after the man's death or not. Frankly, why would anyone want to read this?

Is James Frey back in vogue already? (Boy, wouldn't this be an ironic treatment of his death.)

I used to think Esquire hinted at great journalism. I still do. But features like this are just, well, tasteless. And the fact that this went through the hands of so many people in the Hearst Tower has me wholly puzzled.

"How do you even pitch a story like this? This is like some sick Maxim joke."


Anonymous said...

This is the pits. Read a really old Esquire and compare: night and day. They used to run good stories. That was generations ago. Now it is soooo dumb and stupid. I think they are either afraid to do anything good or they are just bad and rotten to the core. Either way, it's pathetic, really.

Anonymous said...

I just read the story. I agree, it is tasteless. And terrible.