People shows double standard when it comes to sex symbols


People (Jan. 23) has for its cover story "Married to a Sex Symbol." Ho, ho, you say, this ought to be good and (relatively) juicy. So it is: No real dirt, but as you skim the story in your dentist's waiting room six months from now, you won't be thinking about Novocain. Instead, what you might find yourself thinking about is . . . well, there's no non-sensitive-guy way to say this . . . what you might find yourself thinking about is, yes, the double standard.

All the sex symbols in question are guys: Denzel Washington, Kevin Costner, Harrison Ford, Michael Douglas, Tom Cruise, people like that. That a husband might worry about his wife being the object of the desires of millions of men never crosses the editorial mind of People, no matter how sex-symbolic she might be. Mr. Cruise, for example, is married to Nicole Kidman, a notably comely woman of not-inconsiderable star power. Yet nary a word do we hear about any anxiety he experiences over his wife's hubba-hubba status.

He who needs no name

Life has a commemorative issue to mark Elvis Presley's 60th birthday, which was about two weeks ago. Neither of the most remarkable things about the magazine is readily apparent, however. Or, rather, the first is so obvious that, like the purloined letter, it hides in plain sight. Certainly, if a colleague hadn't

pointed it out, I'd never have noticed that Elvis' name appears nowhere on the cover -- which, if you stop to think about it, is amazing. The pope, Bill Clinton, O.J. and Nicole, even: They appear on a magazine cover, they get ID'd. But here, as in so many ways, Elvis belongs to a category of one.

The other remarkable thing comes in a letter from the editor, which states that no Presley appeared on the cover of Life until December 1988 -- and it wasn't Elvis, but Priscilla and Lisa Marie. Talk about showing up after the last train to Memphis had left

the station.

Funny bits

John Lahr's appreciation in The New Yorker (Jan. 23) of Peter Cook, who died last week at 57, does rather gush. "The legend of a great comedian dies with him," Mr. Lahr begins, and the

fluttering has only just begun. That said, some of the bits he describes are gloriously funny.

Jonathan Miller, Cook's fellow "Beyond the Fringe" member, recalls watching him onstage as an undergraduate at Cambridge. "He was playing some person in a suburban kitchen concealed behind a newspaper. He didn't say a word. But all eyes were drawn to him. Then he rustled the paper and simply said, 'Hello, hello! I see the Titanic's sunk again.' " That second "hello" is almost as funny as "I see."

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