In a creative twist, Details for May puts recovering porn star Traci Lords on its cover. Her story, told by writer Chris Heath, has more drama than most pop profiles: a rape at 11, four years of underage skin flicks, a few cocaine overdoses and finally a struggle for legitimacy and self-empowerment.
It's hard not to enjoy watching Ms. Lords make hay of her notoriety, with clothed acting stints on TV hits "Roseanne" and "Melrose Place," and a Top 10 dance single, "Control." "Nobody made me do anything," she says. "I was never a victim." Here's hoping "Melrose" sics her on Sydney again by season's end (May 22).
Lately, Details has forsaken its inner originality, but the glitz-meets-grunge glossy does try to keep its cover fresh. Unlike GQ, or Esquire, the faces under the logo aren't always tired, with offbeat choices like Henry Rollins, Uma Thurman, Leonardo DiCaprio and, yes, Heather Locklear.
Spin magazine is similarly mindful with its cover real estate, catching musicians such as Beck, Offspring and even Courtney Love, before they're all over, or all over everywhere. Just when you want to know more.
For May, Spin puts an anemic-looking Polly Jean Harvey on its cover wearing a lacy bra -- the 1990s un-Madonna. The riveting, eruptive British singer (Patti Smith at the volcano?) seems as reticent in person as she is emotive on record.
Good thing Spin assigned Village Voice critic Robert Christgau to the piece; his rhapsodizing about her may be more interesting than anything she says.
"The closest she came to personal gestures," he writes, "was when she spooned the froth off the cappuccino that was all I saw her consume, and when she wrote the name of W. B. Yeats, of whom she had never heard, on the back of her thin, long-fingered hand." It's a fan's very closely observed notes.
Bruce the quiet
Esquire for May gives us Bruce Willis with not much to say either. Looking like a whiskery egg with a lone ear, the actor/Planet Hollywood honcho even admits, "There's no upside to sharing my most intimate thoughts with the guy with the pen."
In this case, the guy with the pen is novelist Jay McInerney -- a nice bit of casting by Esquire, since both men are 1980s New York scenesters, but a disappointment nonetheless.
The only insight comes from -- yes, he's everywhere -- Quentin Tarantino, who says Mr. Willis is "the only contemporary actor who suggests the fifties." Mr. Tarantino restored Mr. Willis' acting credentials by casting him in "Pulp Fiction." Next for Mr. Willis: "Die Hard With a Vengeance."
You may have noticed that Spy magazine is up from the ashes. That's only physically, though; spiritually, the magazine remains moribund. The new staff isn't having much luck providing the 1980s bane-of-the-rich-and-famous with a mission for the 1990s.
The elaborate graphics have lost their wit, and the features are dull and/or plain old stupid. The big piece on "The Gay Mafia" in the June issue, for example, is ridiculous.
Writer Mark Ebner mixes rumor with nasty, unattributed quotes about people like David Geffen, Sandy Gallin and Barry Diller, presenting it all as the final truth.
Says "an actor with 20 pictures to his credit" about Mr. Geffen: "He probably wouldn't remember me because he's slept with so many people. . . . He had matchbooks with guys' phone numbers on them, and when he got home, he listened to messages filled with guys."
This gay Mafia makes and breaks careers, you see, and of course it's all sexually motivated. And are we supposed to think Neil Jordan is gay simply because he has directed movies with gay, lesbian and bisexual characters?! Maybe Spy should merge with the National Enquirer and call it a day.
There were few surprises in last week's National Magazine Awards winners.
The general excellence awards went to the lively Entertainment Weekly (circulation over 1 million), the once-again-lively New Yorker (400,000 to 1 million), the formidable Men's Journal (100,000 to 400,000) and the classy design magazine I.D. (under 100,000). Martha Stewart Living won for design, Rolling Stone won for photography and Story won for fiction.