Just having celebrated its 10th anniversary, Elle has risen, head and powdered shoulders, above the fashion pack. These days it offers intelligent profiles and arts reviews, sleek design and typography, and a genuinely funny advice column -- to say nothing of fashion spreads full of clothes that women might actually wear.
Thus, hopes were high when the November issue plugged a Q &A; with Catherine Deneuve -- a thinking woman's movie star and the face that launched a million bottles of Chanel.
Alas, however, the Belle de Jour provides no fodder for brains to munch on. Instead, she plugs Yves Saint Laurent cosmetics, offers an understated endorsement of plastic surgery and reveals that it's been (heavy sigh ) hard work being a babe toujours.
So turn instead to an admiring but unarguably well-researched profile of New Jersey's governor, Christine Todd Whitman, a blue-blooded belle of the Republican stripe who is hailed, by the headline, as "The Life of the Party" -- and one of the progressive hopes of the GOP.
Even if you lean staunchly to the left, you have to appreciate certain aspects of her political posture: e.g., standing firmly pro-choice, for affirmative action and in favor of gays in the military.
This piece is full of lighthearted anecdotes from scads of people, but you really get a sense of steel and spine beneath the Party clothes.
If Elle is classic, then Cosmopolitan is its natural newsstand foil, albeit with its own tawdry, slightly spooky charm.
Unlike Elle, which puts Claudia Schiffer on the front and back (new ad for Chanel), November's Cosmo places her on the cover (where she's most comfortable), but with bigger hair and more cleavage.
Otherwise, the pickings are slim -- waif-like, even -- but the horoscopes are always a hoot. Pay attention, Libra: "Now's no time to kick back and wait for just deserts. You could sweet-talk yourself into the Oval Office." (Hey, this is news?)
Finally, in addition to the mandatory monthly "Is Your Relationship Over?" quiz, there's a profile of sensitive ponytail man Brad Pitt, complete with lots of hairy photos and quotes from ex-girlfriends.
Only problem is, the writer obviously never got access to Brad. As for Mr. Pitt's take on women, the Hollywood studlet states, via a translator: "You've got to see past the surface, you know?"
Yes, well, we would if we could, Brad. But enough about that. Let's talk about O. J.
Spying on George
Playing out our theme of sex objects -- and magazines you love to hate (or hate to love) -- the December Spy eschews the comely Claudia. Instead, it takes the glove(s) off, with a cover shot at JFK Jr.'s George. It's a triple-entendre, superimposing O. J.'s face -- and abs -- over Cindy Crawford's in her pose as George Washington. (Someone, you may recall, who could not tell a lie.)
What else could be the point of portraying Mr. Simpson as the father of our country? Just to pimp the 1,001 goofy pieces of O. J. trivia inside? More important, has O. J. taken the "Is Your Relationship Over?" quiz? Has John-John? Has Cindy?
Ah. Wait, there's more. A tidbit on Martha Stewart, better known to feminist literati who read the comic strip "Sylvia" as the Woman Who Always Does Things More Beautifully Than You.
According to Spy, Martha recently refused to pay her caterer's waiter overtime, insisting that working for her would prove a dramatic boost to his career.
Pierced to the core
Did we say "career"? Putting a new spin on the concept, Details contributing editor Gavin Edwards recently had his tongue pierced (the magazine paid) for a coming -- and, one hopes tasty -- story chronicling the piercing gestalt.
What does it feel like?
Mr. Edwards said to a colleague, "It's kind of like having a little piece of gum in your mouth."
List of chores
Speaking of sticky, you probably won't want to shell out four Georges for the October issue of Martha Stewart Living.
We didn't, either, but our employer paid, so we'll tell you what happens:
Basically, Martha carves awesome pumpkins; she goes canoeing on the Connecticut River; she removes wallpaper; she gets great advertising but declines to credit her waiters -- I mean, writers -- on the masthead or in the table of contents.
And (did we say contents?) she tells you what to watch on TV. (Her!)
"Martha's Calendar" note to Libras:
Don't forget to order cordwood for the fireplace, make quince jelly and bring in the garden furniture. And, oh yes, have the leaf blower serviced.
:. It kinda makes you miss O. J., doesn't it?