Dennis Rodman: a study in self-promotion Unforgettable: Rolling Stone reveals the basketball player in all his vapidity.


Sometimes when I'm lovingly caressing my remote control, safe in the privacy of my own home, I trip over those gruesome surgeries on the Learning Channel. In a flash, without warning or choice, I find myself crawling through the bloody viscera of an unfortunate stranger, his or her swollen tissues and palpitating organs oozing around me as if I were one of those shrunken scientists in the movie "Fantastic Voyage."

Once, although it may have been some brilliant dream, I swear I even glimpsed a brain, a naked brain, a gray knot of tightly coiled tubes pulsing within an open canyon of skull.

Sometimes, in other words, unwelcome images invade our comfortable world -- like John Lennon's "yellow matter custard dripping from a dead dog's eye." And no matter how quickly you shut your own eyes, the images have already registered, colorful, somewhat gross and often permanent.

Is that why I scan newsstands with increasing trepidation these days, ever fearful of the stray pop-cultural weirdness that might burst in upon my more or less happy consciousness?

Alas, Rolling Stone magazine is becoming an offender of the faith, and not because it has taken to featuring blandies like Brooke Shields and Jennifer Aniston ad (key phrase) infinitum. July's extended look at the pointless Jenny McCarthy, which featured the MTV figurine spurting some pretty lurid mustard, was a garish attempt to keep up with MTV's hype machine.

Now, the cover story for Dec. 12 gives us the empty head of Dennis Rodman, his tongue preternaturally extended, to promote his new series for MTV, long after writing about Rodman has itself reached overextension.

Rodman may be quite the rebounder, but his off-court presence on the cultural landscape -- which adds some $10 million to his yearly basketball earnings -- is further testament to the power of flagrant self-promotion and gimmickry in America.

He has gotten great mileage out of his affair with Madonna, who dismissed him as the "disgusting basketball player I made the mistake of going out with" in Vanity Fair. Madonna must take responsibility for his prominence, however, which is the result of her cultural legacy: Pushing the Sex Button plus Publicity Stunts plus Dyeing Your Hair equal Massive Fame.

Rolling Stone writer Chris Heath, formerly of Details, manages to reveal Rodman in all his vapidity, without taking any nasty shots.

"Dennis Rodman lies back on the bus bed, the evening sunlight shining off his nose rings. 'I totally feel like a rock star more than a basketball player. I totally think: Have I got to go play basketball now?' "

Maybe not, Dennis.

Revived Spy

Since it rose from the grave two years ago, Spy magazine has not quite managed to forge an identity for the 1990s. Although there are one or two amusing entries, this year's Spy 100 issue, which features Jenny McCarthy's face on the cover, is pretty uninspired. No. 1 on the list of the year's annoyances is "Friends," which had already reached an obnoxious level of overexposure back in 1995, and No. 100 is "The Simpson," which, well, you know, O. J. and all. And such entries as "Freak Baseball Accidents," "Stupid Wars," "Other People's 100 Lists" and "The Lake of Death," which chronicles a tourist accident at the lake where Susan Smith drowned her sons, are pretty tired.

Allen, again

The New Yorker for Dec. 9 has a long, good John Lahr piece about Woody Allen, on the occasion of Allen's new musical, "Everyone Says I Love You." There's nothing stunningly new in the article, just more glimpses into the mind of New York's signature director and some vignettes about his work techniques, from his notoriously brief auditions to his detached approach to actors.

"That would be tedious to me," Allen says, "to have actors come over, sit down, and to go over all that nonsense with them."

Also, Allen talks openly about his affection for Diane Keaton, who inspired a number of his earlier scripts: "I felt I had a lot to learn from her. So I started to try and write things that gave her an opportunity to get out and do her thing."

Of his relationship with Soon-Yi, Allen says: "I feel it's been one of the best relationships, if not the best, of my life."

Pub Date: 12/08/96

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