Vanity Fair puts Mr. and Mrs. Milosevic on the sofa, as if they're regular folks

MAGAZINES

May 22, 1994|By Mark Feeney | Mark Feeney,The Boston Globe

There they are in Vanity Fair (June), cute as cute can be, Mr. and Mrs. Slobodan Milosevic, sitting together curled up on the couch in their designer sweaters. He's got a hopelessly blank look on his face. Presumably, that's one of the tricks of the trade: Think bland and -- who knows? -- a guy can get away with, you'll pardon the expression, murder.

Then again, that blankness verges on grimace: One gets the sense Slobodan Milosevic might be singing to himself the refrain of that old Pet Shop Boys song, "What have I, what have I, what have I done to deserve this?" Unleashing genocide on tens of thousands, fine, it's a rush -- but sitting for a la-di-da photographer from some magazine you've never heard of, that's another story.

As for Mrs. Slo, she's focused on crime, not punishment: With fist planted firmly under chin (that oldest of tricks for trying to fool the photographer about avoirdupois), she's no media innocent. Or is she? "Is Vanity Fair a women's magazine?" she barks at profiler Bella Stumbo. "Because I don't give interviews to women's magazines." The reason Mrs. Slo granted this one and then got her husband to go along -- Ms. Stumbo's great revelation is that wife wears the jacket in this family -- is that she has a new book out. (Mrs. Slo is a sociologist who writes a magazine column on the side.) You know how it is -- gotta promote the product.

It's all quite the package. You've got Tom Hanks on the cover, and Hillary inside complaining (surprise!) about how unfairly the press covers her and Bill, and Gail Sheehy injecting a little bit of the old psychobabble into a profile of Kathleen Brown, Jerry's sister, who's running for governor of California, and then, whoa, there they are, Mr. and Mrs. Slo: the mice in the wedding cake. Amid all the scented perfume ads, tucked in among the tanned and taut bodies, here are these two matter-of-fact monsters: stylish as a mass grave, glamorous as an amputation. Right between a profile of an MTV VJ and an article on Coco Chanel, up pop Mr. and Mrs. Slo. Welcome to the intersection of atrocity and celebrity. Heavy rotation, ethnic cleansing, little black dresses -- whatever, whomever -- the banality of evil meets the banality of fame.

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Not that, as world leaders go, Fidel Castro is any bargain, either. Still, there is this lunatic perfection to his appearing on the cover of Cigar Aficionado (summer). Even though he hasn't smoked a stogie in nearly nine years, he remains as identified with said item as anyone since Churchill -- or Groucho. (Hmm, if you combined Churchill and Groucho, would you come up with Castro?) Cigar Aficionado spent two years pursuing Mr. Castro, and the resulting interview is a coup, all right. "Che used to really enjoy smoking," Mr. Castro confides. Later on he inquires of his interlocutor, "You say that Clinton smokes cigars?" If things got any loopier, you'd swear it wasn't tobacco in the Havanas. As for those who prefer their panatelas without geopolitics, this issue profiles another cigar icon of note, the Boston Celtics' Red Auerbach.

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Maybe you didn't notice, but this week marked the 40th anniversary of the greatest day in 20th-century American history. Wait a second, you say, the anniversary of D-day isn't for another three weeks and it's the 50th anniversary, isn't it? Correct. All the media attention notwithstanding (see the May 23 covers of Newsweek and US News & World Report), what thousands of brave soldiers accomplished on the beaches of Normandy pales in importance when compared with what nine elderly judges did on May 17, 1954, when the Supreme Court unanimously ruled in Brown vs. Board of Education that racial segregation in public schools was unconstitutional. The Nation (May 23) devotes a special issue to the anniversary. Perhaps the most pertinent observations come from Jonathan Kozol and J. Anthony Lukas, both of whom note that this year marks the 20th anniversary of a less celebrated Supreme Court case, Milliken vs. Bradley. That decision overruled a lower court's metropolitan solution to school integration, in effect saying that while de jure segregation was not acceptable, de facto segregation was. Twenty years before, the court had (finally) invited everyone to the party; now it ducked out on the tab. Preparing in Boston for a 20th anniversary of our own as regards schools and segregation, we are still feeling the consequences.

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