Poison Pen: The True Confessions of Two Tabloid Reporters, Lysa Moskowitz-Mateu & David LaFontaine

Dove Audio, 1996, 208 pages, C$24.99 hc, ISBN 0-7871-0916-9


“I thought I’d die!” says bespectacled reviewer!

ROCKLAND (CLS) — Today, in a stunning display of willpower, noted book reviewer Christian Sauvé has finished reading Poison Pen, a 208-pages tome about tabloid reporting. In a press conference given to the press, he has agreed to share his impressions about the book.

Poison Pen, written by an ex-couple of scribes for national tabloid newspapers, contains numerous shocking revelations about this shady world of gossipy publishing. From snooping techniques of investigative dirt-digging to the back-stabbing office politics of tabloid papers, the subject matter of this tome is fertile ground for anecdotes. “Poison Pen is a portrait of the wild and wicked world of tabloid reporting” writes LaFontaine.

“And it is wild and wicked!” says Sauvé. Among other saucy anecdotes, you’ll find in this non-fiction account are how Lafontaine impersonated a doctor to try to get access to Lisa Mary Presley’s hospital room and how the couple ambushed Ted Danson and Whoopi Goldberg in a hotel during a weekend tryst.

“What’s more, these guys are absolutely shameless about it!” exclaims Sauvé. Indeed, Lafontaine writes that “readers want to be told that celebrities are just as miserable as they are. Hate to spoil your cherished illusions, but by and large, celebrities are having a hell of a lot more fun than you ever will.” “I was a quick study in this business of deceit.” adds Moskowitz-Mateu. “I learned how to write catchy lead, how to exaggerate the truth… In the tabloid industry, being a good liar is considered a highly desirable trait.”

“You would expect a book about celebrity gossip reporting to be entertaining” says Sauvé, describing his foolhardy presumptions, “and Poison Pen is simply hilarious. The tales of how they try to get scoops -and even those where they fail, like the Liz Taylor marriage, are incredibly funny. I thought I’d die laughing.” Sauvé singled out the chapter on celebrity marriages as being most indicative of the book’s madcap subject.

Readers should expect to find more serious material, however, in the coverage of some of Hollywood’s biggest recent stories in the pages of Poison Pen. The 1989 California Quake is meta-covered by LaFontaine, who looks at the tabloid reporting itself in the face of the crisis. Similar material is assembled about the Oklahoma City bombing and the O.J. Simpson trial which, according to LaFontaine, changed forever the face of news-reporting in America: “Viewers have grown accustomed to hearing stories reported in the finest tabloid style, built around a kernel of fact and surrounded by a nebulous cloud of rumor, assumption and hype.”

This type of honest self-assessment is one of the highlights of the book. However, as Sauvé says, “you end up with a book that’s half-great, half-repulsive. Generally speaking, Lafontaine writes the most interesting parts of the book, providing both history, context, rationale and significance to the phenomenon of tabloid newspapers. Moskowitz-Mateu acts like a blonde bimbo by restricting herself to inconsequential anecdotes.” The worst example, according to Sauvé, is in Chapter 7 -about addiction- where “Moskowitz-Mateu repulsively tells of a friendly chat with Paula Abdul about eating disorders, and then dumps her whole guilt on us by writing that she was sickened by the whole thing and decided not submit the story.” Independent reports have confirmed Sauvé’s adulation for Abdul.

“In the end, you have a good book that could have been even better.” concludes Sauvé. “I would like to see another book by LaFontaine going even deeper in the business. But as for Moskowitz-Mateu, heck, leave her in the cesspool because she brings no valuable insight to her work.”

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