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Illusions of Glamour

Two ads in the new Metro Chicago aren't what publisher Stan Malinowski has in mind. Zen Master Rama on pages 2 and 3 and Artists' Frame Service on page 61 make the mistake of making a pitch.

"I'd like to get away from hard-sell advertising and orient ourselves to image advertising," Malinowski said. In the seamless fantasy that Metro Chicago tries to spin, hawking merchandise is as graceless as hawking phlegm.

Everywhere else in Malinowski's often alluring magazine, the advertising is an indistinguishable part of the visual experience. Though much less inspired, the copy stabs at the same effect--of making impressions, of being a series of pops. Malinowski favors the Q & A form "because of the way it reveals things. Otherwise there's too much editorializing." Among others, he bestows it on actor Judge Reinhold, who was in town, and a local model you've never heard of.

"I've had a tough time in Chicago," said Malinowski, now a famous fashion photographer. But because he likes the city he stuck it out here. Metro Chicago is his attempt at age 51 to stretch himself, repay Chicago for its pleasures, and correct a civic misunderstanding.

"I want to give the impression Chicago is really a glamorous place," he explained. He invites the city's most brilliant photographers to do their most daring work in his pages with the city's most stunning men and women. He invites daring prose too, but he's less certain what that is or how he'll get it.

Surely Malinowski and his pals can cook up a Chicago as breathless as glamorous Paris and glamorous Rome. But will Chicagoans buy it? Malinowski, who intends to begin quarterly publication in February, does not have long to find out. "It took Sports Illustrated 10 or 11 years to get into the black," he told us. "I can't last 10 years. I can't last a year if I don't cut my losses substantially.

"I haven't looked for investors," he said. "I don't know how to structure financial deals."

Last April, Malinowski rolled out "preview issue" number one. He says that "beautiful throwaway" cost him $80,000 to produce and he got $14,000 back. The second preview issue, which has just appeared, was printed on a finer stock of paper and cost him $130,000. "I'll get back around 60," he said.

"When you get to 80-pound paper, it's not a throwaway," Malinowski told us. "The paper alone cost three and a half dollars per copy, and production costs were another four and a half dollars." The newsstand price is $3.

Malinowski wants to offer advertisers a controlled circulation of 30,000. We wonder if even that many high-income Chicagoans are open to a fantasy of their city's glamour.

"I'm trying to create a little aura of excitement about this city," he said. "I just got back from New York and it's really a terrific city, but frankly, I'd rather be here. I really enjoy Europe. I love going to Rome, Paris . . . But this is a terrific place to live."

Yes, but is it glamorous?

"I'll tell you," Malinowski said. "I'm not sure what 'glamorous' is.

"I think it's probably an illusion," Malinowski went on. "I think people look at my life-style as being glamorous. It's just something out of the ordinary. I work hard. I haven't had a real vacation in 27 years. On the other hand, my workday can involve flying around Alaska with Christie Brinkley in a helicopter. My work has enough variety that I don't need to escape that much."

We guessed Christie Brinkley isn't glamorous in a helicopter.

"Christie Brinkley from my point of view is a very lovely person, very sweet, very nice, and she works hard."

But the pictures were, we guessed.

"I had her in a swimsuit and wading boots standing in a swamp--there are enormous swamps outside of Anchorage. The pictures were gorgeous. The swamp stank to high heaven."

We think of glamour as a flashy sign a life is being lived to perfection. Since no one with a lick of sense believes in such lives, glamour is now just a highly stylized, ironic reference to the idea of doing it right.

Malinowski said he's already got one furious letter denouncing preview issue two. "She said she had a course this summer on how the white press treats black women--i.e., as bitches in heat with white men," Malinowski told us. Thus indoctrinated by some professor, Malinowski's correspondent had failed to succumb to the erotic absurdity of Skrebneski's 1987 Chicago Film Festival poster, which is the latest Metro Chicago center spread.

Malinowski's labor of love is in big trouble if the rest of Chicago shows the same low capacity for unreality.

The Sun-Times's Secret Weapon

We recently had a talk with the new man at the Sun-Times, Foster W. Muzzle. Until recently, Muzzle was custodian of whips and chains in the Tribune Tower; but he was bored over there, and the Sun-Times promised him more responsibility and excitement.

"When I went in to talk to [owner and publisher] Bob Page, he handed me a story off the UPI wire and asked how I'd have played it," Muzzle told us. "Something about a paper in Rockford decertifying the Newspaper Guild. Of course, every Chicagoan I've ever known lived and breathed Rockford labor relations. So I said I'd have put it on page one. And Page said I was his man. I found out later some feckless editor had buried the story on page six."

What are your duties? we asked.

"Well, formally my job is to give liberals a good ragging, and bear in mind that next year we're going to try to bust the Guild," Muzzle explained. "But I'm kind of a romantic, and I think of myself as kind of a test pilot. Most journalism never ventures much beyond common sense. My job is to punch through and see how close I can take us to the ridiculous. Test the envelope."

Muzzle's hand could soon be seen on the editorial page. "Football strike deserved to flop" was a recent success, with its ringing declamation: "What sense does it make, then, to blame the football-club owners for the strike? None whatsoever."

And Muzzle was the guy--impishly hiding behind the authority of the "advertising acceptance committee"--who censored a full-page ad backing the striking Bears. When the labor bosses who placed the ad tried to slip by the sentence "We do not want in Chicago a repetition of last Sunday's sad situation caused by fielding a team unworthy of NFL standards," Muzzle immediately slashed out the last nine words.

"This whole idea of holding organizations to standards when they've hired scabs could mean nothing but trouble for us down the road and it has no place in Ronald Reagan's America," Muzzle told us.

Like the rest of the contingent that the Sun-Times has hired away from the Tribune, Muzzle was given an office of his own that he never leaves. That's why many reporters do not realize he exists. But the sharper ones recognized that this recent string of ludicrous events could not have been an accident.

It was Muzzle, of course, behind publishing a Tribune in-house memo on Lois Wille's promotion to editorial page editor, and Muzzle who added the riposte that she'd bring the page "a kneejerk brand of liberalism."

And not only did he pen the brilliant "Anti-Bork attacks shock liberal press," but he saw to it that the whole editorial ran in boldface. Raging against the simpleminded denunciations of Robert Bork's subtle legal opinions, he deftly proved calumnies had been visited on the judge by demonstrating that even such "custodians of liberal orthodoxy" as the New York Times and Washington Post thought so too.

"What I really like about this one," he told us proudly, "is the sweeping nonsense at the end." Dredging up JFK's dimly remembered Profiles in Courage, Muzzle concluded his tract on a giddy note: "In the thoroughly discredited politics of the Bork confirmation fight, no senator opposing the nomination emerges as worthy of that characterization. Not by a mile."

Muzzle is particularly proud of the fact that he, himself, had produced the most succinct example of simpleminded misrepresentation to be found in the local press. He referred us to the Sun-Times lead story of September 16, which had Bork telling the Senate Judiciary Committee "that there is no constitutional basis for the right to privacy under which the high court struck down state laws limiting abortions." Muzzle personally wrote the headline: "Bork hits abortion."

Muzzle even had a hand in the recent dismissal of associate editor Bernie Judge, who'd handled the paper's special projects. "Reporters loved him," Muzzle explained. "Competence was Judge's problem, and we could never persuade him to overcome it."

He told us a story to prove his point. When word spread through the newsroom that Judge was out, a reporter who'd worked under Judge on various complex, distinguished series came up to him and said, "Damn it, this is the angriest I've been at anyone since my father."

"What did your father do to you?" Judge wondered.

"He died, the son of a bitch," the reporter told him.

Muzzle had overheard the exchange.

"I knew I'd earned my salary that week," he told us.

We put Alderman Luis Gutierrez in the wrong ward last week. He represents the 26th, not the 32nd. Sorry.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Loren Santow.

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