Friday, January 15, 2010

Tiger Woods: Hottie

I just looked at the recent copy of Vanity Fair for the third time this week (the magazine, not the novel by Thackeray). I have had an on-again, off-again relationship with Vanity Fair since 1987. When I was in my twenties, I subscribed to the magazine but the subscription always arrived a few days after the news stands received them, so as soon as I heard the new issue was out, I would race to the news stands on Broadway or Avenue of the Americas, stand and read the latest issue, and then buy some Lifesavers to pay for my reading time.

Twenty-odd years later, I am still reading Vanity Fair with relish though occasionally, my husband and I have let our subscription lapse. We renewed it a few months ago and this week's issue was a doozie---I couldn't put it down, probably because so many stories had to do with people and events from the Eighties: There was an oral history of disco, which confirmed that Evelyn "Champagne" King really was discovered cleaning an office building. There was a great photo of Oliver Stone, Michael Douglas, Josh Brolin, Shia La Beouf and Carey Mulligan: Wall Street is back; the sequel is out sometime in 2010 (and maybe life will even imitate art this time). There was a short piece about rocker Patti Smith's new memoir. There was a long story about the making of Ishtar, and another story about Finn Caspersen, a famously wealthy New Jersey resident who recently committed suicide and was secretly Jewish.

But the story that really grabbed my attention was the cover shot of Tiger Woods. There is Tiger, half-dressed and pouting in a black knit cap, lifting a set of weights. He looks thuggish and intelligent. He looks a little sad and a whole lot strong. In the photo spread, we see him doing sit ups, pull-ups and sitting barefoot in his bathrobe by the pool. He has muscles everywhere. He looks sweaty and tough. In short, he looks hot.

Until the last week of November, I had never given Tiger Woods much thought. He was a great young golfer married to a pretty blonde woman; that was pretty much all I knew. But I was teaching news reporting and a couple of my students were excellent athletes so we started talking about Tiger Woods the day after the news broke that he had backed his car into a tree in the middle of the night. I encouraged the students to think about how they would report out this story, and urged them to read credible publications like the New York Times as well as less credible (but believable) publications such as the Enquirer to see how different publications covered this news. We staged a mock news conference, with one of the students posing as Tiger, and another student posing as his publicist. The students had fun with the assignment. The woman who played the part of Tiger's publicist was so good she actually could have helped Tiger out.

While looking at Annie Leibovitz's photo spread of Tiger's back and arms, photographed from various angles, I started to think that if Tiger Woods had admitted he was a hottie all along, he might not have gotten himself into so much trouble. Instead, he always seemed to be photographed looking very middle-aged and proper, squarely conventional in his golf shirts, smiling innocently as if his life began and ended with his golf game and his kids. If he had actually owned up to the fact that he did, in fact, have lust in his heart, the American public probably would have accepted him as the playboy and player he is.

Okay, maybe he doesn't have an obvious sense of humor and he might have messed around with steroids, but he didn't bet on dog fights or allegedly kill his wife. His main offense is he prefers to be with women he's not married to. He's not the kind of guy I'd want to be married to but most celebrities don't seem particularly geared towards sustaining long and healthy marriages anyway. Let him strut. Let him be a hunk. Let him own his stud muffin-ness. Let him be a star. Lots of athletes are. Maybe this is not news to anyone but me but I think Annie Leibovitz has done Tiger a huge favor. I hope he comes out of this with a memoir. I hope he writes, Mea culpa. I hope he says, I'm bad. That's what everyone is saying about him anyway, but he'll sound like more of a bad-ass if he says it too. And then throw his broad shoulders back and get on with things.

(Tiger Woods was an economics major at Stanford and I'm not sure he ever read any English Romantic poetry, but I read a lot of it from 1984-1985. Here are the first three stanzas of Blake's "The Tyger":)

Tyger! Tyger! burning bright
In the forest of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

In what distant deeps or skies
Burnt the fire of thine eyes?
On what wings dare he aspires?
What the hand dare sieze the fire?

And what shoulder, & what art,
Could twist the sinews of thy heart?
And when thy heart began to beat,
What dread hand? & what dread feet?

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