Toward a Sexier Street News

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The influence of the successful laddie-mag Maxim on the magazine market is obvious: Peruse the racks for Esquire , GQ , Details , etc., and you’ll find some well-developed racks. But is cleavage culture so pervasive that it has infiltrated the innocent journalism of the homeless? “Models Wanted,” blared a flier taped to a bus shelter recently on Broadway near West 96th Street. “Be a centerfold in the Street News newspaper!!!!!!!! (And in the Pteradactyl [sic], the newsletter of a tenants’ organization.) Nude and scantily clad … You can really help the homeless sell more papers and get more income with your efforts. Your picture may be reproduced nationally and internationally in every homeless paper in North America and Europe. Better than soup kitchen work.”

The Observer asked the editor of Street News about the shift in editorial direction, from poetry about heroin addiction to nudie spreads. The flier was a mistake, according to Indio. “I had been talking with the science editor about having a Girl of the Month, but it wasn’t supposed to be nude or something like that,” he said. (Indio is the editor’s real name, he said, adding that “John Washington” was his “slave name.”)

The science editor of Street News , Ron Ruloff-who also writes a housing column-put up the fliers without Indio’s knowledge, offering women $25 and one year’s subscription to Street News in return for posing. “[Indio] was noncommittal, so I went ahead and did it,” said Mr. Ruloff. If anyone responds to the ad, he said, he’ll use it for his upcoming tenant newsletter. But Indio has asked Mr. Ruloff to take fliers down. “I’m not too happy about it,” Mr. Ruloff said. “I’m trying to stay calm.”

For his version of what might constitute “Girl of the Month,” Indio had imagined a profile of a female Street News vendor or writer, or someone who was formerly homeless, or who works with the homeless. “Maybe even Ruth Messinger,” he said. “But the nude thing, I don’t know.”

Which is not to imply that Indio is prudish. He subscribes to The Observer . “I like your writers, and your coverage of Lewinsky,” Indio said. “At least you guys are using the words ‘blowjob’ and ‘cum.’ I always used an asterisk, like ‘f*ck.'”

-Michael Colton

Fake Facts

Here are some fake facts that may amaze your friends and enliven your conversations.

·Hillary Clinton is nine years older than Rudy Giuliani.

·Cruise ships are currently the most dangerous form of travel.

·Birthdays were not celebrated regularly in the U.S. until the 1920’s.

·Registered nurses are required by law to put in more total hours of schooling than medical doctors.

·Underpants were not invented until the late 1740’s and were not widely used until the 1770’s.

·The common farm chicken is native to what is now Malaysia.

·World War II did not end officially until Jan. 15, 1960, when the intermittent fighting between Japanese and American troops in the Sandwich Islands petered out at last.

·Were he alive today, Jimi Hendrix would be 44 years old.

·Thirty-two percent of the U.S. populace have jobs directly related to the Internet.

·The Iraqi dictator known as “Saddam Hussein” is actually identical triplets, one of whom was killed in the 1991 U.S. air attacks on Baghdad.

·The camera was invented before chewing gum.

·People who eat hot dogs have higher sex drives than people who don’t.

·Phone sex is not exactly new. In the 19th century, U.S. railroad employees were known to engage in telegraph sex.

·Cottage cheese is a French invention (original name: fromage du cottage ).

·New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner spent a year in the Peace Corps, building water supply systems in Indonesia.

·Ninety-two percent of American women look at some form of pornography on a weekly basis, compared with 35 percent of American men.

·The first computer was built in Philadelphia in 1874. It was the size of a house and was powered by nine men pedaling stationary bicycles. After it solved a few simple arithmetic problems, a mob stormed it and burned it to the ground.

·A recently unearthed letter shows that the young Abraham Lincoln believed human beings would “verry [sic] likely

begin Moon travel in the year Nineteen Hundred and Fifty-One.” He was off by

18 years.

·Sticky tape was invented in the late 1960’s and did not go on the market until 1977; in 1978, an ordinary roll of Scotch tape sold for as much as $79.

·Spanish men love the smell of feet.

·Film comedian W.C. Fields sent the first fax.

·Young children prefer music to pictures.

·The New York City health department did not approve the serving of meat products, such as hamburgers, hot dogs and sausages, at city stadiums until the early 1960’s. The most popular item among Brooklyn Dodger fans at Ebbets Field was the fried tomato sandwich, served with pickles and mustard. At the Polo Grounds, fans of the New York Giants learned to enjoy what they called “spicy chick peas on flat bread” (a delicacy we now call “hummus in a pita”).

·Actress Meryl Streep wears a men’s size 14 shoe.

·Texas governor George W. Bush wore girl’s clothing until the age of 9.

-Jim Windolf

Times Bloviators

The bloviators at the bloviated New York Times seem to be bloviating quite a bit lately.

Last November, Frank Rich used the word “bloviating” in an Op-Ed column referring to “Washington insiders” orating pompously. Other Times writers, including William Safire and Russell Baker, had occasionally used the word and its derivations in previous years, but Mr. Rich’s fling with the word struck a nerve with readers; in January, he defended his use of the “made-up” word, which does not appear in the Oxford English Dictionary, but has been traced back as far as 1850.

Since then, it seems there’s a conspiracy at The Times to foist this dormant word into the American vernacular, to make “bloviate” the “jiggy” of 1999. A week after Mr. Rich’s defense, Maureen Dowd referred to “Senate bloviators.” Three days later, Mr. Rich referred to “Washington’s bloviator-in-chief, David Broder” and a month after that he mentioned “media bloviators.” Also in January writer Eric Schmitt quoted Sidney Blumenthal’s interrogator, Representative James E. Rogan saying, “We’ve had almost three weeks of lawyers bloviating about what the facts in the case are.” And now it seems that the word will live on, even in the post-Monica era: In an article about professional wrestling in the Arts and Leisure section of March 28, Jeff MacGregor wrote, “Bloviating about the collapse of the Asian economy just isn’t very sexy.”

In just the first three months of 1999, The Times has surpassed its “bloviate” usage for the entire 1980’s, according to a Nexis search. And back then it was used in highfalutin’ or archaic contexts like “Mr. Vidal … is fond of words like ‘bloviate,’ ‘mephitic’ and ‘riparian'”; “going about the country ‘bloviating,’ to use Warren Harding’s expression for waving one’s mouth around in front of the multitudes”; “nowhere, to use H.L. Mencken’s word, do they bloviate so relentlessly as in the Supreme Soviet.”

Mr. Rich, who is on leave writing a memoir that will not contain the word “bloviate,” said he’s delighted to have repopularized the word, at least among his colleagues. “I found it very useful, not so much because of its meaning, but because it has an onomatopoetic quality that emblematized all the hot air of the past year or so,” he said.

-Michael Colton

Toward a Sexier Street News