Wood War: 04.10.09

The New York Post: According to the Post, "Arthur Kelly, 45, said his wife, Ann — a flame-haired registered nurse — was carrying on an affair with 'one Bruce Springsteen, who resides in Rumson, New Jersey, and Colts Neck, New Jersey, at various times and places too numerous to mention.'" The quote is from papers filed by Mr. Kelly, a mortgage broker from Asbury Park, in Superior Court in Monmouth County on March 27. Inside the paper, display copy includes the photo caption "Flingsteen," and there are about as many puns on Springsteen song titles as can be crammed in to a short piece.

So what's the cover this morning? "BRUCE SLEPT WITH MY WIFE! Bombshell NJ divorce claim." Better is the teaser: "Apparently, Bruce Springsteen was doing more than just dancing in the dark. A heartbroken New Jersey husband claims in divorce papers that the married rock megastar was enjoying glory days with the man's wife." The picture makes the Boss look a bit like Bob Dylan after blowing a gift certificate at Just Shirts.

The pirate story is completely gone from the front page: Bruce takes up the whole thing, a bit in the style of the British tabloids. Of course, we've known there's trouble in the marriage between Mr. Springsteen and wife Patty Scialfa for some time now. And after all, he was still married to another woman when he first took up with Ms. Scialfa. But the appearance of his name in this other divorce suit did not prompt any outright denials from Mr. Springsteen, who is presently on tour with Ms. Scialfa. He says his marriage to Ms. Scialfa is intact and will remain so, but of course it is possible the affair took place and that it isn't standing in the way of the marriage to Ms. Scialfa, right?

Aside from the fact that this is a famous guy getting himself in trouble with a married woman, the headline actually gains from being taken from court papers filed by a nobody: after all, it could be your wife sleeping with The Boss, right?

Daily News: Of course, things have been moving on the Pirate story since yesterday morning. In fact, moving fast enough that it's possible the Daily News is already behind the mark, reporting under the headline "FIVE MEN IN A BOAT" that the captain of the ship overtaken by pirates was adrift with them as a hostage.

This morning on its Web site, the News is leading with a story about how Somali pirates are getting rich off the oil ships that navigate into the Gulf of Aden; it's not easy to find the story they're referring to with this front. And it seems like the big news now is the American destroyer in pursuit of the pirate boat.

Since this is a story people have been following on TV, isn't the News cover risking untimeliness? But the paper isn't depending solely on the pirate news to make hay this morning: across the top is a banner with the Springsteen story. "Prancin' in the dark: Boss called 'other man' in lawsuit." Prancin'? Prancin' in the dark? Why is this any more suggestive than "Dancing in the dark," the actual title of the Bruce Springsteen hit song? Is "prancin'" a word for having sex?

Bruce Springsteen has sold 65 million albums in the U.S. and won 19 Grammy awards. Surely there was a better pun in there somewhere.

General Observations: Bruce Springsteen is a natural cover subject for the tabloids. His New Jersey "heartland rock" routine is squarely aimed at the same audience the tabloids talk to every day, and to make things more interesting, the music and the man are sometimes at odds: increasingly identified with Democratic, not to say lefty, causes, Mr. Springsteen's politics are probably often problematic to the tabloid readership. And his personal life, while not more tumultuous than most rock-and-roll icons, has its share of dramatic turns. There was plenty to talk about today, so the Post's decision to give this story its entire front page isn't an obvious one. But it was probably the right one. The News took a risk going with the quickly-developing pirate story, and probably lost out. And the display for the Bruce story made it almost not worth its front-page placement.

Winner: The New York Post

Wood War: 04.10.09