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Wednesday, May 03, 2006

TRUE CONFESSIONS: Tales of Woe with Happy Endings

My mission today is to journey where few men have gone before: deep into the pages of a recent issue of True Confessions, a legendary monthly that has chronicled the perilous lives of attractive young American women for generations. I'm pleased and relieved to report that they continue to find happiness in the end.

This morning I've been sitting in the newsstand with a copy of the April True Confessions discreetly tucked into an issue of Bear Hunting, and no one seems to have discovered my guilty secret.

Each issue of the magazine centers on a dozen six-page stories. While I can't say there's a formula to them, the young woman who tells the story always seems to find a stern-jawed, twinkly-eyed guy in the last couple of pages.

My favorite story in this issue, hands down, is "Lights, Camera, Action: My Oscar Dreams Turned Into a Hollywood Nightmare!" It has our heroine getting off the bus in Hollywood from her Kansas high school where, of course, she acted in the school play. A bit naive, she answers an ad in a movie trade paper and shows up for a screen test. Before she knows it, sleazy producer Vince has her in a porn film! In her own words, "It finally dawned on me that there was no way to deny the truth. I had lost my virginity on film!" But there's a quick and happy denouement: Her handsome and gentle co-star, Andre, is just as outraged at her fate and decks Vince. The happy pair go off to San Francisco, where Andre resumes his real career as a stand-up comic and she learns the biz as well. She also comes up with a fake ID that shows she's underage, and convinces Vince to burn the incendiary footage or face going to jail on a child-abuse charge.

Another story is curiously non-sex-oriented. A happy young wife is driving alone from rural Mississippi to her high-school reunion in Memphis. She makes the mistake of passing a pick-up truck on a two-lane highway. The road rage-prone hayseed in the truck makes the drive hell for her, and even calls a friend in his truck to join him in making her the filling in a high-speed sandwich. Amid all this bumping and braking, the woman makes it to a local police station. The cop listens to her story and says, "Sounds like the Chandler boys. Cousins you know. Like to scare pretty women. Don't mean any harm." She runs off in tears, but finally turns to the state highway patrol, which arrests the miscreants and put them in jail. This story is accompanied by a public-service box about how to deal with road rage.

This issue hit the newsstands in March. Curiously, a third of the stories have Irish themes, presumably to celebrate St. Patrick's Day. Either True Confessions has a large Irish-American audience or, as is the case with many magazines for women, the editorial department likes to give issues holiday themes.

One such story has the enticing title "Undercover Irish: Why I Couldn't Let Anyone Know My True Heritage." The lass who tells the story emigrated as a girl from Ireland to a small town in Utah (don't ask me why) and found that the Irish were too exotic for the locals to tolerate. So she hid her roots, even those in her Maureen O'Hara red hair, which she dyed blonde. But into her local bar on St. Patrick's Day walks an old childhood chum from Ireland, now grown into Adonis-like manhood, and she fears he will tell the world that she's Irish! The existence of a bar in Utah is pretty far-fetched, but on top of that our Irishman now works for the same company as she does, and they're both soon selected to run the new Chicago sales office. Naturally, in Chicago she's exposed to all races and creeds, including the Irish, and learns to properly
appreciate her heritage and her old chum.

This holiday theme business has me wondering how True Confessions celebrates other holidays. Labor Day: Have the cute assistant to the stern Donald Rumsfeld-like vice president for labor relations fall in love with the factory's brave and handsome strike leader. Halloween: The young widow taking her son trick or treating rings the bell of a sad-eyed (but handsome) young fellow who just lost his wife in a hit-and-run accident. Take Your Daughter to Work Day: Another young widow's daughter wanders off into the mail room, and the frantic mother searches for hours only to find her daughter being entertained by the jut-jawed but sweet mail room manager, who's very available…

Cynical people—the kind who think pro wrestling matches or reality television shows are scripted—probably suspect that the stories in True Confessions are written by cigar-chomping newspaper rewrite men during slow periods in the newsroom. I think such people underestimate the literary abilities of America's legion of beleaguered but ultimately triumphant young ladies.

An annual subscription to True Confessions (12 issues) is $19.94 from the publisher, Dorchester Media in New York City. We'll send you a sample copy for $2.59.


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