All You

I didn't much enjoy my first trip to the Ellie Awards on Tuesday night. On the red carpet, Joan Rivers ambushed me about my retro-journo eveningwear (sweatpants by JC Penney, t-shirt by Hanes, spaghetti-sauce stain by Prego). Inside, the conversations were chillier than the beer, and nary a kosher hors d'oeuvre was to be had. It was like the junior prom, but balder.

Okay, fine. I wasn't invited (another uncanny junior-prom echo there). I spent Tuesday night at home watching Randy Johnson surrender his last modicum of pinstriped goodwill, then fell asleep with a bowl of Ben & Jerry's perched precariously on my ballooning gut.

Nonetheless, the reports from my "friends" who "attended" the "ceremony" suggest that it was both hoity and toity, that the usual NY magazine-world self-reverence was replaced by something eerily akin to onanistic fervor. So in keeping with my thoroughly inauthentic man-of-the-people shtick, for today's dispatch I chose a magazine that has zero chance of ever receiving a little Ellie love: All You, the Time Inc. title sold exclusively at Wal-Mart.

As a Northeastern city dweller, I'm supposed to regard Wal-Mart as some kind of union-smushing, handgun-crazed hobgoblin. And as a critic/intellectual snob/wingnut, I'm supposed to regard any publication catering to its shoppers as lowbrow, vapid and utterly unworthy of my consideration.

Yet All You strikes me as one of the extremely few magazines that ably tailors its content to the precise needs of its audience. The publication treats time- and cash-strapped moms to practical tips galore, avoiding the traps (celebrity chatter, handbags of all creeds and colors) that render most women's mags dense and unworkable. In passing along parenting advice, value-conscious fashion recommendations and a veritable smorgasbord of recipes, All You comes across as one of the few women's titles whose utility transcends the 12 minutes between when you enter the doctor's office and when your name is called.

I wouldn't describe All You as particularly smart. The publication sets the intellectual bar ankle-low, confining even its few features to topics likely to be embraced by all comers (short profiles of women investigators, Oprah-ish inspirational stories of women who beat back personal demons). That's the right choice, however: even if All You were to prompt my peers and I to affect a hayseed accent and drawl, "Der, them's red-state folks sure is stoooo-pids!"--which it doesn't--it wouldn't matter. Just about every nugget contained herein likely will strike readers as both useful and entertaining. That's probably why they publish the thing... well, that and flogging floor wax.

Anyway, the June 2 issue lays its cards on the table via the All You Pledge, in which the editors promise that each issue will contain, among other things, "fashion for real women's bodies" (check, in "Dress For Real Life") and "hair and beauty ideas you don't need three hands or a makeup artist to achieve" (check, in "Get Great Hair"). The mag's health section includes everything from sun-protection and anti-bloating tips to 10-minute workouts, while a glut of Q&As advise readers on dry-eye balms, stripteases and shoplifting teens.

Nary a word here isn't oriented towards self-improvement in some way, shape or form. The issue offers hints on how to coexist with a partner's annoying pals, organize a digital photo library, fix a flat tire and choose a swimsuit that fits your figure. For entertainment, All You taps an Entertainment Weekly scribe for a few quick TV and DVD picks, adds a Soduku puzzle and offers--but of course--a horoscope. FWIW, apparently my work ethic will be "amazing" this month, a prediction likely to be viewed with great amusement by my editors.

All You also provides its readers with plenty o' opportunities to share their experiences, whether through the "Know-It Alls" and "Reality Checked" blurbs that pop up here and there or random quotes. They don't exactly pass along must-have info-- Jenifer Miller from Ephrata, Pa. views her birthday as "a day all about me"; I view mine as a day to lament my losing battle with ear hair--but they reinforce the tone of inclusiveness that pervades the issue.

"Magazine Rack" was originally envisioned as a vehicle to relay impartial information about any number of publications to media planners and buyers. The idea, at least before I hijacked the space and rendered it irretrievably loopy, was that they'd be able to make more informed decisions with their clients' dollars after reading our sage, sober recaps.

In this vein, let me eschew my typical big-picture closing flourish and instead convey a recommendation: any product or brand or whatever that's targeting families oughta be in All You. Whether or not you buy into its unapologetic populism, it makes an awful lot of sense as an ad venue.

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