Commentary

Elle

November Elle presents itself as ''The Women in Hollywood Issue."

And it occurs to me that the power gals in L.A. need a special issue of Elle devoted to them about as much as Jessica Seinfeld's cookbook needs another plug. (By the way, won't toddlers who grow up with their brownies spiked with spinach grow up with an affinity in their later years for the kind of brownies that come with stronger roots -- like seeds and stems? All I'm saying is that apparently no one has considered the possibility that Mrs. Moneybags is pushing a gateway brownie.)

Be that as it may, happening fashion magazine in general love this device, as an easy way of putting together a roundtable discussion of powerhouse women, at least one of whom is usually funny -- and then get a couple of good editorial pages out of it. It also paves the way for photo spreads of ''young Hollywood,'' which then allows for a cover girl like Scarlett Johansson. Since we had no idea she could look so glamorous, it's thought to be a win-win. Here's my problem with discussing the problems of being a woman in Hollywood  -- if, indeed, women in Hollywood have it so tough, how bad is it for the women who are not in Hollywood?

And it also allows for this weird parallel universe of reverse bragging from fashion intellectuals. Perhaps the most annoying profile is of Amanda Goldberg, a 33-year-old Hollywood producer "who is finishing her first novel.'' She says, ''I think it's super important to dress up,'' noting that she spends her days in ''light feminine dresses and cozy cardigans like her Yves Saint Laurent favorite.''

How does Goldberg have this insanely expensive wardrobe? Later we read that she and her writing partner, Ruthanna Hopper, both have fathers who are  "film industry legends."

Great. As if I didn't hate L.A. enough already.

Then there's a really annoying and over-the-top piece on yet another stylist to the stars, For her own wardrobe, Andrea Lieberman explains,  "I love the fact that I was wearing my blue Marni cardigan at a Cartier party with these really sharp cigarette pants and heels, and the following week I was wearing it in Morocco to keep warm on a trek through the Atlas Mountains." Oh, I feel better now. By the time Andrea is quoted talking about her ''style icons, Frida Kahlo and Anita Ekberg,'' I thought it had devolved into a parody piece.

Still, the magazine tells us, it's ''time to turn the clock back (yes) and summon all your screen siren elegance.''(Maybe not.)

There are several graphically amusing pages comparing old sirens with new ones. One chart compares Liz Taylor (eight engagement rings) to J. Lo (dwarfed with a mere four.) Then again, Liz wed Richard Burton, who played Marc Anthony, yes, but J.Lo married Marc Anthony. So there!

Then again, some of the details are more infuriating than funny. The page comparing Grace Kelly to Gwynyth Paltrow sports a ''Prada crocodile hatbox'' for $5,840 -- which I hope stretches the budget of even-the-most insane fashionista. Isn't there a better way to spend that money? If nothing else, think of all the poor celebrities in Malibu who need help clearing the rubble from the house fires!

Usually, there are several smart pieces to read in Elle, but this month, pretty much the only thing that fills that bill is a page of reader reviews of fiction, which is excellent.

The Elle ''beauty investigation'' asks ''What is the most essential qualification for female TV anchors?'' That's a great subject, but the piece gets bogged down in blah-blah from various ''image strategists'' whose words serve only to pad the obvious. Yeah, TV likes blondes, they say, and now, with HDTV, that might mean execs will have to hire younger people. (Guess this edict will never come to "60 Minutes.") Another strategist says ''certain choices, such as too suggestive clothing, can erode that crediblity right away." You don't say! That thinking comes out of ''communications research.''  Then another consultant says that Greta Van Susteren let her down by getting an eye job. Oh, come on! She's had so much less done than your average twinkie that it's not even worth discussing. (For a much more entertaining take on the same subject, go to the Radar website, and click on the feature "Fox News anchor, or porn star?'' They really are hard to tell apart, but if you want to do well on the quiz, just pick the one with less makeup as the porn star. You'll be right every time.)

Holly Millea writes about losing her "plastic surgery virginity,'' but that's not exactly right, as she had fat sucked out of her thighs and then moved into her nasal labial folds.(That sounds dirty,but they're the lines running from nose to mouth.)

She makes a big deal about her pear shape, and then writes "the only things coming between me and a size 6 are my saddlebags'' -- which in this fashion universe does make you an outcast, I guess. ''For the first 24 hours, I'm in bed discharging fluids from the holes in my body,'' she says. Apparently, the worst part is the swelling to her face. (From putting the fat back in there.) Her one piece of  advice: '' Don't rely on luck before you suck,'' which is well put, if a bit obvious.

Then we get to our power woman roundtable, and writer/director Nora Ephron says, "Every so often when I speak at a film school I'm at a table like this -- but with a group of almost entirely timid women. I ask them what they want to do, and they timidly tell me they want to be directors. The one thing I know is that if you want to direct a movie, you have to be possessed," later adding, ''you have to be insane... and out of your mind for the second or third or fourth [movie]. And it doesn't get any easier for anybody but Steven Spielberg.''

Agreed, Nora. Also, according to Callie Khouri (of "Thelma and Louise" fame), ''It's really weird out there right now.'' Which could be true for any industry in turmoil these days, especially publishing.

There's a decent interview with Ellen DeGeneres by the writer Patti Marx, although, here again, it's not Elle's best. There's a problem, timing-wise, as the interview starts with this unfortunate statement: ''If you have any say in your reincarnation, come back as Ellen's pet, she advises.''

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