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Book Review: Headless Body in Topless Bar – The Best Headlines from America’s Favorite Newspaper by the New York Post staff

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After Barry Bonds hit his 756th home run, the headline in the New York Post was relatively restrained: "756: Bonds breaks home-run record."  Of course, the font they used for the headline was a little unusual

You either love America's most notorious tabloid newspaper, or you despise it.  I'd never recommend it as one's primary source of news, but whenever I visit New York City, the Post is my daily read.  Why would I read a newspaper so juvenile, tawdry, exploitative and biased?

To ask the question is to answer it — most American newspapers are hopelessly dull, but the New York Post is unrepentant about entertaining its readers.  That means a lot of lurid crime stories, exhaustive sports coverage and celebrity gossip — and consistently hilarious, attention-grabbing front-page headlines.

The paper's most infamous front pages are compiled in Headless Body in Topless Bar — the title of which adorned the first ever front page of the Post as we know it today.  (That notorious headline accurately described the story, the editors insist.) Nearly 200 made it into the book, including these classic groaners:

  • On the Jayson Blair scandal at the New York Times: "PAPER OF WRECKAGE"
  • After Newsweek retracted a story about Guantanamo Bay interrogators flushing a Koran down the toilet: "HOLY SHIITE" (accompanied, of course, by a photo of the magazine in the bowl)
  • On the Yankees losing on May 5: "STINKO DE MAYO"
  • The Donald's third marriage: "LADY IS A TRUMP"
  • The Secretary if Defense resigning: "RUMS FELLED"

You can hate the Post all you want, but admit it: front pages like these certainly got your attention, and may even have made you smile.

There's not much text in Headless Body in Topless Bar — short explanations of some of the more notorious headlines, and a brief history of the 207-year-old paper, with special emphasis on Abe Hirschfeld's tumultuous period as owner of the Post.  (Shortly after the developer — who later wound up in jail for conspiring to kill a business associate — took over the tabloid, the editors devoted an entire issue to savaging him.)

It might not be "America's Favorite Newspaper," but the Post has become an institution (Some would say its readers should be in an institution). In its own way, this book isn't just a compilation of funny headlines, but an alternative journalistic history of the past three decades.

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