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Comments: March 3, 2008

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1. The Lindsay Lohan story in our Spring Fashion issue (“The Last Sitting,” February 25), in which photographer Bert Stern re-created Marilyn Monroe’s famous final photo shoot from 1962, lured so many viewers that nymag.com slowed to a crawl when it debuted. That day, the phrase “lindsay lohan new york magazine” registered as the second-most-popular search term on Google. By Friday, over 4 million viewers had logged on to nymag.com to view Stern’s story (and we’re happy to say they stuck around and wandered through the site, registering over 75 million page views in four days). The comments piled in. Many fans were happy to see their star rendered respectfully by a professional, as wrote Tampa on nymag .com: “Lindsay is a very beautiful and a very classy lady, and fit to portray Marilyn in this artistic endeavor by a great photographer … I would rather see her breasts in artistic photos like this than all the nippie slip paparazzi photos.” Others bet that this was a desperate ploy for attention, as much from us (to lure, well, enough attention to make our Website seriously groan) as from Lohan, garnering cheap intrigue during a dry spell in her career: “Career not going well? No problem, take off your clothes,” wrote Ken Heller. Some questioned, with varying levels of outrage, whether Lohan deserved the status of cultural icon that such a photo shoot assumed, if not created: “She is not an icon and she fails to capture even a ghost of the spirit of the photos she was re-creating,” wrote LJR of New Jersey; “Shame on you, New York Magazine … Lohan does not pay homage to Marilyn, she pays homage to herself,” reader ihavenicefeet posted on nymag .com. For some, an enduring loyalty to Monroe prevented much enjoyment: “ ‘The Last Sitting’ was like sleeping with a look-alike of an ex–true love. All of the hopeful unwrapping, but ultimately … disappointing,” wrote Dan Finley. A lot of readers lamented what they saw as Lohan’s inability to match the emotional complexity they admired in the original pictures. “I see no message, no beauty and no universal understanding in Lohan’s bit. I see a twentysomething woman who has been through rehab after a crazy life of drugs and alcohol but has still to experience an epiphany on life,” wrote Kristine Gutierrez. These sentiments were echoed by Ginia Bellafante, writing in the Times: “The photographs bear none of Monroe’s fragility … Monroe looked available in her Stern photos; Ms. Lohan looks available for sale.” Bellafante saw in the shoot an exploitation of Lohan’s recent behavior: “The pictures ask viewers to engage in a kind of mock necrophilia. They are sexual, funereal images … For the 10,000th time we are forced to ask: Lindsay, what were you thinking?” Many readers also played the game of who might be a more appropriate stand-in for Marilyn. “Was Johansson unavailable?” asked the blog FashAddiX; Natalie Portman, Maggie Gyllenhaal, and Charlize Theron were also suggested.

But finally, two powerful constituencies weighed in. First, fans of Stern’s work found the photos elegant and inspiring. “The styling and the photography and the presentation are, without question, worthy of New York’s sophisticated, arts-loving readership,” wrote ScottRose on nymag.com; his admiration was shared by reader LauraN, who wrote, “You successfully delivered a relevant topic in a creative fashion. The photos are stunning, tasteful, and in fact, they make Lindsay more endearing that she has ever appeared before. And thank you for being so provocative. Americans are terrified of boobs, while I think they are one of the most beautiful parts of the human body. Especially when portrayed in such an elegant manner.” Then there were Lohan’s fans, who were happy to consider the precarious position Lohan occupies between emerging, if troubled, star and lasting icon, a tension thoughtfully articulated by reader Rick Turnbow: “Ms. Lohan has put forth a daring pictorial that pays homage to an American icon. No one is proposing that Lindsay is on a caliber with Marilyn, but her courage has given tribute to something that was done years ago.” Ultimately, we were happy to hear from viewers who welcomed these as a rare moment of artful nudity in the mainstream press: The blog Defamer wrote, “This tastefully titillating homage to Marilyn Monroe’s ‘Last Sitting’ is poised to sit alongside Drew Barrymore’s role in Poison Ivy in the pantheon of greatest breast-baring comebacks of all-time,” a sentiment shared by Lohan’s own mother, Dina Lohan, who told People, “It was very tastefully done.” People took this sentiment a step further, declaring the shoot “likely her greatest role to date.”

2. Our fact-checking department is first-rate, but occasionally our readers have to keep us in line—this week, on the subjects of Long Island, Edward Albee, and Champagne. Joanne Novarro of Rockville Centre chides us for saying Long Beach is in Queens (“Roger & Him,” February 11). “Long Island isn’t a far-flung island, it’s in the city’s backyard,” wrote Novarro. “Your writers should get out and see the neighborhood once in a while.” Rita Oakes, who proudly identified herself as a reader since 1968, corrected a photo attribution in our 40th-anniversary “Strategist” (February 18): “Really enjoyed the 1968 section, brought back a lot of memories. But the picture shown under ‘Real Estate: Movers’ is of Edward Albee, but the designation implies it is Jerry Herman.” Meanwhile, the wine director at Balthazar, Chris Goodhart, wrote in to say that the Georges Gardet Champagne that we recommended buying for $29 a bottle is not the same as the one available for $12 a glass at his restaurant (“The Everything Guide to Belt-Tightening,” February 11). “The Champagne sold at Balthazar is made from Gardet’s special Premier Cru vineyards and was bottled exclusively for the restaurant on the occasion of our tenth anniversary. All Champagne houses make various bottlings that vary in quality and hence in price point, and this happens to be one such case.”

Please send e-mails to: comments@nymag.com


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