From mags to riches: Quebec’s glossy gossips

Graham Fraser October 9 1978

From mags to riches: Quebec’s glossy gossips

Graham Fraser October 9 1978

From mags to riches: Quebec’s glossy gossips

Press

For years, Quebec’s pulp press has stretched along the bottom rack of the newsstands, racy tabloids that dwell on crime, or the lives of the stars of Quebec show business. With names like Allô Police, Echos’-Vedettes, and Gala des Artistes, they have thrived on gossip, sensationalism, and a shockedbut-fascinated dollop of sex. In the last two years, however, a new phenomenon has emerged and climbed a shelf or two up the newsstand rack: the glossy celebrity magazine. From one or two a few years ago, the market is now overflowing with slick new imitations of the American People magazine, but with a brasher, more cluttered layout.

Le Lundi, Montréal and Photopresse are weeklies, elle et lui, Madame, Le Mois, femme, and ensemble are monthlies—but all but Photopresse (which is only black and white) are virtually identical. Does Le Lundi have an interview with Carole Cromartie, the Québécoise wife of Expo outfielder Warren Cromartie? So does ensemble. Does femme have an article on a happily married victim of multiple sclerosis? Le Lundi has an article on a happily married double amputee.

The most successful of the new pop magazines has been the first, Le Lundi. It is a personal triumph for its 33-yearold publisher, Claude Charron, who launched it two years ago on borrowed money and says he recently turned down an offer of $3.7 million as circulation climbed to a newsstand sale of 126,880, at $1 a copy.

“Basically, we’re the People magazine of Quebec,” says Charron, who cheerfully admits he stole the People logo style. “But People is much colder than we are.” It would be difficult to be much hotter with John Travolta, Andy Gibb, Ali MacGraw, Elvis and Farrah Fawcett all crammed on one cover, already spotted with little flashes shouting “5 free posters” and “Cancer at 4L”

“We try to stress Quebec values,” says Charron, leafing pages. “Here’s a piece on someone with a degree who is unemployed. Isn’t that typical in Quebec now? And here’s a piece on a wonderful mechanic I met with no legs. I think that’s a kind of moral education: saying ‘you think you’ve got problems? Here’s a guy with no legs, and he’s happy.’ ”

“And here’s a fantastic piece: Little Beaver, the midget wrestler. ‘When I was 10, I was raped by a homosexual alcoholic.’ Great reading.”

Closing the magazine, he looks up. “I’m a satisfied reader.”

While newsstand sales show he is clearly not alone, the methods his two magazines, elle et lui and Le Lundi, have used to satisfy their readers have

been questioned. Last winter, the Radio-Canada consumer program, “Consommateurs Avertis” documented case after case of photographs lifted from other magazines without permission and stories on stars that were made up from whole cloth. Jean Duceppe, a wellknown Quebec actor, told how an “interview” appeared about him without his giving an interview at all. “They just invented it,” he said.

Mario Fontaine, a journalist who did his doctoral thesis on the gossip press in Quebec, says there is no other country in the world in which it plays such an important role. Why? According to sociologist Marcel Rioux, the tightly knit quality of Quebec society has meant that gossip has always been important, and that Québécois stars have flourished in the intensity of the communal feeling.

The publishers and editors of the new magazines have come directly from the world of the tabloids. Pierre Péladeau, the king of the Quebec tabloids (he publishes about a dozen) also produces the glossy Montréal. Gilles Brown, a popular crooner who publishes half a dozen other tabs, has just launched ensemble.

But the most successful veteran of the tabloids—and the smuggest—is Claude Charron. In 1974, after 10 years with Péladeau, Charron was fired. Two years later he launched Le Lundi, and earlier this year watched Péladeau come out with Montréal, a less successful imitation which has been changing editors and groping for an identity. Charron hasn’t seen his old boss since Péladeau fired him. “I’m looking forward to it,” he says, and smiles. Graham Fraser