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Rock Rebel Offers a Staid Outlook

Times Staff Writer

The Stones and the Who do warm-up appearances of sorts, but it’s Axl Rose, the new bad boy of hard rock who made the cover of the Aug. 10 issue of Rolling Stone. This passing of the mantle to the next generation of self-styled degenerate is a smooth one. Like the Who, Rose has a penchant for smashing up rooms; like some of the Stones, he has done his dance with illegal drugs.

Presumably Rose’s outcast, rebel image played some part in selling more than 12 million copies of Guns N’ Roses debut “Appetite for Destruction” album. But in this enlightening interview, Rose offers views that would have sounded downright Establishmentarian in the days of “My Generation.”

“I’m like the president of a company that’s worth between $125 million and a quarter-billion dollars,” he figures, at one point. Elsewhere, he says that his advice to kids is: “Take business classes, whatever else you do.”

Is it also indicative of the era that Roses’ racist and homophobic slurs have become tolerable? His explanations of lyrics that are presumably offensive to most blacks and gays make him sound absurdly naive at best and ignorant and bigoted at worst.

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The same issue reports that the black Rap band Public Enemy disbanded because of backlash after the group’s glorified public relations man was quoted in an interview as saying that Jews are “wicked.”

The issue also offers “Milken, Junk Bonds and Raping Redwoods,” a provocative primer on what can happen when an environment and modern economics collide. Columnist Bill McKibben’s conclusion: “Because Michael Milken invented the junk bond, twice as many trees are crashing to the ground in Humboldt County.”

The High Costs of Fame

Socialites with aspirations to making the fashion industry’s notorious best-dressed list will find the August Connoisseur magazine de rigeur.

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Although the article, “An Insider’s Guide to the Best Dressed List” merits consideration for a “worst written” list, it does convey the relevant information. For instance, “of the 99 women in the Best Dressed Hall of Fame, 33 are said fully to deserve it; the rest owe their position to politics, business, or friendship.”

More interesting is what the article has to say about the high price of haute couture. The basic wardrobe for the season, with requisite jewelry and accessories, will run about $1,338,810. But dressing well is hardly enough. “You must in addition consider hair, makeup, plastic surgery, dry cleaning, insurance, tickets to balls, the opera, the symphony, the ballet, hefty contributions to these and other charities, limos, luggage, sporting outfits and much more.”

Amazon Adventures

August’s Outside magazine, the slick journal for yuppie adventurers, literate nature lovers and gravity sport devotees, presents a complex perspective on the burning issue of deforestation.

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“The Gringo Chief” by Joseph Hooper profiles Randy Borman, a 33-year-old white American who has been elected president and is seen as a de facto chief by a tribe of Cofan Indians in rural Ecuador. The son of missionaries, Borman was raised in the Cofan village, married a village woman and calls the Amazonian jungle his home.

But in an effort to save the people of his village, he is taking an approach that some armchair environmentalists may find uncomfortably pragmatic. As the forces of destruction crowd in around the village, he has brought a small sawmill to the village and encouraged tourism.

“I call it realism,” he says. “Trying to keep the Indians in stasis as some kind of pristine showcase denies them their dignity. . . . Right now, where the Cofan are, where they are going, is determined by the West. I want to see the Cofan capable of deciding where they go, how much to have. We are resisting becoming cogs in the machine.”

Oddly, the same issue of the health- and fitness-oriented magazine features a column on a race called the Camel Trophy, an event through the Amazon rain forest that apparently exists solely as a marketing tool for the RJ Reynolds tobacco company.

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Outside’s reporter dutifully noted the advertising angle--"RJR dropped millions to promote and mount this year’s event and a bundle more to airlift more than 200 journalists to the Amazon, all expenses paid"--and that the tobacco company refused to allow “Save the Amazon” bumper stickers on the 22 Land Rovers competing.

But he also allowed a Camel propagandist to voice such insights as: “The brand is targeted at the young adult smoker, the full-flavored segment of the market. Generally, that group tends to be adventurous and drawn to masculine activities with an element of excitement.”

That dubious connection was then bolstered by a muy macho text and no fewer than a half dozen mentions of the cigarette brand, including a photo caption that read, “the Camel smoker, master of his environment.”

“I saw it as a piece that looked at the spectacle straightforwardly, and in all its unappealing reality,” said John Rasmus, editor of the Chicago-based monthly. “I think our readers are sophisticated enough to read a story like that and understand the degree to which a cigarette company manipulates situations in order to sell cigarettes.”

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