John Leland

Stories by John Leland

  • 'My White Father'

    The thing about Kobe Bryant, says the rapper Snoop Dogg, is that he likes to jaw. The two had recently matched up in a pickup game, the rap star/wanna-be baller vs. the baller/wanna-be rap star, in a showdown that says everything about the synergies of Afrocelebrity in the year 2000. "Kobe got game," Snoop said. "I got game myself, so I took it to him a few times. He talks more trash." Sharing airtime with Laker regulars like Jack Nicholson and Denzel Washington, the rapper has become part of L.A.'s new nexus of sport and celebrity. When the Lakers defeated Portland to advance to the finals, Snoop led a deep entourage through the locker room, chanting "West side [ballers] for life!" until they were escorted out. "I really love these hip-hop Lakers," he said, referring to young stars like Bryant, 21, and Shaquille O'Neal, 28. "Now with Phil [coach Phil Jackson], it's on like Donkey Kong."For the last three seasons, the very talented young knights of the Los Angeles Lakers have...
  • The Science Of Women & Sex

    Inspired By Viagra, Researchers Are Rushing To Unlock The Mysteries Of Female Desire. The Answers Are Turning Out To Be Much More Complex Than Anyone Expected
  • Searching For A Holy Spirit

    Rob Rienow, a pastor at Wheaton Bible Church outside Chicago, tells a story to describe the beliefs of the teenagers he sees. Rienow, 28, has been ministering to adolescents in the area for six years. He recently asked a group of kids from troubled homes the question, Who do you think God is? Their answers were as individual as the kids themselves. One thought God was like his grandfather: "He's there, but I never see him." Another took a harder view, describing "an evil being who wants to punish me all the time." Two more opinions followed. Finally, the last teen weighed in: "I think you're all right, because that's what you really believe." In other words, as Rienow relates it, God is whatever works for you. On this, all of the youths agreed.The unsung story of today's teenagers may be how religious or spiritual they are. "We're witnessing a new revival of religion," says Conrad Cherry, director of the Center for Study of Religion and American Culture at Indiana University/Purdue...
  • Sofas And Sensibility

    It is a truth universally acknowledged, or so wrote Jane Austen, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife. Maybe so, maybe no, but these days our man (or woman) will also want some nifty home furnishings. In this matter, the modern equivalent of Austen's status strivers may ply some truths not found in her work. For starters: that nothing goes with a Basic Sectional Sofa with Cranberry Twill Slipcovers quite like a Franklin Console. Fortunately, for such domestic doctrine, we have Pottery Barn, where these very items have been milled to a degree of taste and accessibility unknown to the furniture stores of 1813. Yet as the Barn spreads its taupe authority to 116 stores, and 8 million catalogs monthly, other questions arise. To wit: what to do when your dinner host displays the same unique-looking Mica Torchiere you just bought? As the acronymic bracelets ask, What Would Jane Do?To a small but well-heeled cadre of furniscenti, there is but one...
  • Elian's Cuba

    At the Marcelo Salado primary school in Cárdenas, Cuba, the teacher addresses herself each morning to an empty seat. "Elián González," says Yamilín Morales Delgado during the roll call of her first-grade class. And as he has for the last four months, the boy who shares Elián's desk answers, "Presente." In its new coat of paint, the school has become a shrine to the 6-year-old who isn't here. Like their peers around the country, students wear Elián T shirts with their uniform red pants or skirts, and every morning the principal relays the latest news about their missing classmate. A photograph of Elián adorns one wall.The tributes evoke a stable island order under attack from without. But they also bear the contradictory signs of a different Cuba, one reshaping itself uncomfortably from within. In the photograph, the uniformed Elián sports a pair of Nike sneakers, a status symbol that can be bought in Cuba, but only with American dollars. Beneath the dueling ideological stereotypes...
  • Shades Of Gay

    With Aids No Longer An All-Consuming Crisis, The Battle For Tolerance Has Moved To Schools, Churches, Offices And The Frontiers Of Family Life.
  • Why America's Hooked On Wrestling

    It May Look Like A Cartoon Spectacle, But The Wwf Is Serious Business. And Business Is Good. How Vince Mcmahon, The Man Behind The Muscle, Created A National Obsession.
  • How The Future Looked In 1899

    Looking back on the events of the 20th century, the economist John Bates Clark could scarcely count his blessings. War and poverty had been eliminated, of course. Electricity and aerial navigation had transformed the daily grind into a cornucopia of earthly delights. What once were slums were now "abodes of happiness and health," enlivened with parks and playgrounds many stories in height. Things were moving on up. Admittedly, there'd been a few iffy patches, like when the state of Saskatchewan, fired up by some hot-blooded New Zealanders, tried to draw the continent down the path of communism. But in all, as Clark saw it, the century had been a nearly pothole-free expressway of progress, which saw "Society take its present shape from one that was as far below it as a tree-climbing ape is inferior to a cultured man."Such a vision! Here was a reckoning of the 20th century as it could be seen only from--well, from 1902, when The Atlantic Monthly published Clark's mock retrospective of...
  • Scramble For The Bacon

    In his Manhattan office last week, amid a sprawl of golf memorabilia and teddy bears, Bryant Gumbel reclined to ponder a hypothetical. If he were a guest on his new morning program, "The Early Show," what question would he ask himself? Gumbel, who takes deserved pride in his chops as an interviewer, laughed. "I say this tongue firmly planted in cheek," he said. "I'd say, 'Gee, you strike me as an affable, fun-loving, easygoing, friendly guy. How come I read these things about you?' " And how would Gumbel the guest answer? "I'd have to say, 'You know what? You gotta ask those people writing'.'' ...
  • Millennium Madness

    For most of the 1990s, the man who called himself only Elijah was one of Jerusalem's lesser curiosities, an American who claimed to be the Biblical prophet. He called himself a witness from the Book of Revelation, predicting that 2000 would usher in the end of the world. Then in the last year he attracted a small following from among the thousands of Christians, many of them American, who have lately flocked to the city to be on hand for the prophesied return of Christ. For Israeli authorities, Elijah was no longer a harmless eccentric. In this most tense of nations, which expects 3 million visitors during the millennial year, officials fear that some may try to hasten the Second Coming by sparking a violent conflict. Elijah was asked to leave the country. "We don't expect masses of cults coming over," says an Israeli police officer who declined to be identified. "The majority will be innocent pilgrims. But we have to be prepared."For millions of Americans the prophecies found in...
  • Heavy Meddling

    If you were worried about the safety of Metabolife 356, perhaps you'd do what Flora Hickman did: you'd call the authoritative-looking 800 number printed on the bottom of each bottle. Hickman, 38, of Los Angeles, started taking the herbal supplement earlier this year, and after a shaky start--"the first three days I was a little jittery, like I had too much coffee"--she was doing swimmingly: 15 pounds gone in just three months. Then six months ago she saw a cautionary TV report questioning the safety of Metabolife. The news program was enough to give Hickman pause. Dialing the health-information number on the bottle, she reached one of 11 full-time health-care practitioners hired by Metabolife to field such calls. "They told me that the levels [of the herbal stimulant ephedra] are so low it's not enough to get alarmed about." Her fears were assuaged. She continued on the supplement, and recently became a distributor. For the makers of Metabolife, one battle won.The five-year-old...
  • The Night Without End

    In her new book, "Night Falls Fast: Understanding Suicide," Kay Redfield Jamison lists the measures desperate souls have taken to end their lives. "The suicidal," she writes, "have jumped into volcanoes; starved themselves to death; thrust rumps of turkeys down their throats; swallowed dynamite, hot coals, underwear, or bed clothing; strangled themselves with their own hair; used electric drills to bore holes into their brains..."--well, you get the idea. Throughout history and across cultures, few impulses have been as persistent and resourceful as the drive toward self-annihilation. Jamison, a clinical psychologist, has spent much of her adult life trying to treat this impulse. But her interest, as she writes, is not purely clinical. At the age of 28, during a severe bout with manic-depressive illness, she swallowed an overdose of her medication, lithium, along with an anti-emetic to help her keep the lethal dose down. She was saved only by a devoted colleague.Twenty-five years...
  • More Buck For The Bang

    When she started her Web site two years ago, Jenteal thought it would just be a hobby. A self-described "total nerd" in high school, she taught herself PhotoShop and put together a site with her fiance, Chris. Then, like legions of other Internet entrepreneurs, Jenteal, 23, found herself in deep. "I gave up all personal time," she says. "I'm at the office at least 10 hours a day, and even when I'm home I'm on my laptop." It is just midmorning on the U.S. West Coast, and Jenteal is still groggy from dancing the previous night at a club called Bob's Classy Lady. Later she'll perform a live masturbation scene on her Webcam, or maybe do an explicit online chat. She sees it as building her future. "If in the next year I'm making $50,000 a month from the Web site," she says, "I'll cut way back on [making] movies and dancing. This is going to carry me past my porn career."In the late 1970s a new technology--cheap, easy, universally accessible--changed the porn business forever. As the...
  • A Lower Body Count

    The entertainment industry loves to say it influences people. Television and radio stations promise advertisers that they can shape consumer preferences in shampoo or soft drinks. Stars use their celebrity to publicize causes like AIDS research or famine relief. But when it comes to the influence of violence in some movies, television, music and videogames on behavior, the same people get prickly. In the wake of recent atrocities, the industry has turned typically defensive. Sumner Redstone, chairman of Viacom International Inc., raised the battle cry at a conference of cable-TV professionals in June. "I'm outraged by a lot of what we hear blaming the media for what's going on," he argued. "I don't think we have anything to be ashamed of."Now some entertainers and executives--most of whom would speak only anonymously--say this armor is starting to come down. In private, they are willing to talk about an evolving sense of responsibility. "I am more sensitive than a year ago because...
  • 1999-08-16-blair-witch

    The Blair Witch Cult

    Two young filmmakers have set the summer—and the box office—on fire with a creepy tale audiences love or hate. The making, and marketing, of a stealth smash.
  • A Wall Of Black Water

    From the picturesque Swiss town of Interlaken, the craggy thrust of Jungfrau peak looms almost 12,000 feet overhead. Around 4 p.m. on Tuesday, July 27, Heinz Loosli looked up toward the peak at a formation of clouds gathering. For Loosli, 36, this was a bad sign. His company, Alpin Raft, one of a handful of adventure-sports outfits that have made this Alpine hamlet a mecca for adrenaline junkies, had contracted to take a group of young travelers into nearby Saxeten River Gorge, a steep, narrow canyon just south of the town. The ravine is one of the world's most popular sites for "canyoning" (canyoneering is the American term), the new high-risk, high-thrill sport that combines rock climbing, hiking and white-water river running. As he saw the clouds forming, Loosli considered the odds. In a gorge that narrow, any flash storm could be a disaster. He canceled the trip.At about 4:30 p.m., eight guides employed by Adventure World, a rival outfit, led a group of 45 travelers, dressed in...
  • Generation N

    El Conquistador, in the trendy Silverlake section of Los Angeles, is a hard place to find, set off from the street by a doorway of hanging straw. But once you're inside, the Mexican food is authentic and excellent. Over shrimp tacos and albondigas, a traditional meatball soup, Olivia Armas and her husband, Rod Hernandez, begin an affectionate round of teasing. Olivia, 29, is the daughter of Mexican immigrants; Rod's family came to Los Angeles from Mexico two generations ago. From the time they met as undergraduates at UCLA, she has ribbed him about his shaky command of Spanish. "I didn't know what to make of him," she says. "I thought, 'Oh my God, he's a wanna-be Chicano who can't speak Spanish'." Now, as Rod, 31, gropes for the Spanish word for haircut, Olivia rolls her eyes. He returns the dig. Olivia's family's idea of cuisine, he says with a laugh, includes cow innards, organs--"parts of the animal that I had never seen before. I have to beg her to not make me eat that stuff. I...
  • Lovin’ La Vida Loca

    They looked so good, Jennifer Lopez and Ricky Martin, as only the truly beautiful can, and even then only by the genius of the hairdressers to the truly beautiful. Skintight, designer suedes and leathers gave way to lacy nothings and tighter leathers. A hand crept here, a hip dipped there. But even so, all was not right in the Manhattan photo studio. With each progressively slinkier outfit, Lopez stopped for a reaction from Sean (Puffy) Combs, who was along to offer support and direction. Lopez describes the rap impresario as just a friend. Now he demonstrated the range of his friendship. The earpiece from his mobile phone dangling from one ear, he approached Lopez, silently, palm extended. Everything froze. The actress parted her perfectly glossed lips and deposited her chewing gum in his hand. Jennifer and Ricky were now ready for their close-up.Ricky Martin and Jennifer Lopez--does it get any hotter than this? His new album, "Ricky Martin,'' his first in English, debuts this week...
  • They've Got Next

    In a west Hollywood photo studio, Don Cheadle interrupts lunch to play a little show and tell. Cheadle, 34, is the sinuous actor whose supporting performances lit up "Out of Sight" and "Devil in a Blue Dress." Around him, casually networking, are three of his most promising peers: Omar Epps, Mekhi Phifer and Hill Harper. Without warning, Cheadle whips out his Golden Globe award, which he earned for his portrayal of Sammy Davis Jr. in HBO's "The Rat Pack." The others stop eating, awed. Actually, it isn't even the trophy, just a gold sticker with his name on it. "They don't give you the s--- when you win," Cheadle riffs. "They take away the one you see on TV and give you this sticker to stick on the real one when it comes." But as Cheadle laughs, the others handle the artifact with reverence. "Man, you're really coming up," says Epps, now costarring in the ill-conceived "Mod Squad." After the year black Hollywood just went through, any recognition is precious.Chris Rock summed up the...
  • Bad News In The Bedroom

    WAS IT BAD FOR YOU, TOO? THE Journal of the American Medical Association reported last week that 43 percent of American women and 31 percent of men experience problems in the bedroom. ""The stunning thing,'' says lead author Edward O. Laumann, ""is that everyone is at risk of sexual dysfunction, sooner or later. It's a myth that young, healthy people aren't going to have sexual problems.'' ...
  • To Have And To Hold

    WHEN HE REGAINED consciousness last Monday, Jan. 25, Matthew Scott had the uncanny sensation that he had been there before. He was in a busy operating room, the staff swirling around him, his left arm swathed in a pile of white bandages. ""I flashed back to when I lost my hand 13 years ago,'' Scott, 37, told NEWSWEEK. It was all so familiar: ""the feeling of coming out of anesthesia, the odd feeling of discomfort in my arm, the "Oh, Matt, are you OK?' questions.'' But when he woke up this time, he knew things were profoundly different. As he described the experience during an exclusive interview in his room at Jewish Hospital in Louisville, Ky., last Thursday, the tips of five fingers, barely visible, protruded from the billow of gauze. ""I wasn't injured and with a loss,'' he said. ""I was gifted and something was replaced.'' ...
  • Mj's Court

    There are rituals that shape the life of Michael Jordan. At the end of the 1998 NBA playoffs, as he has for the last 13 years, he went to the North Carolina basketball camp run by his old school friend, Fred Whitfield. This is Jordan's country, a morning's drive from the town of Wilmington where he grew up, or the cemetery where his father, James Jordan, was buried in 1993, the victim of a roadside homicide. Here, Jordan falls back into a tight group of old friends, black men he has known for most of his 35 years--a ""sacred inner circle,'' says Whitfield, ""that we don't let many people in.'' Jordan calls them all by their initials. They call him MJ, Jumper or Black Cat. He's the last to leave a card game, the scariest driver, the worst fiend for honey buns and grape soda. The night before the camp's celebrity tournament, Jordan did his usual stand-up comedy routine at a local pasta joint, trading corny jokes with Fred Glover, an insurance adjuster and charter member of the group. ...
  • Cruising For A Bruising

    SKATING A LAP ON THE BANKED oval track, Heather (The Gun) Gunnin confides a trade secret. ""There's cameras all around,'' she says, ""so you have to stay in character the whole time.'' We are in a 22,000-square-foot sound stage at Universal Studios in Orlando, Fla., where Gunnin works her trade, dressed in clingy black Lycra and in-line skates. ""In character,'' she says, tossing a playful elbow at her interviewer, ""I'm like the Antichrist.'' Her teammate Brian Gamble skates up from behind. The two have arrived here from different quarters--she from speed skating, he from martial arts and ""American Gladiators Live''--but right now they are converging quite neatly on one rolling NEWSWEEK reporter. Gamble assesses the possibilities. ""Let's tune him up,'' he says.The language may be new, but that tossed elbow and ersatz menace can mean only one thing: Roller Derby is back. Immortalized in song by Jim Croce, and by Raquel Welch in the film ""Kansas City Bomber,'' Roller Derby all but...
  • From A Rapper To A Gym Rat Miller Master P

    GROWING UP IN NEW ORLEANS'S Calliope housing projects, Percy Miller learned some hard life lessons. But in a smallish basketball arena in Fort Wayne, Ind., recently, there were more to learn. Ira Bowman, who plays guard for the Connecticut Pride, isolated Miller on the left side, then spun past him to the baseline: easy layup. Miller, best known as the rapper and impresario Master P, earned $56.5 million in 1998, according to Forbes. But here, he's just another $1,000-a-week backup guard for the Fort Wayne Fury of the Continental Basketball Association, getting an education. Bowman isolated him again, faked to the baseline, then cut to the basket: two more points.While the NBA sleeps, Master P, 29, is pursuing his hoop dreams. A high-school basketball star, he blew out his knee at the University of Houston before his freshman season. Thirteen years later, Miller has built a little Bay Area record store called No Limit into a $200 million empire of hip-hop music, film, video and...
  • It's Not Easy Having Green

    THE SUB-ZERO REFRIGERATOR, AS anyone who has ever coveted one can tell you, is a thing of beauty: chillingly elegant, an object of erotic fascination that also keeps the peas frozen. With a price tag topping three grand, it was also an unbeatably hot little status number. Unbeatable, that is, until this year. In kitchens of distinction the fridge of choice has now become the Traulsen, a hulking industrial model with glass doors. It makes a racket and uses too much power for many residential wiring plans, but you can watch your asparagus wilt before your eyes. And as an added bonus, you can lay out twice what the parvenus next door spent on their piddling Sub-Zero. While Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan continued his heroic measures in 1997 to prevent inflation, the cost of a thermally correct kitchen went up by about $3,000. And that's just for the refrigerator. About the stove, you don't want to know. ...
  • Deepak's Instant Karma

    IF A BEARER OF TRUE enlightenment arrived among us, what would he leave on your voice mail? Perhaps something like this: ""Listen, this is Deepak. I just had a funny feeling that there was a karmic connection somewhere when I saw you. . .I send you lots of energy, love and the spontaneous fulfillment of your desires in the field of infinite possibilities.'' Or like this: ""This is Deepak, calling from the unified field ... I want to tell you about my experience with space. I've developed a very intimate relationship with space, and it's a great relationship ...'' Or, if you had enough room on your machine, like the former CEO of his company, Infinite Possibilities International, he might improvise whole book chapters from remote hotels--enlightenment on the fly, inscribed onto the ones and zeros of a modern digital answering device. You pick up the phone, and in the realm of infinite possibilities, you don't know where or when you're going to get off.Right now, though, the Bearer of...
  • Echoes Of Little Rock

    MINNIJEAN BROWN TRICKEY LIGHTS UP JUST TO think back on it, the corners of her broad face--the eyes, the mouth that can screw down with anger--opening now as if in bloom at the memory: the Dunbar Community Center, right here in Little Rock, where Minnijean once sang ""Love Is Strange'' with a house band called The Thrillers. Oh, The Thrillers! It must have been ... well, everybody here knows exactly how long ago it was, it was 40 years. They remember, and they warm to the memory, a soft spot from a hard year. This afternoon is just the second time they have all nine been together in all those years, and there is a lot they have never told: to each other, to their friends, even to their children. Here in the Excelsior Hotel lobby, they are unassuming--a teacher, a real-estate broker, apsychologist and so on, ordinary citizens grown up from ordinary kids. But for nine months in 1957 and 1958, as the governor of Arkansas fulminated and a mob raged, these nine black teenagers--""We were...
  • 'Don't Show Weakness'

    DR. ALVIN POUSSAINT remembers clearly a visit to the housing projects of Boston in the late 1960s. A public-health nurse had directed him to a woman in need of help. When he identified himself as a psychiatrist, says Poussaint, who is black, the woman refused to open her door. ""She told me there were two individuals who could have her locked up. One was the police. And one was the psychiatrist.'' The experience taught him a lesson about the power relationship between his profession and the black community. ""I realized that in poor black communities, the psychiatrist was seen as someone who had the power to say you were crazy, to have you committed'' - or to take your children away. ...
  • The Tastemaker

    THERE IS NO HANDSOME CHROME Dualit toaster in Chuck Williams's San Francisco kitchen, no elegantly functional KitchenAid mixer. The Dualit, as devotees of the Williams-Sonoma catalogs might know, is the preferred toaster at Buckingham Palace ($359); the KitchenAid boasts of ""unique planetary action'' ($289). But here in the airy, white-on-white apartment of the retailer's eponymous founder, these domestic fetish items are conspicuous only in their absence: no All-Clad anodized aluminum LTD Braiser ($169), no hand-finished Atelier napkins from a small workshop outside Florence ($18 for four). Instead, there are spectacularly expensive- looking frog and dog tchotchkes and standard-issue GE appliances, the sort you might find in Donna Reed's home. This is the kitchen that launched a thousand Viking stoves ($5,730)? ""I just don't cook that much anymore,'' Williams explains with typical lack of fuss. ""I don't need one.'' ...
  • Rebirth Of The Cool

    It took Cora Spearman more than three weeks before she braved the Lit X stage, but now here she is, all Saturday-night nerves and hip-hop bravado. It is still early evening in Chicago's funky Wicker Park neighborhood, and the club - the dimly lit basement of an African-American bookstore - is packed with twentysomething hip-hoppers in baggy jeans and African accessories, puffing cigars or joints beneath Bob Marley posters and paintings by black artists. Cora is 19, a sophomore at Antioch College; she wandered into the poetry nights at Lit X for the vibe: part rap jam, part group-therapy session. "Hip-hop now has so many negative images," she says, "that there was nowhere else to go but positive." Under a cloud of incense, she takes the stage, her short perm just starting to grow out. Some of the earlier poets were accompanied by hand drums, flute or the staccato sputtering of a "human beat box," but Cora brings only herself and her metaphors. "You are like my afro," she calls, ...

Pages