PR PLAY OF THE WEEK: Affinity for Affleck gives power to People

NEW YORK: If anything can get professional gossips, nags, and entertainment wags going even more than celebrity rankings, it's a good old fashioned, bare-fisted, knock-down, drag-out, fur-flying magazine rivalry.

NEW YORK: If anything can get professional gossips, nags, and entertainment wags going even more than celebrity rankings, it's a good old fashioned, bare-fisted, knock-down, drag-out, fur-flying magazine rivalry.

People, Time's venerable old glossy of glossies, has, of late, taken a few shots from its young upstart rival, Wenner Media's Us Weekly. But when Ben Affleck first shacked up with serial monogamist Jennifer Lopez last summer, People outbid Us Weekly for the first photo of the couple kissing, reportedly paying as much as $100,000 for the shot. Then, this Thanksgiving weekend, when broadcast news and talk shows traditionally serve up more fluff than a whipped-cream factory, People was again doing the dishing on Hollywood's hot couple du jour, while Us Weekly was left to cower under the table and beg for scraps. People's pulsating scoop? Affleck beat out the rest of the 3 billion or so boys on the planet to win the mag's coveted "Sexiest Man Alive" designation. It would seem that a good portion of the world's 3 billion or so women disagreed. The magazine was reportedly deluged with protests, while columnists and broadcasters fulminated over the choice. Even Fox's Bill O'Reilly got in on the act, musing somewhat incoherently that he had once sat next to Affleck on a plane. "Maybe it is me," said O'Reilly, "but...well, anyway." Anyway, while People soaked in this publicity bath, J. Lo, currently in the spotlight for her movie, album, and ever-newsworthy posterior, opined that she didn't need to hear from People that her fiance was the world's sexiest man. She already knew. All the same, it couldn't hurt, as the mags begin their delicate dance for exclusive rights to those all-important nuptials. People may have lost the popular vote with its affections for Affleck, but the move could put it ahead in the battle for the only two that count, and for that, it wins our PR Play of the Week.

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