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interview: david perel

BatboyDavid Perel began his distinguished career in journalism at the Washington Post and later served as editor of the National Enquirer for many years. The author of Freak: Inside the Twisted World of Michael Jackson, Perel is currently executive vice president of the Weekly World News and president of AMI Books. In his many years working with WWN, he has roamed the Canadian forests in search of Bigfoot, snorkeled Scotland’s Loch Ness with Nessie’s baby, and been bitten socially on the leg by Bat Boy at a White House function celebrating the capture of Saddam Hussein. Despite his many accomplishments, however, Perel is perhaps proudest of having introduced Hillary Clinton to her former alien lover, P’lod.

Perel recently sat down with Badmouth to talk about talking toasters, what the New York Times can learn from the Weekly World News, and why you should buy his new book Batboy Lives!

Badmouth.net: The Weekly World News covers everything: politics, science, celebrity gossip. What is the defining characteristic of a Weekly World News story?

David Perel: Two things: it has to be interesting, and it has to be relevant to your world. If we discover a man who has been struck by lightning and can’t stop singing “Pollywolly Doodle,” we know that our readers need to know that ““ because at that point they’re going to stop walking outside with a lightning rod in their hands during storms. If we find that there’s a new clown carpool that seats 25 to a car, our readers want to know that, too, because it’s a good way to get to work in the HOV lane. Those are our standards.

Badmouth.net: Weekly World News gets a lot of “exclusives” that the mainstream media completely misses. What’s your secret?

David Perel: I think there’s something in the intro to the book that you might have read; I really believe it’s true. A guy calls up The New York Times and says “My toaster’s talking to me,” The New York Times hangs up on him. And then he calls us up and says, “My toaster’s talking.” We say, “OK. Put the toaster on. We want to talk to him.”

So it’s all in the approach. We are absolutely open-minded and willing to look beyond the boundaries of what has become known as commonly accepted science or reality.

Badmouth.net: A lot of Americans don’t trust journalists. CBS News has had its troubles. Many people don’t trust Fox News. But the Weekly World News has never even had to issue a correction that I am aware of. What could the mainstream media learn from you on how to get it right the first time?

Weekly World NewsDavid Perel: That’s why our new slogan is “America’s most reliable newspaper.” It’s a question of going into the jungles of the Amazon and finding that dinosaur that’s alive. It’s getting those Pentagon sources and getting the truth about the “spy cat”—the cat that was taught to talk in a government lab and then was sent over to Iraq to gather intelligence.

I think it’s just pure perseverance—plus a lot of time at the bar after work.

Badmouth.net: You mentioned the Amazon and Iraq. A lot of news organizations are cutting back on their international coverage to save money. The Weekly World News appears to be bucking that trend.

David Perel: Oh absolutely. Wherever the story is in this solar system, we are going to send a reporter there if possible to get it. No question about it. We’re not just going to sit in this news room and take what comes across the wires and rewrite it. We’ve got to go out. We’ve got to pound the pavement. We’ve got to fly past the rings of distant planets to get the exclusives.

Badmouth.net: It obviously takes a special sort of writer to work for the Weekly World News. How do you put together an international staff of crack writers? Where do you find these people?

David Perel: Well, most of our people have been told that they’re special since their early childhood ““ often by trained medical professionals, a lot of it by psychiatrists and psychologists. We gathered a staff from the finest sanitariums, from pretty much the finest halfway-houses and some of the greatest drinking establishments in the world.

And we do have a lot of people with daily newspaper experience. But you know, those people tend to be a little strange, so we prefer the other journalists.

Badmouth.net: Newspapers are generally considered a disposable medium. Not too many people want to read last Thursday’s USA Today. This book, on the other hand, is a collection of old news stories. I was going through it and I have to say that it was very readable. What sets the Weekly World News apart from other papers in this regard?

David Perel: I think that the Weekly World News excels at finding scoops that are timeless, because the rest fo the press has been so derelict in their duty to report on the rest of the solar system and psychic phenomenon. It’s just left this area wide open for use to bring it to America, the world, the galaxy.

Badmouth.net: Batboy has become a pop-culture phenomena. What is it about Batboy that resonates with the American public?

David Perel: Batboy is a misunderstood character. He’s shy. He’s obviously had a difficult childhood. He’s different from everyone else. He just wants to fit in with society. People look at him and see he’s different. For a long time he was ostracized, hated, reviled ““ and, you know, his greatest wish is just to be like everybody else, and be accepted for his differences. You know, that’s my story as well ““ but we’ll just call it Batboy’s story.

Badmouth.net: It sounds like Johnny Depp would be a good choice to play him in a movie directed by Tim Burton.

Batbot: The MusicalDavid Perel: It’s very Edward Scissorhands. Although it predates that doesn’t it? Yeah. You know, it was an off-Broadway play and then it went to London, too. It got great reviews, but it opened right before 9/11 and then it closed after that. The motion picture rights are kicking around right now.

Badmouth.net: Well maybe my Johnny Depp prediction will come true.

David Perel: It’s very possible.

Badmouth.net: Batboy is a complex character. He helped find Saddam Hussein. He was knighted by Queen Elizabeth. At other times he’s been a public menace. He stole a Mini Cooper and led police on a multi-state chase. Is there any advice you can give the public if they encounter Batboy?

David Perel: I’d say treat him fairly. Feed him. Give him beer. And keep your distance. Call one of us. We’re trained professionals.

Badmouth.net: After reading the book, I was struck by how carefully balanced the Weekly World News is as a paper. Dick Cheney may be a robot, but Hillary had an affair with an alien. Are you trying to remain apolitical, or do you just report the facts as you see them?

David Perel: This is going to surprise a lot of people, but in the rest of the galaxy, there’s no such divisions as Republicans and Democrats, liberals and conservatives. The U.S. Senate has 12 space aliens in it right now. It cuts across party lines. We’ve found universal themes that really do unite the galaxy, and that’s what we hit.

Badmouth.net: You said that there are 12 aliens in Congress. Would you care to name names?

David Perel: We name a few in the book. Check it out. And there have been more since that has been published, but that’s something I have to save for an upcoming issue.

Badmouth.net: Can I throw the name “Dick Armey” out there? I mean the name sounds so fake”¦

David Perel: Sometimes they come from another planet. They try to think of a name. It’s almost like picking a stage name. And don’t forget, we have a good report with P’Lod the alien who has correctly picked every presidential election correctly since 1980 in the pages of the Weekly World News ““ published before the election. Cleary we have some insight there.

Badmouth.net: There isn’t a tremendous amount of editorializing in the Weekly World News. Have you ever considered endorsing a candidate?

Cats on MarsDavid Perel: No, but when P’Lod endorses a candidate, we will cover his views. We also have the columnist Ed Anger. We present his viewpoint, which some might call ultra-conservative/irrational/borderline-insane.

Badmouth.net: Does P’Lod actually endorse the candidate, or just make a prediction about who is going to win?

David Perel: No, he really makes a prediction. But we know that there are certain candidates that he’s closer to than others. He became very close to Hillary. There was a certain relationship that developed. Bill was jealous for a while. It was short, but sweet, from what I hear. I think it really helped jumpstart Hillary’s political career.

Badmouth.net: Obviously. I mean what had she really done before P’Lod came along?

David Perel: Right. Exactly. I mean now suddenly she’s the presidential candidate”¦Ooh! I don’t know if I was supposed to let that slip yet. They’ve talked. We talk. You know.

Badmouth.net: Wow that’s a breaking exclusive. I’m surprised you didn’t save that for your own paper.

David Perel: I might hold onto that. It’s going to be up to you whether you use that or not.

Badmouth.net: What do you say to the skeptics who look at the Weekly World News and say “This can’t possibly be true?”

David Perel: I say, “Sleep lightly. Lock your windows. Lock your doors. The truth is out there. Batboy is on the loose. We haven’t seen him in months and he could be anywhere at this point.”