'A Couple of Boobs': The Tabloid Epic and the Headline That Could Not Be Contained

This is the story of star-crossed lovers. This is the story of a newspaperman's last days. This is the story of A COUPLE OF BOOBS.

Shayna Sykes is a 23-year-old from Macungie, Pennsylvania. She has a seven-month-old daughter, Zoey, with her fiancee, 24-year-old Blake Bills. She describes herself as a "hardcore" Woody Allen fan on Twitter and recently got a foot tattoo that reads "Live fast DIE PRETTY." She also has A COUPLE OF BOOBS.

Last Friday, Shayna asked to borrow her grandmother Sharon's car. Blake had an appointment with his lawyer, Shayna said, so the young parents, who'd both had legal troubles in the past, left Macungie with Sharon's 2003 Mazda Protege. They never returned.

Shayna Sykes and Blake Bills wouldn't be seen again until two days later, 60 miles and one state away, in Camden, New Jersey, when a police officer witnessed them trying to buy drugs in grandma's Mazda. He tried to stop them, but they fled the scene. The cop sped after them, only to lose their trail when his car flipped.

That was Sunday. On Tuesday morning, Camden officer Sekou Reid-Bey was engaged in a routine traffic stop when a man and a woman jumped into his unattended cop car and drove off. A 16-year veteran of the Jersey force, he tried to run after them, but the driver hit him, breaking his leg. Blake was behind the wheel, with Shayna in the passenger seat.

'A Couple of Boobs': The Tabloid Epic and the Headline That Could Not Be Contained

Police successfully cornered the stolen police car approximately 30 minutes later, across the Delaware River, in Philadelphia. But as officers took Blake into custody, Shayna slipped away and jumped into one of their unattended vehicles, leading them on the kind of cartoony chase bloggers turn into a series of gifs. She mowed down a pedestrian, sideswiped three parked cars, and rammed into a delivery truck before her ride caught fire and she was violently slammed against a police-car trunk. (Highlights, courtesy of Philly Mag, are here.)

"I never heard of anyone stealing two police cars in one incident," Philadelphia Deputy Police Commissioner Richard Ross told NBC.

The true-crime tale was unbelievable: Two stolen cop cars! A two-state police chase. Two suspects charged with a litany of offenses! So many bad decisions, you might even say they'd acted like ... two idiots? A tandem of nitwits?

Or: A COUPLE OF BOOBS.

"It was an amazing story," said Philadelphia Daily News news editor Kevin Bevan over the phone this week. Bevan doesn't know exactly who found the Facebook photo of Blake Bills in a tank top and Shayna Sykes in what looks like a bikini top—whether it was Daily News graphics editor Jon Snyder, or reporter Stephanie Farr, or if it'd already been floating around online. But once that image had been identified as Wednesday's possible cover, there it was, tabloid destiny, bright as two beach balls:

'A Couple of Boobs': The Tabloid Epic and the Headline That Could Not Be Contained

"We were just batting it around and that came out," Bevan said. "Everybody in the newsroom said, 'Oh yeah, this is great.'" Although Bevan wrote the headline, he said the cover was a team effort that included help from Facebook, page designer Jon Snyder, and the paper's editor in chief. "We gotta hand it to the editor, Michael Days, who is willing to push the envelope and take it to the limit."

Bevan's colleagues considered the double entendre "genius." Jim Romenesko's media blog captioned it, without comment, as the "Cover of the Day." The message was so effective that at least one of Shayna's Facebook friends began fielding inquiries about her breasts.

But why did the Daily News choose A COUPLE OF BOOBS rather than A PAIR OF BOOBS, a headline with fewer characters? "We did go back and forth between 'pair' and 'couple,'" Bevan said. "A PAIR OF BOOBS, frankly, seemed a little too gynecological."

Sykes and Blake, it turns out, weren't the only ones making a flamboyant getaway. This was Bevan's last week at the Philadelphia Daily News. With 31 years at the paper—where he'd come after the Philadelphia Bulletin shuttered in 1982—Bevan was one of the staff's respected veterans who opted to take a recently offered buyout. Before we spoke, he'd been cleaning out his desk.

A COUPLE OF BOOBS was one hell of a microphone drop, as one wise Gawker editor pointed out. Would Bevan have gone with something this bold if his employment didn't have an expiration date? "Sure," he insisted. "There's always there's the possibility that it's out on the newsstand and somebody's gonna say, 'You've gone too far.' We have this dare-to-fail attitude that we're willing to take that chance. In this case, it worked out."

Alternate headlines suggested by Gawker in-house experts: FUCK YOU, JOURNALISM and BAZONGAS, PEACE!

[Philadelphia Daily News via Romenesko]