If you like trivia, check out my other site, THE HARRIS CHALLENGE, and play every weekday!

Wednesday, December 29, 1999

Y2K, You're 2K

I’m not a big crowd guy, so don’t look for me in the mob waiting for anything to drop on New Year’s Eve. It has nothing to do with safety concerns and I have no problem with anyone else going, of course, but it simply holds no appeal for me whatsoever.

After all, if I wanted to get drunk and wait around all night for one climactic minute of excitement, I’d start dating again!

We’ll be home Friday night, waiting for the armageddon that’s sure to come with the advent of Y2K. Between now and then, we’re doing our final checks on Y2K preparedness around the house. As I write this, we’re fairly sure the staircase, toaster, and driveway will still function correctly come January 1.

Please, don’t write to me insisting that this isn’t the end of the millennium and the start of the next. Believe it or not, we all know that already, and we don’t care! As comedian Wayne Cotter says, it’s the simple excitement of seeing anything roll over to triple zeroes. Who doesn’t love catching that moment when your odometer evens up?

Why not look at it as an easy two-for-one -- celebrate it this time around, and then do it all again next year? But if you absolutely insist on being a purist, then go by the Jewish calendar, which hit Y2K more than 3,700 years ago!

I love hearing about these guys who will be sitting in their houses on Friday night with a shotgun pointed at the front door in anticipation of the horrors of the Y2K bug. Now, let’s look at this hypothetical with a modicum of logic. Let’s say that the Y2K bug does knock out the electricity, the water, and all the rest. What does that have to do with the lock on your door? Is your key not Y2K compliant? Will deadbolts suddenly unlatch? Somehow I don’t think so.

Instead of loading up on ammo, we have loaded up with Chips Ahoy. No, it has nothing to do with the Millennium Bug. It’s because our five-and-a-half-year-old daughter is going to try to stay up until midnight to see the New Year arrive. That’s going to be quite a stretch for her, so we’ll have the sugar ready to pump her up if necessary.

Don’t laugh. They’re doing the same thing for Peter Jennings during his marathon millennium coverage.

To be honest, the cookies are for me. Like a couple hundred million other Americans, I’m going to make my annual “drop a few pounds” resolution for the new year. Unlike most of them, I’m not fooling myself into believing that I’ll replace Ms. Lewinsky as the new Jenny Craig spokesperson.

So why the Chips Ahoy? The fine Nabisco product will serve two purposes. One, it’ll be my Last Cookie Opportunity for awhile. Secondly, it’ll help me bulk up just a little bit more, so when I get on the scale Saturday morning to start the year, I will have artificially inflated that number on the scale. Then, a few days later when the cookies have worn off -- boom! -- I will have dropped a couple of pounds without even trying. Nice confidence builder, right? Unfortunately, I know that I’ll slip very quickly back into my usual slovenly diet backed up with exactly zero exercise, and the resolution will be lucky to last to the second page on the calendar. Then it’s pizza and ice cream time again!

Yeah, I’m the only one who lives this yearly fraud.

See you in the New Year. If I can get the door unlocked, that is. For now, I have to go make sure our shower curtain is Y2K compliant.

Sunday, December 12, 1999

Cleavage Girls Backstage With Billy Joel

I went to see Billy Joel on Friday night, the first concert I’ve attended in a long time. In all the years I’ve been going to live musical events, this was the first time I have sat close enough to notice an interesting phenomenon: The Backstage Pass Beggars. Or, more appropriately, The Cleavage Girls.

This was a group of young women with floor seats who would regularly walk up to one of the crew members near the side of the stage and ask, in their sexiest and breathiest voices, for backstage passes. Many of these women were -- how shall I put this? -- pneumatically enhanced, wearing blouses that were either very tight-fitting or very low-cut. They knew full well what they were doing.

The crew guy (they’re all male) would eye the women up and down, and then say, “Let me see what I can do.” Then he’d go off to chat with another crew member for a couple of minutes, in much the same manner as a car salesman has to “check with the manager.” Invariably, he’d come back and hand over a couple of passes for the lasses. The guys knew full well what they were doing, too.

After seeing a couple of dozen passes handed out, it occurred to me that this was another great example of The Difference Between Men And Women.

Guys in the audience would never act this way. I don’t mean that no men are Billy Joel fans -- I’ve been going to see him for almost a quarter-century -- it’s just that we have a completely different way of handling ourselves in these situations than women do.

Picture this: a male fan walks up to the stage crew at a Shania Twain concert with that same look of sexual desire that these women had and asks if he can please go backstage. He’d be busted as a stalker right then and there, right? But the guy knows that, so he never acts that way.

No, a guy is more likely to sit in the audience watching every move Shania makes while inventing his own fantasies without ever acting on them. He’s not screaming his lungs out, no matter how young he is. It’s just not in a guy’s genes to act that way.

Do you know any guy who has swooned publicly over The Go-Gos? The Bangles? The Supremes? The Spice Girls? Women and girls on the other hand, have been screaming at music idols for a couple of generations, from Sinatra to The Beatles to The Bay City Rollers to Ricky Martin. Even pre-teen girls are doing it now for The Backstreet Boys!

There’s a simple explanation: Women are much more open about vocalizing their lust in public.

Ever talk to a woman who has gone to one of those Chippendales shows? She went with friends and they all lost their voices and they know the dancers’ names and what they wore and what songs they danced to and they were loud and proud and ohmigod!!!

Now talk to a guy who has been to a strip...excuse me...gentleman’s club. The story never includes any mention of whooping and shouting. He didn’t get a sore throat (sore other parts, yes, but not throat). Maybe one drunk idiot got noisy, but all the other guys in the club hated him for it. You probably won’t even hear about that, though, since a man is reticent to share any details at all because he has them locked away in his brain for future personal fantasy memory time.

I’ve been lucky enough to go backstage at a concert on occasion because I’ve emceed so many shows and interviewed so many musicians over the years that they’ve been nice enough to invite me. Let me tell you the one word that sums up The Backstage Experience: boring!!

Here’s what happens. After the show is over, you are led to a holding room somewhere in the bowels of the arena, usually next to the visiting team’s locker room. There, you stand around with a bunch of other people who also have a huge “I’m so special” grin on their face. Meanwhile, the performers hit the showers, change clothes, have something to eat, etc., all in their dressing rooms.

After about 45 minutes have passed, the star and a couple of band members are brought into the room, usually by some record company representative who doesn’t know you well enough to introduce you by name, so you boldly do it yourself. This is it, your chance to have that in-depth conversation with a big name!

Your Big Moment goes something like this...

You: “Hey, great concert, I really enjoyed it!”
Star: “Thanks.”

This completes Your Big Moment.

The star has moved on to someone else, who is also complimenting them on the concert, plus throwing in an obscure reference that the star politely laughs at for 0.8 seconds before moving on again.

After the star and band make it around the room once, they’re out of there, leaving you and the other special people to look at each other and remark yet again on how great the concert was. Of course, the star and the band are in such a rush to finish meeting the folks in that hospitality room because they have to get back to the party room next door. That’s where the real action is going on.

You help yourself to a pretzel, two celery sticks, and a piece of sweaty cheese, wash them down with a warm beverage, and you’ve come to the end of The Backstage Experience! Please keep the pass that’s stuck to your jeans as a memento of this wonderful occasion, with the star’s compliments. Now get out.

As you exit past the Zamboni, you hear lustful screams muffled through the cinder block walls. Mission accomplished for The Cleavage Girls!

Friday, December 10, 1999

Billy Joel

In an exclusive interview, I talked with Billy Joel about why he first started playing music, what he think of music videos and movie scores, what happens when the piano man walks into a piano bar, and about musical plagiarism and songs that come to him in his sleep.

Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Sunday, November 28, 1999

Dating & Spelling In High School

As my clothing choices prove, I know absolutely nothing and care even less about fashion, but I do feel sorry for anyone who tries to stay trendy. By definition, you're never going to catch up. And when you see some supermodel in a fabulous new outfit, you just have to know it will never look that good on you.

This rule, of course, does not apply to girls in their late teens, who are destined to get swept up in the popular tide. We were out to dinner with another couple recently on what turned out to be some high school's homecoming weekend. The restaurant was swarming with dozens of late teen couples, all charging dinner to their parents' credit cards.

Every one of the girls looked like Ally McBeal, all wearing the same dress (my wife pointed out that it wasn't really the exact same dress, or they would have died when they saw each other, but trust me, it was). Worse, they all had the same Calista Flockhart body. Okay, not quite that bony thin, but let's say they were so thin that when one of them swallowed an olive she looked suddenly pregnant.

What intrigued me even more was the boys who were with them. Each and every boy had the same, short, almost-crew haircut. This is exactly the opposite of how we all looked when we were their age. Of course, those were the, "These kids today, with their rock and roll, and their dungarees, and their hair down to their shoulders so you can't tell if they're a boy or a girl" days, and we did it mostly to annoy Mom and Dad. I suppose now they get that buzz cut thinking it will annoy us, but frankly, I found it pretty easy to accept the clean cut look.

On their face was a look that every American boy would recognize, the look that said, "I am completely clueless in how to handle this social occasion and it's obvious to me that the girls know something they're not telling us." Then they immediately broke off into a boys-only circle to talk football and recharge their confidence.

Not every high schooler looks and acts this way, of course.

Take the story of Jamie Schoonover, a 15-year-old high school freshman from Baltimore who was suspended from school last month for "casting a spell on another student." You see, Jamie claims to be a practicing witch, just like her mother, Colleen Harper.

Well, Jamie's not exactly like Mom, because Mom used to be Dad. That's right. Colleen Harper used to be a man, and is Jamie's biological father, but has since had a sex change operation to become her mother. There is a technical name for this kind of family setup. In the nomenclature of pop psychology, it's called, "a Jerry Springer show waiting to happen."

What's most shocking about this story is that the principal of the school actually wrote down that Jamie was suspended for casting a spell.

Hello? This is an educator? How about handling it a little more logically -- perhaps pointing out to the offended student that there is no such thing as witchcraft and that no one can cast a spell on anyone else? This is the most ridiculous reaction an adult has had to a witch since Gladys Kravitz on "Bewitched"!

While this was quite a shock to the kid on whom the "spell" was cast, it couldn't have been a happy day for Jamie, either. She probably went home all depressed, gave herself a nice buzzcut hairdo, and spent the evening crying in the arms of her father -- who was wearing the family's Ally McBeal dress at the time.

Saturday, November 20, 1999

The Hurry Up And Wait Trip

The holiday travel season is here. If you’re lucky enough to be staying home, let’s enjoy the wonder and excitement of a virtual trip instead. Our theme: Hurry Up And Wait.

Come on, come on, we have to get going! Our flight is in two hours, and we don’t know what traffic’s going to be like.

Okay, whew, we made it to the airport in record time. Now let’s get in line to check our bags. Great, it looks like only about a hundred people ahead of us.

I wish this line would move faster. Next time, let’s only do carry-on.

Where’s the gate? Oh, gotta go through security first.

Oh, good, they have the x-ray machine set to “super-sensitive,” so that the foil wrapper on my chewing gum makes it beep. This is good, because we want to be sure that no one has anything that can be used as a weapon to hijack the plane with. Of course, once we’re on board our cross-country flight, they’ll give us real silverware with our meal. But no one would ever think of using a knife or fork as a weapon.

Okay, we’re through security. Let’s get to the gate, because the flight’s in an hour.

I’m getting impatient sitting here at the gate. I sure wish they’d start the boarding process already.

Here we go. Wait, that’s not my row they’re calling. Might as well get in line anyway.

Come on, what’s taking so long? Row 14 wants to get on board!

Down the jetway we go. Let me quickly check in with the crew in the cockpit. Hi! Anyone in here so depressed they’re thinking of taking us all down with you? Okay, just checking.

Let’s find our seats and jam those bags in the overhead compartment. Better grab one of those oh-so-fluffy pillows, too. They’re about as cushy as two wadded-up Kleenex.

Is it possible the airline has actually moved these rows closer together? My kneecap is touching the spleen of the passenger in front of me. Mighty comfortable. No, mister, don’t recline, whatever you do!!!

Everyone’s on board, our tray tables are up, and we understand about the oxygen-dispensing margarine cup with the dry-cleaning bag attached. Let’s go!!

Finally, we’re leaving the gate, we’re taxiing, hey, we’re headed for the runway, and we’re taking off. Now I can sit back and relax.

The flight attendant has just announced that they’ve turned off the seat belt sign and we’re free to roam about the cabin. That’s good, because there’s plenty of room to roam. I like to work up a good sweat making that walk up and down the aisle. Sometimes I have enough stamina to make it all the way up to the first class curtain, which is now electrified so no one in coach can trespass.

Fifteen minutes have passed and not one word yet about a drink. I’m getting thirsty.

Here comes the beverage cart. I can see it ten rows away. What should I get? Can’t they move any faster?

Ahh, that was refreshing. Now I’m hungry.

We’re an hour into the flight, and I am incredibly bored. Maybe I should have paid the five bucks for the headphones, even if they are showing an Adam Sandler movie.

I have read everything in sight, including the “fasten seat belt” sign in German. I particularly enjoyed the airline magazine’s fascinating photo spread on houses of the rich and famous in Des Moines.

Does anyone ever actually purchase anything from that inflight shopping catalog? Who needs a putting green alarm clock cuff link? And what the hell is a tongue scraper?

Hey, look, you can get realtime stock quotes on the in-seat airphone, and it’s only $3.99 for the first eight seconds and $12 for every second after that. Now day traders can lose all their money while they fly! I wonder how this airline’s stock is doing?

Here comes the meal cart. I’m surprisingly hungry. Do I want beef or chicken?

Wait a minute, all they’re doing is handing out plastic lunch bags. Well, a sandwich is better than nothing, and it’s been a long time since I filled up on two whole Lorna Doones.

Now I’m thirsty again. Where’s the beverage cart? Oh, it’s behind the eleven people in the aisle waiting to dispose of their earlier beverage in the lavatory.

Lavatory. There’s a word you never hear anyone use in conversation. As in, “I’m sorry sir, the lavatory is occupied.” Must have been named by the same person who decided that my seat cushion can be used as a flotation device. Too bad it can’t be used as a comfortable place to sit for three hours.

Okay, I’m done with my snack. Come take this trash away.

Hurray, we’re almost there! That sounds like the landing gear coming down. Through the window I think I can see...it looks like...yes, it’s several non-descript buildings and a community of cul de sacs. Just like I remember it.

That was a nice smooth landing, and right on time, too. I guess they don’t include the ten minutes it takes to taxi to the gate as part of their official schedule.

There’s the two bell signal, so everybody up! We have to stand here in the aisle for several minutes before we can deplane, deplane!

Finally, we’re headed up the jetway and into the terminal. What a relief. No more exasperation, no more “hurry up and wait.” We’re done.

Now where’s baggage claim? I’m sure our bags will be the first ones out.

Monday, November 15, 1999

Jerry Springer

Jerry Springer took a few minutes off from hosting his notorious daytime talk show to talk with me today about his appearance defending the show before the Chicago City Council, the episode he did with the man who married a horse, his thoughts on the Jenny Jones show controversy, and whether he's going to run for the US Senate.

Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Wednesday, November 10, 1999

Let's Play Genes & Geography

So what if George Dubya Bush couldn’t name the leaders of India, Pakistan, Taiwan, and Chechnya last week? I can’t even remember the names of the parents of all my daughter’s friends, and we expect him to know the names of every leader of every nation on the globe, just off the top of his head?

This reminds me of when every presidential candidate has been asked how much a loaf of bread and a gallon of milk cost. The subtext of the question is that if they don’t know the answer, then they must not be able to relate to the average American. As if these politicians who are spending their days and nights campaigning for the highest office in the land ever have time to do their own food shopping. “Excuse me, but between the debate in one city, and the fundraiser in another city, and the America Is Great rally in yet another city, all in the same afternoon, can we stop off to pick up a couple of dairy items and some Wonder bread?”

Put aside the question of whether or not the reporter ambushed him, and ask the bigger question: are we looking for a President, or a contestant on “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?”

By the way, if Fox can do that lousy ripoff, “Greed,” I’m thinking about borrowing the concept to do my own show, with contestants Donald Trump, Warren Buffett, Steve Forbes, and Bill Gates. I’ll call it “Who Wants To Lose So Much Money That You’ll Only Be A Millionaire?” I’m sure Robin Leach would host it for me.

If only Dubya had used one of his lifelines to phone a friend.

You see, whether it’s him or someone else who ends up the next occupant of the Oval Office, he’ll have plenty of staff members around who will have -- or can get -- any information he wants whenever he wants it. At the very least, they can go to that new no-charge Encyclopedia Brittanica website, where all the world’s knowledge is now stored on one big server.

They haven’t used that site lately in the current White House, because the President has been tying up the internet connection day and night trying to look at that site with the models sellling their eggs.

And wasn’t THAT story blown out of proportion?

After all, if some sucker wants to pony up big dough for the genetic goo of some attractive woman, why should anyone try to stop them? It’s perfectly legal for a sperm bank to promote the fact that the donor of some sample was a genius, so what’s the difference here?

If they truly believe that they can buy genetic beauty like that, they should take a look at photos of the model’s parents first! For reference, may I suggest a glance at some pictures of Brooke Shields’ mom?

Naturally, it’s only the genes of thin, attractive women that are being sold this way, because anyone can make a kid that looks like Camryn Manheim. You don’t need to buy a model’s eggs to get that; you need to buy Chips Ahoy and Haagen Dasz.

Of course, you’re putting a lot of pressure on your kid if she’s conceived with one of these model’s eggs. It's gotta be tough having to live up to the chromosomal standard from which you were sprung, not to mention the relentless nagging: “Honey, don’t eat that entire sprig of parsley for lunch, you’ll balloon up and never make that cover of Vogue! Wipe that smile off your face! No one wants a model who looks happy, so pout, pout, pout! Now, hurry up and purge so we can get to your fashion show walkway class!”

WAIT -- inspiration strikes!! Instead of extracting an egg from some unknown Cindy Crawford wannabe, let’s take one from Madelyn Albright! Sure the kid might not grow up to be named People Magazine’s Sexiest Man Alive, but we might be able to create a Presidential candidate who can answer that world leaders question.

Yes, Reege, that’s my final answer.

Thursday, October 21, 1999

A Menstrual Cycle Built For Two

There's a story going around today about Kate Winslet. She's the actress who co-starred with Leo DiCaprio in "Titanic."

She's now working on a new movie about the Marquis de Sade, entitled "Quill". I know, guys, it sounds like another costume epic we'll have no interest in. Let's see just how much "de Sade" they put in there. Anyway......

The story about Kate is that she claims that her hormones are so strong that she messes up the menstrual cycle of every woman she works with. This occurred to her when all the women working on the movie started their cycles on the same day she did, even if that's not when their periods would normally have fallen.

I had never heard of this before, so I asked several women if this could be true. They all said yes, they had heard of the phenomenon. Several who had been in sororities in college said they had seen it happen personally. A few even claimed that it had happened to them at work! Apparently, the dominant one socially becomes kind of a leader in this department, too.

I then asked a bunch of men if they had ever heard of this, and there was a nearly unanimous answer: No -- you must be kidding.

You see, we have nothing like this in the guy world. The closest thing we come to all getting on a regular schedule is at about noon on Sunday when we all cheer for The Rams!

What also amazes us is that women would actually share this information with one another. I don't ever recall having a single conversation with another guy about any bodily functions. Oh, sure, I'll ask a guy how his knee is holding up after arthroscopic surgery, but frankly I have no interest in hearing any stories about any of his bodily fluids.

Women, apparently, share no such compunction. They're talking about it on campus, at lunch, in the carpool, and at the office.

One woman told me she and another woman ended up on the same cycle after just a few weeks of working in adjacent cubicles! And you wonder why men have so much trouble figuring women out? You have the power to transmit your hormones through cubicle walls!! We can't even figure out what that flashing "add toner" light on the copier means.

One place this topic won't come up is the Oval Office. At least not anytime soon, because the only woman running for President, Elizabeth Dole, officially dropped out of the race yesterday.

Not that she had any chance of winning, anyway. Her campaign had only raised about $660,000 in the last three months, while George Dubya had raked in over $30,000,000. That's a problem in a modern campaign: If you don't have enough cash, you won't have a victory bash.

Of course, Liddy should have known that she had no shot earlier this year, when it was discovered that Bob Dole had given $1,000 to John McCain's campaign. Her own husband was supporting the competition!

I can just hear her when she found out: "Hello, Bob? I know that you're thrilled to be getting erections again, but if you ever pull another stunt like that, then pulling your stunt is all you're going to be able to do around here! By the way, Viagra-Boy, run down to the store and get me a box of tampons. While you're there, most of my staff needs some today, too! And get Kate Winslet on the phone. We're going to harnass this cyclical power of ours and develop a band of women so in sync with each other that we'll rule the world -- period!"

Someday soon we will have a viable female candidate for the presidency. I just hope that election day that year doesn't fall at the same time that all of her supporters are having a grumpy, moody week -- if you know what I mean.

Monday, September 06, 1999

The County Fair

It was a perfect, blue sky Missouri day, so I took my daughter to the County Fair. While there, we accomplished both of our goals: 1) she went on more than a dozen rides, wearing a smile as wide as her face the entire time; and 2) we overpaid tremendously for some unbelievably mediocre food.

I'm not an amusement park ride kind of guy, ever since a roller coaster incident about 15 years ago in which the restraining bar clamped down a little too hard on my collar bone. These things have a "you must be at least this tall" sign -- they should also have a "you must not be taller than this" sign, too. When you're 6'4", your average ride is gonna crunch your shoulders and bang your knees, and that's before they even push the start button. If I wanted to be that uncomfortable, I would take the middle seat on any commercial flight!

So I wasn't planning on going on any rides today -- that is, until my daughter said that the first thing she wanted to do was go on the ferris wheel, with me! I figured, hey, ferris wheel, no restraining bar, nothing clamped down, lots of leg room, no problem, let's go.

It was somewhere near the top of our second revolution that all those recent stories about accidents on theme park rides flashed into my head. For the remainder of the ride (the ferris?), while she marveled at the view, I found myself inspecting every frayed cable, every rusty connecting bolt, every creaky spring. Needless to say, we didn't crash back to earth, and the ride ended safely.

It was after we had exited the ferris wheel that I had a revealing moment of parental responsibility -- from that moment on, she was gonna ride these death traps alone.

Of course, at five years old, while she has passed the point where she's content to sit in a little kid teacup ride that revolves at 2mph, she's not quite ready for loops and spins and hanging upside down, either. None of those bet-you'll-hurl contraptions, please. We found a dozen or so (thank you, pay-one-price plan!) medium-thrill rides, roller coasters, spinning strawberry tilt-a-whirls, etc. She had a great time.

I watched happily, secure in the knowledge that the carnival employee in the purple t-shirt who was running the ride was completely capable of ensuring my daughter's safety -- right up until the second the ride actually started moving, at which point he went back to daydreaming about getting another corn dog on his next break.

Speaking of corn dogs, what kind of food is that? What is it about the carnival atmosphere that makes normally sane people consume this mutant meal? Let's work through the logic of this fine epicurean delight. You have your basic hot dog, but the bun concept seems old and needs replacing. How about rolling the frankfurter in corn meal instead? Okay, fine, but it may still contain some nutritional value, however small, so we'd better stick the whole thing in the deep fryer for a couple of minutes. Then, hand it to the customer on a nice napkin. No, wait, shove it onto a stick! The wood can count as fiber! Genius!!!!

No one goes to the County Fair for the food, of course. But you spend a few hours there and the amalgam of various barbecued fleshes (I'm not just talking about the other fairgoers baking in the sun) will get to your nose and pull you towards a food vendor like a politician to a fund raising dinner.

Two food items on sale today caught my eye. One was "crab rangoon." I have absolutely no idea what that is, but I have studied my geography enough to know that Missouri is a great place for fresh crab, not to mention its many free-range rangoon farms.

The other taste treat was "roasted turkey legs." These were huge and actually looked great. At one point, six guys enjoying them near us told me they were delicious. I couldn't help think that, as they tried to get their mouths around these massive drumsticks, they looked like a half-dozen Fred Flintstones at the Bronto-Drive-Thru.

We stuck with the old carnival vendor standbys: a cheeseburger, fries, and some spiced brown mystery meat -- could have been chicken, could have been pork -- on a skewer, identified only as "kebab." After washing down that $11 lunch with a couple of $3 bottles of water, my daughter was off to the merry-go-round, the fun house, and the crazy mirror maze.

This is where we had what we refer to as "the head-first incident." She was moving at top speed through the mirror maze for about the fourth time in a row when she missed a turn and -- boom! -- banged right into some plexiglass that was suddenly where she thought an opening would be. The noise actually made two mothers near me say, "Oooh, that's gotta hurt!" in unison. My daughter staggered for a moment like Robert Downey Jr. at an arraignment hearing, shook it off, and then continued on her merry way. Talk about paternal pride! I felt like Barbara Bush watching George W rebuff yet another drug question.

I'm glad that was the only crash we saw all day. You see, this County Fair was combined with an Air Show. If you know anything about Air Shows, you know that they are to airplane accidents what double-wides are to tornadoes. Namely, a magnetic force beyond understanding.

Fortunately, there were no accidents today. Just pilots flying everything from biplanes to jets, doing amazing tricks in the air, some solo, some in groups up to five at a time. Lots of fun to watch, but with a twist I should have expected in this day and age. I noticed at least ten guys in the crowd videotaping these air exhibitions. Nice footage to take home to the rest of the family, to remind them of their fun day? No, these guys roll tape in the hopes that there will be a midair collision, a plane that won't pull out of a dive, whatever. They know that if they get it on tape, they'll be able to sell it to TV, which loves to show that sort of stuff. Don't believe me? Last week, word leaked out of Hollywood that Fox is negotiating with the FAA to let them crash an actual 747 into the ground, and broadcast it live!

Of course, if the agency doesn't go for it, they can always air "World's Worst Carnival Ride Mishaps!" or "When Corn Dogs Attack!" or "When Five Year Olds Meet An Immovable Object!"

We expect the swelling to go down by morning.

Monday, August 09, 1999

Woodstock Then and Now

As we approach the real 30th anniversary of the Woodstock Festival this weekend (I'll do a show about it on Friday), I've been thinking about last month's concert, which co-opted the original's name and location, but fell miserably short of the feeling and spirit of that August weekend three decades ago in upstate New York.

Unlike a few million others, I'm one of the rare people my age who will actually admit that I was not at the original Woodstock. So I didn't experience the "three days of peace and love" first hand. All I know about that concert is what I have read and heard from people who were there, in the crowd and on the stage, and from Joel Makower’s terrific -- but unfortunately now out-of-print -- book on the oral history of Woodstock.

Last month's concert was billed as "another three days of peace and love." Even before the arson, rapes, and looting that ruined the end of the concert, it was easy to see that the three intervening decades have diminished the value of the original event while desperately trying to exploit its myth.

Can we now agree that no one will ever be able to recreate the coincidences that conspired to make the first Woodstock Festival a milepost in American popular history, and that concert promoters should stop trying?

This is not to say that there shouldn't be big music festivals anymore. And you won't see me putting down the acts that performed at this year's concert, because I know very well that the roster at the original Woodstock included Sha-Na-Na.

No, I won't comment on the quality of today's music, teenagers, or the condition of the country. But I must point out the idiocy of trying to reclaim the tenor of those times via a modern-day event that, at its best, was about commerce and commercialism, not peace and love.

At Woodstock 1969, there were tents set up to help people experiencing bad acid trips.
At Woodstock 1999, there were tents torn down by people unwilling to pay $14 for a bottle of water.

At Woodstock 1969, Country Joe McDonald's "Fish Cheer" was shocking because it included the F word.
At Woodstock 1999, several cable channels base their programming entirely on the F word.

At Woodstock 1969, the crowd desperately wanted to stop the rain with a chant.
At Woodstock 1999, the crowd had to pay to get into a tent called The Rain Room and cool off.

At Woodstock 1969, Wavy Gravy was a counterculture hero.
At Woodstock 1999, Wavy Gravy is an ice cream flavor.

At Woodstock 1969, Jimi Hendrix played the Star Spangled Banner on his guitar.
At Woodstock 1999, you can buy Hendrix CDs through the Amazon banner ad on the official website.

August 1969 was a completely different era, and not just chronologically. The generation gap was much wider, the nation had been at war for a full decade, the country was tearing itself up internally, and the protests in the music were about much more important causes.

Quick, name a cause that America's youth rally behind now.

In 1969 America, many young people felt disenfranchised and disconnected from the establishment.
In 1999 America, many young people fear being disconnected from AOL and losing their place in the Limp Bizkit chat room.

In 1969 America, "the man" was the enemy.
In 1999 America, "you're the man" is a compliment.

In 1969 America, the civil rights movement was trying to get over the assassination of Martin Luther King.
In 1999 America, the civil rights movement is trying to get over Al Sharpton.

In 1969 America, young men feared being drafted after high school and killed in the Vietnam War.
In 1999 America, young men and women fear being killed while they're still in their high schools.

Okay, so some things haven't changed.

Would we be a better country if we could return to the days that made the original Woodstock an oasis of joy in a summer of bitterness? Of course not. So let's not pretend that we should.

Let's also stop pretending that "the Woodstock nation" still lives. Because the truth is that the citizens of the original Woodstock nation are the ones who last month didn't want their grandchildren going to an event like this!

Janet Leigh "Psycho"

In honor of what would have been Alfred Hitchcock's 100th birthday, actress Janet Leigh was on my show today to talk about making the classic 1960 movie "Psycho," working with the director, and whether doing the famous shower scene really scared her out of taking showers forever.

Listen to the conversation here.

Leigh's book is "Psycho: Behind The Scenes Of The Classic Thriller."

Sunday, July 11, 1999

You Kick Like A Boy

"You kick like a boy!!!"

That should be the new standard insult on playgrounds all across America after the US Women's Soccer Team won the World Cup in dramatic fashion on Saturday. They are the living embodiment of the spirit of Title IX.

Not only was this game the most-attended women's sporting event in history, with over 90,000 watching in the Rose Bowl. It was also a pretty good TV draw, getting a 13.3 rating and a 32 share, equaling about 40,000,000 people. That's more than watched the men's World Cup final five years ago. That's more than watched the NHL Stanley Cup finals. Hey, that's even more than watched this year's NBA Finals!

It's also the first time in history that an athlete named Brandi has scored the game-winner. She's the one who ripped off her jersey at the moment of victory. Nice abs!

These women deserve the title of America's Team.

When it comes to females and sports, our nation has accepted cute teenage gymnasts and pretty tennis competitors for a couple of decades, but there was always something ugly lurking underneath.

There was a time not so long ago that a girl who liked playing sports would be called a tomboy. If a group of athletic women got together, their sexuality would be called into question. Sports was something the guys did, not the gals.

Not any more.

In case you missed it, the US Men's Soccer Team won exactly zero games in the World Cup. The Women won 'em all.

Robin Roberts of ABC/ESPN said at the end of Saturday's telecast, "I never thought I'd see anything like this." I was sitting at home watching it with my five-year-old daughter feeling proud that she did see it. I hope it stands up for her as a momentous occasion in the history of sports in this country.

She didn't just see two teams of women playing on an international stage for the championship of the world. She also saw thousands of girls and women cheering and shouting and chanting in the crowd. With smiles and vigor and exuberance. With their mothers and fathers celebrating with them. With commercials for Adidas, Chevy, and Bud Light, right alongside spots for Monistat.

Maybe they're a flash in the pan. Maybe they're not going to become the endorsement machines that some male athletes are. Maybe they'll fade from view now, only to reappear at next summer's Olympics in Sydney. Maybe the idea of a women's pro soccer league isn't a huge moneymaker. But if the only thing this drive for the cup accomplishes is encouraging young girls to, as Mia Hamm puts it, "Go for the goal," then they have something to be proud of.

There's one other good thing to reflect on, and that's the crowd at the game. Males no longer have the monopoly on the field, and we no longer have the monopoly on looking goofy in the stands. The female fans in the Rose Bowl had logos and flags painted on their faces and the letters U-S-A on their bare midriffs -- a lot more attractive than your average shirtless guy with his hairy beer gut hanging out at an NFL game, by far.

Even more proof of something we all should have realized a long time ago. The more women in the stadium, the better!

Wednesday, July 07, 1999

Toss It In The Pool

Last week, my wife and daughter were enjoying an afternoon at the neighborhood pool when they heard from one of the other moms that some kid had thrown up in the water. They were both surprised to hear that the lifeguards had neither made an announcement nor closed the pool. All they did was go over with one of those skimming nets to clean up the mess. But no one was told to get out of the pool.

Granted, it was a very hot day, and the pool provided much needed relief.

Still, shouldn't the policy be that when anything solid is expelled from the body of anyone in the pool, you close it down -- even for a minimal amount of time...say, twenty minutes? -- and clean that sucker out?

You don't have to over-react and drain all the water as if it's the Baby-Ruth-in-the-pool scene in "Caddyshack." But how about a whistle and a heads-up to the other swimmers when some kid has hurled chunks?

At the very least, give the impression that you're doing something. Bring out a big tub of chlorine and dump some in. Act like you're testing the delicate pH balance of the water. Get one of those floating Valdez oil-spill containment rings set up around the spewage. Anything!

We're all aware that the pool isn't a hyper-clean environment to begin with. Every adult knows that unsettling feeling of swimming too close to a group of toddlers and suddenly sensing that the water in that area is a little warmer and it's time to reverse engines.

While on the subject of kids and pools, how about that decision last month by the US Consumer Product Safety Commission to recall dive sticks? Those are the weighted, brightly-colored plastic rods, about six inches long, that you throw into the pool and then dive in and retrieve. Endless hours of fun for kids of all ages.

Unfortunately, this government agency determined that dive sticks are too dangerous because -- out of 20 million sold -- six boys and girls have been hurt while playing with them. The kids apparently didn't throw the dive sticks far enough into the pool, and when they jumped in they were impaled -- in exactly the body parts you would least like to have impaled.

Yes, that's a terrible thing to have happen, but a total recall -- and ban -- of the product after there's been a problem with only six out of twenty million? That comes to .00003%!!! I'll bet more kids are hurt in horrific swim-noodle accidents each summer. Not to mention the number of youngsters tragically lost during Marco Polo games.

So what's the compromise between the lifeguard's lack of action and the government's overreaction? I sure hope it's not kids diving for tossed cookies.

One last swimming item. This week, a guy was found nude and dead in the killer whale tank at Sea World Orlando. There were no bite marks or bruises on his body, so it’s assumed that he drowned after jumping in for a swim with the big beasts. Which makes you wonder, what part of the name “killer whale” did he not understand?

Oh, wait a minute. Please don’t let this be some sexual thing. That would bring new meaning to the word “blowhole.” And maybe he thought it was a sperm whale. Ah, jeez.

Okay, now can we clear the pool?

Wednesday, June 16, 1999

Bad Boys, Good Husbands?

I guess all the other guys were taken.

That's the only thing I can think of to explain why a woman married Erik Menendez this weekend.

Erik, you may recall, is doing a life sentence in a maximum security prison after he and his brother, Lyle, were found guilty of killing their parents several years ago.

His new bride is a woman in her thirties with two kids who became pen pals with Erik soon after his incarceration. When her husband died -- you can't help but wonder if she got tips from Erik on how to make that happen -- she picked up and left her midwestern home and moved to Sacramento to be closer to her inmate pal.

This weekend, they were married in a ceremony at the prison. And the honeymoon? There won't be one, since Erik isn't allowed to have conjugal visits. And you thought there wasn't enough sex in your marriage!

No word on whether Erik's pals in the cellblock threw him a bachelor party, but I wouldn’t be one bit surprised to hear about a little bump and grind session that went on in the shower room one day. Picture an inmate named Big Bubba jumping out of a cake and showing Erik how his shawshank needs some redemption. Talk about your penal institution.

What did this woman tell her kids when they asked the inevitable questions about their new stepfather?

Q: "Mom, what does Daddy do?"
A: "Well, he's with the government right now, son."
Q: "Where does he live?"
A: "He has a cozy room down at the Graybar Hotel."
Q: "Mom, how come we never see grandma and grandpa?"
A: "They're not around anymore, but I try to remember them everyday."
Q: "Is that why you never turn your back on us?"
What does this say about the rest of the men in the world, that this woman could only find her soulmate in a convicted murderer, whose victims were his own parents?

You always hear stories about women who are drawn to the bad boy, the rowdy rebel, the tattooed troublemaker, the Jerry Springer Show waiting-to-happen. And they're not just hanging around with these guys. They marry them and then are surprised when they can't tame them.

Of course, men are attracted to bad girls, too, but in the long run most men don't want to marry one. Example: Pamela Anderson Lee. In the male eye, she is a fantasy sex partner and wild weekend adventure. But a lifetime of wedded bliss? Nah.

If you doubt this whole “girls love bad boys” theory, let me introduce one other piece of evidence: there are women who still willingly date OJ Simpson. Granted, he’s not behind bars where he should be, so he’s not as enticing as the Menendez murderers, but women do still come on to him. Of course, they could just be in it for the free golf and the thrill of the hunt for the real killer.

Erik Menendez is in the top ranks of Bad Boys -- but he can’t hold a candle to his brother, Lyle.

Did you know that Lyle got married in prison, too? A couple of years ago, to a penpal named Anna. That one was never consummated either, and ended in divorce when Anna discovered that Lyle was writing to another woman from his jail cell. Yes, Lyle had not one, but two women drawn in by his charms. Anna considered that cheating (she's a lot tougher with the marriage vows than Hillary, apparently) and called the union off. On the grounds of Infidelity By Ink, probably.

What is the allure of these incarcarated romeos? Let’s check the positives and negatives.

MINUS: no money, because all of mom and dad’s wealth went to the lawyers and creditors at their trial.
PLUS: has learned to use cigarettes as jailhouse currency.

MINUS: constantly complains he doesn’t have access to the cellblock TV.
PLUS: never hogs the remote control.

MINUS: isn’t around to help with household chores.
PLUS: never leaves the toilet seat up at home.

MINUS: keeps talking about breaking out, like those cool guys in "Escape From Alcatraz."
PLUS: never have to watch that guy-flick "Escape From Alcatraz," and can rent "Steel Magnolias" again instead.

MINUS: spends every day with a mangy group of hardened prisoners.
PLUS: doesn’t stay out late and come home drunk after a night with his mangy group of ex-college buddies.

MINUS: no sex.
PLUS: no wet spot.

Wait! I have it! The secret to their seductive success! In the case of each Menendez bride, she fell for her man by mail, right? It must be their penmanship.

Thursday, May 27, 1999

The Flying Car

Hey, didja hear about The Flying Car?

A California company called Moller International claims to have invented a car that flies. Ladies and gentlemen, meet George Jetson!

This is one of those technologies Baby Boomers have dreamed about our entire lives but never thought we'd live to see. C'mon, who doesn't want a Flying Car??

Who hasn't had that moment on the road, when traffic is backed up to a standstill, and you wish you could flick a switch and have the car lift straight up and fly over all the other jammed-up suckers? That's what Moller claims this "Skycar" will do.
I don't understand the aviation mechanics of the thing (you can check out their website if you want that), but here's what I understand from a layman's perspective.

The Skycar will take off and land vertically, using powerful rotary engines and fans, like a Harrier jump jet. It'll seat four people, get about 15 miles per gallon and -- get this -- do a top speed of 370 miles per hour. That sure would cut down on the commute, wouldn't it?

You could live 100 miles from work, and be there in 16 minutes. Domino's could deliver your pizza before they even cook it. That first backseat sexual encounter could include membership in the Mile High Club!

Now, before you get too excited, let me bring you back to Earth for a second. So far, they have only gotten the Skycar about six feet off the ground. That's a problem. I usually prefer the aircraft I'm riding in to be able to clear my house, or at least the stop sign at the corner. At this point, they'd be banging into the forehead of your average WNBA player.

It's also a tad pricey, costing somewhere around a million dollars. But once they perfect the design and start mass-marketing this baby, you'll be able to pick one up for about sixty grand -- probably right out of the Sharper Image catalog -- and that's before your factory rebate. That first model won't fold up into a briefcase like George Jetson's did, but you have to start somewhere, don't you?

Flash forward several decades. You're talking to your great-grandchildren: "You kids today don't know how easy you have it! When I was a youngster, we had to drive in cars that actually touched the ground! We didn't just pick up and fly around town like you young punks. We had potholes, red lights, construction detours -- it was hell! Nowadays, the worst thing you deal with is a little old lady dropping down 10,000 feet without signaling!"

Then some twenty-first century Elroy will tease you right back, full of altitude attitude, making fun of how much trouble you used to have folding your old-fashioned two dimensional map.

The real downside to the Flying Car comes when everyone has one. You think you're surrounded by too many SUVs filled with bad drivers now? Wait till they can fly. They can't even parallel park properly -- how are they gonna do a perpendicular park out of a vertical drop? On the other hand, when someone cuts you off, you'll be able to flip them an actual bird!

Until someone develops a personal jetpack or that Star Trek transporter -- and Scotty can beam me up, down, and sideways -- the Flying Car will hold the title of Coolest Thing I've Heard Of for a long time.

Sunday, May 16, 1999

Nothing But A Hound Dog

Did you see the new robot dog that Sony has created?

I know, you're thinking the same thing I did: "Finally, a robot dog! Our prayers have been answered!"

Here's what the Sony PR team has been barking about. The battery-powered robo-mutt is named

AIBO. It has sensors to keep it from walking into walls, a mechanical tail to show that it's happy, and green LEDs for eyes. It can dance, sit up and beg.
Beg for what, a bowl of cyber-alpo?

Granted, there are a couple of benefits to having a dog that's a machine. No fleas. No pooper-scooper. Although, as Woody Allen joked in "Sleeper," it may leave a trail of tiny batteries on the floor. And if you think bathing a real dog is tough, try the shock of sticking this electro-pooch in the tub.

AIBO's creators have programmed it to enjoy being petted. A sensor in its head can "tell the difference between a friendly pat and a scolding slap."

Now, just how frustrating does your life have to be to slap a mechanical dog? What was it doing, sniffing the rear end of your computer? Lifting its leg and leaking oil on the carpet? Mocking Astro while you were trying to enjoy a "Jetsons" rerun?

AIBO will be sold only over the internet -- naturally -- and will cost about $2,500. That's way too much, and besides, you'd be doing a lot for humanity if you'd get yours at the robo-shelter. There are always dozens of compu-canines who desperately need a home. Won't you please pick one up there and plug it in at your house (note: some assembly required).

I'm surprised that Sony hasn't arranged for AIBO to be the spokes-machine for the big event coming up on June 25th: Take Your Dog To Work Day.

That's the day that you're supposed to bring your pooches along with you to the office, so they can see that there are a lot more career options available than just sitting at home staining the rug and scratching up the inside of the door.

What dog wouldn't love the opportunity to be shoved into the corner of your cubicle with nothing to do except listen to you bitch about the boss all day? It is also the perfect way to say to your co-workers, "Here, have some dog hair on your pants, just like me!"

Once you open the floodgates by urging people to bring their dogs into the office, it's inevitable that other pet owners will want to bring theirs, too. Where do you draw the line? Cats? Birds? Fish? Guinea pigs? Rhesus monkeys? Giraffes?

On the other hand, we've allowed jackasses for years, so the precedent is already there. No, I'm not talking about the person down the hall from you. I'm talking about the one who can't wait to buy AIBO, bring it to the office, and then show everyone how it can fetch a virtual stick (sold separately, batteries not included).

Monday, May 03, 1999

Star Wars Bores

Let me be the first to say: I don't care about the new Star Wars movie.

Sorry, George Lucas. I know this goes against every grain of the media hype you have carefully choreographed, but it's just a movie.

Don't get me wrong. I liked Star Wars. The sequels were okay, too. But even if this new one turns out to be the best movie ever made – a stretch, since none of the previous three would even be in the top ten of all time – it's still just a movie.

Here in St. Louis, a thousand people lined up outside of Toys R Us stores in order to be the first to buy the new Star Wars toys and merchandise at midnight last night. One couple sat in folding chairs beginning at 5pm! I hope they spent some part of those seven hours in line considering what they really should get once they got inside the store: A Life!!

This wasn't a one day, come-and-get-it sale. These are toys that will be in stores for a long time to come. Believe me, they're not likely to run out of Star Wars merchandise anytime soon.

To make it even better, we now have the super-hype combo in action: Star Wars and The Internet. This will make that whole Beanie Baby thing seem like a passing fad.

You think I'm kidding? E-Bay already has over 200 "Phantom Menace" items up for bid, including my favorite: an unused Phantom Menace Diet Pepsi can (it's going for five bucks). No, I didn't bid on it. I'm waiting for the one that Mark Hamill drank a few sips from.

Oh, and by the way, if you're an adult and you're walking around with one of those plastic light sabers, you're a dork. Your friends won't tell you, but I will. None of us is jealous because you got one first. None of us want one to begin with.

On the contrary, I have absolutely no problem with the people who have been in line for this movie for a couple of weeks already. In fact, I've had the leader of the line at Mann's Chinese Theater on my show a couple of times. He's funny. He realizes how silly this is. He's doing it for charity. And most of all, he's 22 years old.

You can do that sort of thing when you're 22 years old. In fact, you should do something stupid at that age. Enter a hot dog eating contest. Bungee jump. Hitchhike across Europe. Date Cher.

This is his shot at the brass ring of stupidity, and he's grabbing it with all the gusto he can muster. Good for him. But once you get into your 30s and 40s, your life should serve some other purpose than being the first person in line for ANYTHING.

I was talking with Roger Ebert about this on the air the other day and he agreed with me, saying he wouldn't even stand in line for an hour for a great hamburger. Here's a guy who -- obviously -- loves food, yet he realizes that there's always another place selling a hamburger.

There will always be another showing of the movie. So, you're the second person to see it. Or maybe you're a heretic and you wait two weeks before seeing it, or a month. So what? It's not like you're missing a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. And do you have any idea how annoying that first-person-who-saw-it is going to be to everyone they talk to for the next week?

Finally, a simple eight step test. Here's how you can tell that you are far too interested in the new Star Wars movie, "The Phantom Menace”...

  • You refer to your bathroom as “The Phantom Mensroom.”
  • You have personalized license plate number R2D2 or C3PO.
  • You call your computer “my desktop droid.”
  • You can't pass Pizza Hut without saying the word “Jabba.”
  • You have ever discussed the merits of the Meko disco version of the Star Wars theme versus the John Williams original soundtrack.
  • You refuse to believe that Yoda is a puppet.
  • Your answering machine message includes the phrase "May the phone be with you."
  • Your next destination on the web is the "Phantom Menace" section of E-Bay, to see what kind of cool items they have up for bid right now!

Friday, April 23, 1999

Stand Up For Viagra

What a surprise! Men are going crazy for Viagra, the impotence pill. It either is or soon will be the most prescribed medication in America. Who knew we were such an impotent nation?

Hold on a second. We're not talking about a pill that helps you do better arithmetic, or a pill that fights your chronic toe jam problem, or a pill that spell-checks your documents while it whitens your teeth. We're talking about a pill that helps make a guy's manhood be more manly. Forget about how it works. It doesn't matter. What matters is that every American guy thinks there's a stud bonus waiting inside that 50mg dose.

Keep in mind that until now, the cure for this problem involved the word "injection." Hey, Doc, that's a needle-free zone you're talking about! Now, Pfizer comes out with a pill that -- for what, eight bucks? -- makes every guy think he can break that nine-hour sex record that Sting claims he accomplished through yoga. Of course it's a bestseller!

Don't think that some of those pills aren't finding their way into the hands of women who are hoping it'll add a little more fun to their life, too: "Yeah, honey, I know you want to watch Michael Jordan take it to the hole, but let me make you a very special martini and we'll see who has the home court advantage tonight!"

There was even a website run by a doctor in Milwaukee that was offering a Viagra prescription on the net for $50, and no need to drop trou. Just a couple of clicks and your disk isn't so floppy anymore. The site was so popular that he couldn't keep up with demand. He got clamped down by some medical authority or another, and now all you get when you go to -- I'm not kidding about this address -- www.penispill.com, is the message, "We are sorry, but Vascular Center for Men is no longer able to offer Viagra to patients unless you visit our Milwaukee clinic in person." I wonder if you still have to turn your head and cough.

Naturally, Viagra has made the price of Pfizer's stock stand up straight, too. Because after a long day at the brokerage, every Gordon Gekko wannabe knows that greed is good, but sex is better, and you don't want to be caught among the shorts when every other guy is going long.

Sunday, April 18, 1999

He's The Un-Viagra

The world is a little safer today, and guys everywhere can uncross their legs with a sigh of relief. Edward Bodkin is in jail.

Bodkin is a man from Huntington County, Indiana, who has been practicing medicine without a license. His particular medical specialty was castration.

Call him the Un-Viagra.

I’m not talking about, “Honey, we have enough kids now, so I’m gonna get my tubes tied.” I’m talking about actually removing your external genitalia and tossing them away like that sackful of turkey guts you throw out before roasting the holiday bird.

Only he didn’t throw them away.

When they searched his apartment, the cops found nine jars of preserved testicles. Don’t ask me how he preserved them. I preserve mine by not letting anything sharp near them. Ever. I can only pray that he wasn’t saving them for some sort of weird canning process. Rocky mountain jelly, anyone?

They also found videotapes of at least three castrations he performed. If you think it was tough to watch the Kevorkian video on “60 Minutes,” wait till they get their hands on this! I can hear Andy Rooney now: “Didja ever notice how much more room you need in your briefs?” That's gravity and age talking, Andy.

Bodkin claims that he was only helping the men on whom he operated, that he did it with “caring, humanistic ideals toward my fellow man.” Strangely, there were no complaints from any of his patients, all of whom were adult men. That means that these guys went to him voluntarily and asked him to do the snipping.


What has to be going on in your life that makes you think things would be so much better if you just didn’t have balls? Even RuPaul runs from the room when they’re looking for these kind of volunteers.

In a related story from Egypt, a hospital janitor and two pals have been arrested for illegally performing circumcisions. They were discovered when one of their young patients began bleeding severely and had to be taken to the hospital.

Now, is circumcision against the law in Egypt, so you have to sneak around and find someone to do it on the sly? No.

Was there a shortage of personnel to handle the slicing from a religious angle during a baby boy birthing boom? No.

Do doctors and hospitals perform the procedure on a regular basis, relatively inexpensively? Yes.

So then, why would you ever trust that part of your son’s body -- or any part, but that one in particular -- to a guy whose most sophisticated work equipment is that bucket that helps squeeze the water out of the mop?

Come to think of it, that’s a piece of equipment Edward Bodkin could have used.

Monday, January 18, 1999

Trial Of The President

They have to sit there quietly and listen carefully and be constantly reminded to behave themselves. If they don't they're in serious trouble. I'm not talking about story time for the kids at the day care center. I'm talking about the United States Senate during this impeachment trial.

And they just can't do it.

Last Thursday -- on the first day, mind you -- while the House Republican managers (a/k/a 12 Angry Men) presented their case against Clinton, what were the Senators doing? Tapping their feet. Yawning. Passing notes. Eating candy. Nodding off. Checking to see if Strom Thurmond still has a pulse.

It's as if Justice Rehnquist is their substitute teacher. Pass the word -- everyone drop your books on the floor at 3pm!

Welcome to the wacky world of jury duty, Senators!

I've never served on a jury, although I always wanted to -- for one day, anyway. I was called for jury duty again last fall, but like many of the people on the panel, was rejected for the actual trial. Later, I asked one of the other potential jurors, an attorney, why he thought I had been tossed off. He told me that lawyers automatically reject two kinds of people for a jury: broadcasters and guys with beards. That means I got kicked in the butt with two feet.

I can understand the broadcaster thing. It's not because they're afraid we'll go on the air and tell their whole story. It's because, by and large, broadcasters are held in very low regard by the legal profession, and vice versa. Each profession feels that the other's place on the respect ladder falls one notch below circus people. Come to think of it, if the Bearded Lady had been there, she would have been chosen for that jury before me.

Anyway, back to the Senate trial, where the thrills just keep on coming. On Friday, Lindsay Graham warned his colleagues that "today won't be as exciting as yesterday." Which is like saying that John Tesh is not as exciting as Yanni.

Before this trial began, I thought it was going to be an amazing civics lesson, and that every social studies class in the country should be forced to watch it and learn from it. After a couple of days, I realize that would be a cruel and inhuman punishment to impose upon the nation's youth, somewhat akin to making them listen to Charles Grodin try to formulate a question without getting sidetracked. It's just the same old droning, over and over again.

What this trial needs is an Ollie North. Not the real Ollie, of course. But remember how boring the Iran-Contra hearings were until Mr. Righteous showed up in his Marine uniform with his potted plant attorney by his side? Suddenly, everyone was watching.

The only way we'd get that interest level going again is if Monica Lewinsky or Linda Tripp testifies in the well of the Senate. Come on, who's not going to watch that? I can see the college drinking game now: do a shot for every mention of the dress, and guzzle a pint of beer if someone says "cigar."

At the very least, it would be a bit of a relief from the parade of scowling old men we've seen thus far. This attack of the zombie elders is proof that term limits aren't such a bad idea, and maybe we need to extend them to the Supreme Court.

There's William "Doan's Pills" Rehnquist being sworn in by Strom "Older Than the Sun" Thurmond. These guys are ancient enough to remember when Jurassic Park was an actual vacation destination.

There's Jesse "I Roomed With Stonewall Jackson" Helms, trying to figure out how to get a tobacco company logo on the podium.

There's James "You Gonna Finish That?" Sensenbrenner, a dead ringer for one of those "Da Bears" guys (I know he's from Wisconsin, so it would be "Da Pack"). Every time he's speechifying I half expect him to start pounding his chest in a self-Heimlich maneuver until a two pound bratwurst comes spitting out.

There's Asa "Not Everyone From Arkansas Is Like That" Hutchinson, the only GOP manager who gives a good presentation -- although his impact is diminished somewhat by Henry Hyde and the other managers shouting out "Good answer!" as if this were some sort of political Family Feud.

Which, of course, it is.

At the beginning of the Senate trial, all 100 Senators raised their right hands and took an oath to be impartial jurors. Impartial? You could do all the DNA testing you want and never find an impartial chromosome in that chamber. In other words, they all lied under oath, didn't they? Oh, I guess it's okay if everyone does it.

In the meantime, it drags on and on. And we yearn for someone -- anyone -- to step forward and announce that "Our long national wet dream is over."

Sunday, January 10, 1999

Movie Sequels: Been There, Done That

Last year was the biggest grossing year in the history of movies. It was also a huge year for cruise ships. How are these two related? The travel experts say it has to do with the success of the movie, "Titanic."

That's right. So many people loved the idea of being on board a sinking cruise ship and then drowning in icy ocean waters, that they immediately called up Kathie Lee and asked if they could bunk in the stateroom with her and Frank. Funny, I don't remember cruise bookings going up after everyone saw Shelley Winters drown in Jack Albertson's arms in "The Poseidon Adventure."

Okay, I lied. None of the women who made these bookings wanted to room with the Giffords. They all wanted to room with Leo DiCaprio, or at the very least meet him on the bow and let him be king of their world. How disappointed they were when they got on board and learned that the closest they could get was a bald guy at the buffet who wore olive plaid stretch pants and whose zodiac sign was Leo.

But that's the power of the movies. And it explains why, logic be damned, James Cameron is now working on a sequel, "Titanic 2." So what if the ship sank and there's no chance in hell of getting Leo back? So what if the last movie sequel to take place on board a cruise ship was "Speed 2: Cruise Control," the movie that almost ended Sandra Bullock's career?

That's why I'm here to beg of the Hollywood hotshots to stop the madness. They have to finally realize that there are certain movie themes that should never be tried again, because they have already been covered from every angle, and you can't top the best of the bunch.

For instance, does anyone ever need to see another mafia movie? If you really have an aching for an evening with some wise guys, go rent a real classic. Go get either of the first two "Godfather" movies (but not number three, in which Sofia Coppola proves that she is the Fredo of the family) or Scorcese's masterpiece "Goodfellas," or the lighter side of the mob in "Prizzi's Honor" or the capper of a couple years back, "Donnie Brasco." If you're a filmmaker, you have to look at those five and realize that you'll never do it better. For proof, look at any TV movie like "The Last Don."


Here's another genre that we can lay to rest: war movies. After all the battles that have already been fought on celluloid -- besides all the black and white classics, there's "Platoon," "Saving Private Ryan," "Courage Under Fire," hell, even "Rambo" -- I just don't need to see another Hollywood star wearing camouflage again. Frankly, I don't care whether or not Sean Penn saves Guadalcanal in "The Thin Red Line." At the very least, pick a different war! I have yet to see the definitive flick about the weekend we won back Grenada.

The same is true for the horrors of outer space. Over the weekend, I stumbled across "Event Horizon" on cable. Now, I like Laurence Fishburne and there was nothing better on, so I sat though it.

Guess what the plot was? Way out in space, the crew of a spacecraft is awakened from hypersleep and forced to deal with some sort of alien life that is taking over the ship and will eventually kill practically everyone on board, preferably in a gruesome manner. Oh, and the interior of the ship has that musty metallic look, and the crew is made up of a bunch of characters who just want to make it back to Earth but they don't dare bring this thing from space home with them.

Hello? Ring a bell? This was the plot to "Alien." And "Aliens." And "Alien 3." And "Alien Resurrection." which had the balls to bring back Sigourney Weaver from the dead just to keep the damn series alive. I wouldn't be surprised to hear that in the next one, they bring Roddy McDowell back from the dead to do "Beneath The Planet Of The Alien." Get your stinking tentacles off me, you damn dirty extraterrestrial!

Hollywood keeps going back to that same well. Coming soon to a theater near you is a movie called "Virus," with Jamie Lee Curtis, Donald Sutherland, and Billy Baldwin. They don't even care if people think it's a blatant "Alien" ripoff. They're already running commercials for it with two cute tag lines: "It is aware" and "Humankind is history." Hopefully, humankind will be aware enough to realize that we've seen this movie before.

And they're not getting my seven bucks unless it's Jamie Lee in that dirty, drenched, too-tight undershirt. Of course, with creative geniuses like this at work, it's probably Donald Sutherland!