By Brian M. Howle
(Note: The following column originally appeared September 13, 2001 – but was prepared for the press date before the life-changing events of September 11, 2001.)
Newspapers have, historically and traditionally, run retractions or corrections in locations that don’t exactly scream out for recognition. They are usually buried among uninteresting stories or boxed-in above some of those attractive and compelling “Oriental Spa” ads. But not me. No sir, I’m putting my correction right up on lead: I made a boo-boo in the previous issue.
I still haven’t figured out exactly how it happened. Somehow, I inadvertently (and incorrectly) referred to the participants in the ‘70s “Initial media-overexposure-to-the-max-sex-scandal-with-a-meaningless-drunken-romp-in-a-wading-pool” as Congressman Wilbur Wright and party-gal Elizabeth Ray. Of course, it was Wilbur Mills, not Wilbur Wright. There must be some deep-hidden issues that I have yet to resolve with Wilbur Wright – about my fear of flying, seeded deep within my subconscious – that somehow made their way into my train of thought as I typed, which is deeply disturbing in and of itself. Well, at least I didn’t refer to him as Orville Mills. (That’s because Orville and I are cool. I’m down with Orville. It’s just Wilbur with whom I have problems).
Anyway, my apologies for the error. Hope nobody lost sleep over it. Not that I did, or anything. Really. Don’t worry about me, I’ll be fine.
But this does serve to bring up one of my ongoing fears, involving the knowledge that there are those of you out there who would surely misinterpret some of my choices for topics used in this column. As a result, I periodically feel the need to ‘fess up and make sure everyone understands that my writing is purely for:
(1) Entertainment and Humor. I like to kid. Honestly. And my quest is to validate this premise: Does anyone know how to take a joke anymore? Can people differentiate between political correctness and a goof? Geez. Also, I don’t mind being the butt of a joke – if it’s funny. Please keep that in mind, especially if you are someone in authority who could, for your own devious needs, make my life a living hell – if you are not amused;
(2) Belaboring the woes of the world. Tested and true; if you’ve seen or heard something on radio or television (that is the very definition of minutia personified to unrealistic stature and unjustifiable coverage, simply to fill another 2 minutes of air time while they rack up the hostage-chopper car chase-barricaded whacko-Insert-name-of-latest-Mid-East-horror-here-political scandal-du-jour lead-in for evening news) that makes you feel just a tad queasy;
(3) Allowing me a means to circumvent conventional therapy. And also, the cost of said therapy), and:
(4) Killing Space. A highly technical, fancy newspaper term used by over-educated but linguistically challenged page editors. And, please don’t attempt to comprehend this term: unprepared laymen have been known to “freeze-up” their under-used leetle brains (much like your PC does, right before you realize it’s been about four hours since you last hit the “save” button), ending up catatonic or worse (like being one of the people giving testimonials in those late-night infomercials about wood chippers, or an Inventor’s Processing Kit, or all things T-Fal, or anything made by Ronco.
All that being said, here’s what’s recently caught my constantly filtering attention:
Have you seen the cosmetics commercial featuring a normal-looking young woman as she happily chortles, “Who would’ve thought it could happen? Blemishes and wrinkles at the same time? You need our Anti-Blemish, Anti-Wrinkle cream to make you look your best!”
Well, hey sweetie, anyone taking the time to sneak a peek at an older family member would’ve thought it could happen – and are most likely mortified over the prospect of receiving that little genetic gift. As far as needing their cream to make you look your best, well, here’s the cruel, harsh truth: You looked your best somewhere between the ages of 14-19, for about 15 minutes.
Come on, honey – let it go. Listen to sister Aretha when she implores you to feel like a “Natural Woman.” Besides, the sooner you give in to the dark side and accept the fact that you are old and unimportant, the sooner you get to join our super-secret, super-private club of Over-40 folks. It’s a special place where viable, experienced, mature, knowledgeable folks gather to watch our society bend over to take one deep while worshiping the exponentially unscrupulous profit margin to be gleamed from a youth-oriented market. All current music, television, movies, fashions, and national economic policies are produced for that palpable 18-35 demographic. The kids decide on all the really cool, “in” things; we decide what the next still-equally-nauseating flavor of Metamucil might be … along with actually electing the leaders who will ultimately decide to sacrifice the 18-35 demographic’s Social Security fund to keep us all swimming in Centrum, Prosilic and Oxy-Contin.
So, just let it go. If you need a truly cruel deterrent to turn you away from this commercial illusion, then brace yourself – this is gonna sting: All the anti-wrinkle, anti-blemish cream in the world ain’t gonna help. You’re not young anymore. And you can pile on all the makeup in the free world if you want … because the young can sniff you out and delineate you faster than an East Coast shark perusing the all-you-can-eat offshore buffet on a Florida/Virginia/North Carolina beach. Besides, you’ll need that money for calcium supplements pretty soon.
Kids Say The Darndest Things
Well, here it is, already September – and like a bad cold or a broke relative, the Condititillation of the Media and Assorted White Trash continues to hang around. But, now it’s reached beyond the point of absurdity to bordering on being almost comical (except for the missing dead girl part; there’s nothing funny about that). Case in point: A recent qualifier on “Who Wants to Be A Millionaire?” had the following paradox to ponder:
List the following states of unbearable agony, from least to worst;
A: Zipping naked down a waterslide lined with razor blades, through a giant Margarita-glass salting ring, and into a pool of isopropyl alcohol.
B: Sipping 365-degree coffee through a 500-degree straw.
C: Having your head immobilized between two 100,000-watt speaker cabinets, with the left channel consisting of the shrill-pitched squalls of 3,682 emaciated, feral cats (all in heat, of course) inside a dumpster with one dead rat; and the right channel consisting of Yoko Ono singing anything.
D: Being Gary Condit right now.
Of course, this was a trick question. Any order of “A” and “B” as the least agonizing would have been accepted; leniency was granted in vacillating between “C” and “D.” Believe it or not, it wasn’t even close between “C” and “D” getting the “worst” rating. Some took 3.79 seconds to correctly list the items; some took 21.38 seconds – but they all listed “D” as worst.
A control group of Cotton-Top Tamarinds was used to verify the results of the question, and with remarkably similar results. Although the Tamarinds tended to engage in the throwing of their own feces a bit more than their human (excluding politicians) counterparts, they ardently proved that being related to a monkey doesn’t mean you can’t understand how screwed this guy seems to be.
Good ol’ Larry King has put both of Condit’s adult kids on his show. This allowed the Condit siblings to defend their father’s actions (or, is it inactions?), and to gloat over quitting their jobs in disgust and protest after their boss (Gov. Snively of California) tossed dad a 50-ton anchor – just as he drifted over the Great Abyssal Trench of American Politics – by condemning his lack of moral fiber, after the fact.
First came the Conditclone son, Caligua Condit, staunchly defending dear ol’ dad. Well, not exactly. See, he refers to his father as “Gary.” What the heck’s up with that? If I had ever faintly entertained the concept of calling my father by his first name instead of “Dad,” “Pop,” “Daddy,” or “Pa” – as a child (or even now) – it would have immediately resulted in my head being physically removed from the constraints of my body. Anyway, this young man said his dad told the cops everything, never hid anything, had nothing to be guilty of, and that his mother stood by him.
I don’t remember much about the daughter, Kiki Condit, mainly because of her response to Larry’s suggestion that there may be some small extract of moral irony in Rep. Condit’s affair with a young girl roughly the same age as his own daughter.
“I’m 24 years old, Larry,” she steadfastly replied, with a face far too full of weary gauntness and trepidation for a young woman that age, “I am a fully grown woman. I’m not at all concerned about that part of this story.”
Tell ya what, Kiki – you show me a gal fully grown at 24 years of age, and I’ll show you a man fully grown at … some point.
My only disappointment with both interviews was Larry’s total lack of hipness. That, and being out of touch with the youth of our country. His ratings would have quadrupled if only he had begun each interview with, “Who’s you’re daddy?” I would do the pay-per-view deal just to see their reaction to that.
But, you know, that could start something positive. Hmmmm … maybe we could actually take the pale shadow of possible death and suffering away from the story for a few weeks. If this became the new catchphrase for our media-addicted society, imagine the possibilities…
The Condit kids are being interviewed by William F. Buckley, Jr. for PBS. Now, picture Buckley, pen rapidly tapping his lower cheek, tongue swirling like a rodeo rope, rolling his eyes from top to bottom as he postures forward to deliver his interpretation: “And now … ummm … now, who … ah, who might your father be?”
Silly me, trying to put Buckley into a sitcom environment. What was I thinking?
The only thing more stupid would be trying to put Leonardo DeCaprio in a Shakespeare film. No, wait, somebody actually did that. Cool, that means my positive-slant idea can’t be that bad.
After viewing the interviews of Mr. Condit, his son, his daughter, and the Levys (with apologies to Chandra: someone needs to be looking for Mrs. Levy’s personality. I think it’s been missing a lot longer than Chandra), I experienced an unsettling urge to visit Blockbuster and rent The Stepford Wives. But, much like this whole Chandra/Condit story, I couldn’t stick with watching it to the very end.
Apparently, truth is stranger than fiction. However, you can rewind both and relive them all over again, as you trowel on another load of anti-wrinkle/anti-blemish cream and pretend not to notice anyone’s lies.
The previous column was originally published September 13, 2001.