"a fish, a barrel, and a smoking gun"
for 13 January 2000. Updated every WEEKDAY.



Hit & Run CCX



The AOL–Time Warner merger

has gotten gums flapping around

the world. Somehow, crafty cable

guy Jerry Levin wound up on top,

keeping the CEO title while

giving away the farm to AOL's

shareholders, who got 55 percent

of the megalith. Steve Case will

be chairman, a role which will

allow him to get even less sun

than he does now. What's really

a shame is that Marc Andreessen

bailed out before the merger

took place; if he'd waited a

while longer, he could have

ditched his CTO gig at AOL to

pitch Time-Life Books on

late-night TV, following his

beer ads with Norm Macdonald.

And former People correspondent

Maria Wilhelm, lately seen

trying to flee the burning ruins

of Netscape Netcenter, can now

return to the loving embrace of

her old-media employer. The

deal's even got an upside for

AOL partner Sun: Should Scott

McNealy die in a tragic hockey

accident, AOL-Time vice chairman

Ted Turner could step right into

his loudmouth shoes.



The fates are cruel, and never

more so than when mortals

presume to tell the future. Even

worse is when they try to play

it up for their own benefit! In

the current issue of New York,

our old pal Michael Wolff lays it

down for the dot coms — and

demonstrates for the umpteenth

time why his one-time dream of

becoming admiral of the New

Media Ocean Sea has dwindled to

the point where he's nursing a

spot at the Manhattan Spirit's

glossier cousin. Amazon, Wolff

proclaims, will be the Atari of

the aughts, and Jeff Bezos

should start cashing in shares

but quick. Given the fickle

finger of destiny, who can say

he's wrong? But Wolff must no

doubt be regretting the

following prediction, published

on the day of our Lord, 10

January 2000: "So there it is.

Old media buys new media in

2000. The circle is unbroken.

Viacom-CBS buys AOL." The circle

is unbroken, indeed! Wolff says

up front that erring is "without

any consequence whatsoever," but

Monday's mega-riffic merger just

reminds us that prophecy was

given to fools. Which is why we

can confidently predict that, in

2000, Michael Wolff will acquire

a pack of BreathAsure and at

least six remaindered copies of

Burn Rate.



Anyone who's heard the bombastic

heartland generica of Melissa

Etheridge probably has gotten an

inkling that the Sapphic

snooze-rocker isn't gonna be

confused with Stephen Hawking

anytime soon. But still, her

admission in this week's Rolling

Stone has us wondering just what

all those years of high-decibel

exposure have done to her IQ.

After months of fan speculation

about who fathered her kids

— was it Tom Hanks? Bruce

Springsteen? — she reveals

that the testes she tapped for

the job belong to ... David

Crosby? Given the vastness of

the human gene pool, it's a true

head-scratcher that a woman of

Etheridge's resources would seek

out the substance-battered

chromosomes of a

paleontological, FM-lite

poltroon like Crosby, in what

may be the first known case of

abusing a child that wasn't yet

conceived. Wasn't Eric Carmen

available? Don't get us

wrong, a perforated liver,

a taste for firearms and

underage girls, a prison record,

and an appearance that brings to

mind a homeless gnome are all

traits that would make Ward

Cleaver green with envy, but if

that's what you're after, you

could just as well try your luck

at the Sperm Bank of the Bowery.

But, says Etheridge, "He's

musical, which means a lot to

me," showing an alarming

unfamiliarity with Crosby,

Stills, and Nash's ghastly

post-Woodstock-era output. For

Crosby's part, the Reuters'

story on the subject noted that

he was "happy to lend a hand,"

planting an image that we

sincerely hope won't give his

offspring the sleepless nights

it's going to give us. "Teach

Your Children," indeed.



The Andy Kaufman biopic Man

on the Moon enjoyed strong

enough holiday business that we

can expect to see a new

generation of similarly

themed movies about

not-quite-successful comedians.

By concentrating almost solely

on the ups and downs of

Kaufman's professional career,

including a demented montage of

scenes from Taxi, using the

now-wrinkled original cast, Man

on the Moon lowers the bar for

Hollywood film biographies. No

insight is necessary: It's

enough that the subjects be

famous or almost famous and that

more fame was denied them. The

film can then be structured

around a greatest-hits

compilation of the subject's

already-performed routines. It

is an irresistible combination

for lazy screenwriters,

frustrated A-list actors, and an

audience of Hollywood wannabes.

What follows are those comedians

perfect for the Kaufman

treatment. Our criteria,

dependent on a central tragedy

that makes the show business

failure permanent by killing the

comedian, exclude comedians who

lived far longer than they

should have (Bob Hope, Milton Berle)

and those who've already had

kind of lousy films made about

them (Richard Pryor, Lenny

Bruce). Here are the five most

likely to roar into your

multiplex in the next 36 to 48



1. Bill Hicks — the comedian

who best parallels Kaufman. He

was angry and

out of his time period (Hicks

did his best work during the

full flush of the Billy Ray

Cyrus/Debbie Gibson/Cosby Show

spinoff Bush era) and is slowly

building a grass-roots

reputation that exceeds the

audience he had during his



Basic Story:

Misunderstood prophet who came

too dangerously close to telling

the truth about ourselves to

receive his just rewards.


Tragedy: Basic show business

frustrations, followed by an

ignominious, slow death by

cancer during which Hicks

continued to work.

Taxi -style "Look, I'm

Successful" Montage:

Playing to sold-out shows for

audiences in England, where he

was adored.


Show Business Entity Razzed:

The Late Show with David

Letterman, in its initial period

of flush success, for playing it

safe and cutting a Hicks routine

because of its racy content.


Perfect Casting: One of the

serious "actorly" types doing a

manic, comic turn — Kevin

Spacey or Edward Norton.


2. Sam Kinison —

out-of-control, overweight

stand-up with a reputation for

late-night excess and

cutting-edge humor. Kinison's

religious past (he was a

Pentecostal minister) makes for

a great opening 10 minutes that

write themselves.


Basic Story:

Misunderstood, sensitive artist

who was too much of a child to

handle his show business



Tragedy: Never was

quite able to cross over into

film; was turning life around

just as he met his tragic

highway-accident end.


Taxi-style "Look, I'm Successful"

Montage: The making of the Wild

Thing video.


Show Business Entities Razzed:

Joan Rivers (standing in

for daytime shows in general)

for insensitively harassing a

too-polluted-to-perform, no-show

Kinison at his hotel. The movie

business in general for not

being open-minded enough to

accommodate Kinison's talent

despite his non-matinee looks.


Perfect Casting: Philip Seymour



Bonus: Various Kinison

hangers-on and friends,

including Jessica Hahn, would be

certain to denounce/endorse the

film (depending on whether

they're hired to consult),

making for easy publicity.


3. Duffy and Sweeney —

obscure, legendary comedy team

from the age of vaudeville.

Their act consisted of running

around on stage hitting each

other and insulting the

audience. They were often too

inebriated to perform.


Basic Story: Misunderstood geniuses

who pioneered certain aspects of

"are they serious?" performance

art, who never got the break

they deserved while their

less-inspired vaudeville cohorts

went on to make it big in radio

and movies.


Tragedy: Both were

extreme alcoholics, which

sabotaged their careers by

making them unemployable.


Taxi-style "Look, I'm Successful"

Montage: Bringing down the house

on New York vaudeville stages.


Show Business Entity Razzed: The

callow, success-at-all-costs

early Hollywood and New York

radio empires for orchestrating

the poignant final scene of

surviving member playing bit

roles in movies starring former

vaudeville peers.


Perfect Casting: Tim Robbins and John

Cusack could do this 15 minutes

after one of them read the right

magazine article.


4. Robert Benchley — gifted

writer who pioneered the nonjoke

stand-up routine in a series of

remarkable short comedic film

monologs. One of the famed

Algonquin crowd of

self-appointed writing

superstars turned dissipated,

cranky alcoholics.


Basic Story:

Misunderstood artist never given

his full due for his talent or

massive contribution to American



Tragedy: Extremely

promising young man fails to

make good on ultimate goals

due to self-doubt and alcohol

abuse. If you want to include a

meaty female role, then Dorothy

Parker plays the (not-quite)

girlfriend from hell.


Taxi-style "Look, I'm Successful"

Montage: Short cuts from short

film monologs and appearances

in Fred Astaire movies.


Show Business Entity Razzed:

Hollywood in general,

specifically the dumbing-down of

major studio comedies in the

'40s and '50s.


Perfect Casting:

Anyone tall, thin, and

"offbeat": Tim Robbins OR John



5. Freddie Prinze — the fact

that everything Latin is "hot"

again bodes well for a film

treatment of this '70s Hispanic

culture icon and shotgun suicide

despite an unremarkable

television movie treatment.


Basic Story: Misunderstood star

finds success but falls short of

ultimate goals due in no small

part to broad-based, entrenched,

American racism.


Tragedy: Pressures of basic story

combined with generic '70s

excess leads to early,

undignified exit.


Taxi -style

"Look, I'm Successful" Montage:

Chico and the Man clips,

hopefully not starring a

25-years-older Della Reese.


Show Business Entity Razzed: The

banality of American television,

which used Prinze on Chico and

then replaced him with a child

and Charo during a season, airing

these episodes after his death.


Perfect Casting: Begs for an

unknown, particularly after the

studios flirt with an

established Anglo star to the

dismay of the Latin-American

community. While it is the right

kind of project for teen

heartthrob Freddie Prinze Jr. to

make his bid for serious

actordom, that's just way too




It's a modernist fable.

Collaborating with the

conquering cartoon invaders,

Burger King began parroting

Pokémon's not-even-subtle

marketing slogan, "Gotta catch

'em all," as part of its

lucrative tie-in promotion for

the US release of a lame

Pokémon movie. In early

December, the restaurateur

gloated to Advertising Age that

it had increased sales by as

much as 30 percent with posters

urging kids to "Collect all 57

toys. There's one in every kids'

meal," and by pimping a



Pokémon trading card.

("$1.99 each. Only at Burger

King Restaurants.") But last

week Burger King began singing a

new tune. "Consumers should

immediately take the balls away

from children under the age of

three." Granted, the

controversial recall of all 70

million Pokémon balls

took place just six days before

the scheduled ending of the

two-month promotion — and

originally, Burger King insisted

on continuing the giveaway with

its Burger King Big Kids' Meals.

But then again, most toys are a

choking hazard for children

under three, from Barbie's

Bridal Boutique to Millennium

Furby. Still, we welcome

anything that fuels irrational

fears of the great

Pokémon menace.


Pokémon Returns," read

one ABC News headline last

spring.) When the Tamagotchi war comes,

turncoat children will no doubt be

wearing their limited-edition

Pokémon collectible dog

tags. And there are signs that

the belligerent Japanese toys

are already becoming rebellious.

An assistant medical examiner in

Detroit reports a Pokémon

toy now just says, "Fuck you."



Last week, Jonathan Margolis, a

commentator in the venerable

Sunday Times noted, "All human

life is online," taking special

note of an obscure post in a

forgotten bulletin board on

USA-Talk.com. After establishing

posting areas for every US city,

the Web company promptly forgot

to monitor them. So on New

Year's Day, the abandoned

bulletin board marched

undeterred into the 21st

century, displaying its first

spam from the year 19100. But

mixed in with unattended threads

about sex toy fun and fast, easy

money is a remarkable post from

1998 for Boise, Idaho. It's not

just that the unsung hero

titled his post "MY NAME IS MR.


ALL!!!!!" repeating the second

phrase 240 times. It's that the

site's autobots helpfully

prompted users to post a

follow-up titled, "RE: MY NAME IS


ALL...!!!!!" — also

repeating the phrase 240 times.

In addition, the clever

originator of the thread also

wrote "MY NAME IS MR.USA.... I

WILL KILL YOU ALL...!!!" in the

name field, so it's repeated an

additional 240 times whenever

cited, and the phrase "kill you

all" ends up appearing 5,006

times on the Boise forum's

subject-index page. The messages

have apparently lingered online

for more than a year, the Web

equivalent of graffiti on a

burned-out building. Yet the

maze of homicidally titled

follow-ups creates an

inadvertent monument to civic

intentions gone horribly awry.

Margolis recommends it —

"... if it's sheer,

unadulterated, psychotic lunacy

you're after."

courtesy of theSucksters