"a fish, a barrel, and a smoking gun"
for 27 January 2000. Updated every WEEKDAY.

Hit & Run CCXII



We've always had some sympathy

for Srini Kumar and his

Unamerican Activities business,

with its implicit dilemma of

offering countless slogans in

search of a brand. "It's ironic

that in a nation founded upon

its guarantee of freedom of

speech, assembly, and the press

for all citizens, we find so

little meaningful political

dissent," the tireless

iconoclast laments. As it turns

out, though, !!!srini has found

a new way of getting his point

across — when in doubt,

throw your roommate's cat out

the window. As described by

James Squeaky, Kumar's erstwhile

roommate and Unamerican

co-worker, last month the

Unamerican founder hurled

Squeaky's feline familiar

through a

quarter-inch-thick pane

of glass, ending a night of

mewling and scratching

shenanigans and mortally

wounding the beast. Of course,

single people tend to be fond of

their cats, and Squeaky has not

taken the catastrophe lying

down. This weekend he hijacked

the Unamerican mailing list with

a painful tell-all that had

!!!srini struggling to justify

himself. ("... my wrists are

aching from emailing back thos

[sic] of you who contacted me,"

!!!srini whined in a follow-up

message, to which we can only

say: Good, now maybe you won't

throw any more defenseless

animals through windows!) In a

mass-mailed counterattack, the

hapless !!!srini has offered

that signature trope for the age

of apology chic — the

nonadmission admission. It turns

out he only meant to lob the

rambunctious pussy onto a nearby

couch, the whole incident was a

product of

post–Battle in Seattle fatigue,

the real culprit is some

negligent third party who forgot

to give the cat its medicine,

and so on. We don't condone

cruelty to animals in any form,

but it certainly seems the

energetic sloganeer could use

some new catch phrases to go



KILLED YOUR CAT" might be just

the ticket.



For Sucksters of a certain age,

a special spot on the lowlight

reel of the 1980s has always

been reserved for the spectacle

of Barbra Streisand belting out

the tuneless, unrhymed songs of

the Bergmans in her vanity

picture Yentl — a film so

bad it had Isaac Bashevis Singer

spinning in his grave even

before the more-than-ancient

author had died. If we share

Singer's antipathy for the

stage-glomming superstar, we

lack his wisdom in life matters

and are thus unable to explain

why in God's name Babs continues

to hold such a tenacious place

in the public imagination. Is

it the fact that she hasn't had

a chart-topper in several

decades? Is it the camp appeal of

colossal missteps like Nuts

and Je M'Appelle Barbra?

Certainly the breathy songstress'

well-known penchant for

browbeating her underlings and

associates suggests a curious form

of mind control, and the sad fates

of Streisand opponents like JFK Jr.,

Tom Selleck, and Celine Dion make

for an eerie counterpoint. Even the

wags who affect to have

some fun at Barbra Joan's

expense inevitably come off

sounding more like Linda Richman

than John Simon. Thus, it was that

the past few weeks saw several

events discouraging to all people

of sound judgment. First Streisand

announced her retirement from stage

performing. Good news, on the face

of it (Indeed, long-standing rumors

that PLO death threats had prompted

her previous moratorium on performing

generated more sympathy for the Arab

cause than Edward Said ever

managed to do), but the multimedia

diva immediately added that she

just needs more time to direct.

And at Sunday's Golden Globes

broadcast — an event in which

virtually every acceptee made a

point of verbally acknowledging

the "wrap it up" sign some

luckless stagehand was made to

hold up — nearly a half-hour

was devoted to the most fulsome,

overblown Streisand tribute in

the history of fulsome,

overblown Streisand tributes.

The linchpin: The "foreign

press" graced Barbra with the

coveted Cecil B. DeMille award

(given that DeMille himself made

a cameo appearance in Sunset

Boulevard, the implications for

today's faded celebrity are

ominous). The only encouraging

sign was that all the stars in

attendance had the good taste to

look bored out of their skulls

by the tribute — even James

Brolin, who's on the payroll.

But that doesn't take away the

bitter taste of knowing that

this exhausted, irrelevant relic

is still lauded as a megastar

while Burt Reynolds can't shake

his reputation as a has-been.



Once in a while, you get a

seamless mix of advertising,

content and human drama that

does for your brand what Flight

007 did for the Soviet Union's.

Something similar has been

happening to The North Face, the

retail mountain gear chain that

is currently running a series of

North Face Expeditions

documentaries on NBC. As fully

synergized exercises go, it

would be hard to top this one.

North Face gear dots the

landscape — and the

commercial breaks. Fellow

travelers like Mountain Zone

kick in for ads. Soundtrack

music and introductory material

is provided by Sting, and the

Englishman in New York even

lends his sanctimonious presence

to a well-positioned commercial

for Sting.Compaq.Com. The only

trouble: Courting death is

always part of the appeal of

mountaineering excursions, and

on this Sunday's broadcast of a

climbing/skiing expedition up

Tibet's Mount Shishapangma (the

world's 14th tallest peak), the

Reaper exacted his price. The

avalanche that killed Dave

Bridges and heavily sponsored

North Face employee Alex Lowe

created dual TV dramas: On

screen, the team tried to cope

with the loss of their friends,

and behind the scenes, producers

struggled to salvage good

television from the macabre turn

of events. The solution was so

elegant it seemed to skirt the

Son of Sam law: The North Face

treated the late climbers to a

tasteful video montage set to

Sting's gloomy song "Fragile."

But it was all for naught: As it

turns out, the show was only the

second most dramatic program in

its time slot. Over on Fox, the

NFC championship game, with its

defensive slugfest and the

outrageously disallowed catch

that dashed Tampa Bay's last

hope, ensured that only the most

agile channel surfers caught

the climbers' grisly

deaths or the King of Pain's

lugubrious tribute.



Speaking of sponsored events,

one Walter Wlodarsky, who does

that sport where they ride

motorcycles, sent in the above

picture and a

résumé in hopes of

scoring a Suck sponsorship. As

we're lucky to be making even

our own payroll, we see little

chance of placing an ad on Walt

or his bike. But his

résumé — which

includes such career highlights

as "1987-1991: Stoped [sic]

racing," "1993: Broken leg," and

"1996-1999: Off due to marital

problems" — convinces us

that he's worth your attention.

If you'd like to sponsor

Wlodarsky in his upcoming

competitions, be sure to drop

him a line.



Skewed survey results update:

Upset at the fact that Michael

Jordan was leading the vote in


athlete-of-the-century poll, the

Native-American community has

rallied the nations to the

online polling place. The

indigenous pick, naturally, is

multisport legend Jim Thorpe.

When last we checked, the effort

was working. Thorpe had blown

past the competition, with

nearly 60 percent of the vote.

And we are in full agreement

that the Native-American man for

all seasons deserves the nod

over the ubiquitous baseball

washout. Click over to the poll

and give Jim Thorpe your vote.

courtesy of theSucksters