"a fish, a barrel, and a smoking gun"
for 24 February 2000. Updated every WEEKDAY.
Hit & Run CCXVI



After hosting the first-ever

Republican primary in which most

of the voters weren't

Republican, Michigan party

officials can at least be

grateful that their race is less

complicated than the online

primaries, where George W. Bush

is running against two hamsters,

professional wrestler Ric Flair, and an

animated monkey. The major parties'

official campaign sites faced a

mysterious online jinx, as

GeorgeWBushStore.com lost some

of its orders for fund-raising

merchandise (like the

Bush-branded polo shirts, golf

shirts, and bottled water),

while McCain2000.com had to

battle its own unauthorized

doppelgänger. But if online

fund-raising will be a deciding

factor for insurgent candidates,

campaign managers will have to

grapple with a new breed of

voter that greets the political

season by auctioning autographs of

Gerald Ford on eBay.

Disillusioned online Americans

with too much time on their

hands have already erected web

monuments to the cherished

belief that any pop-culture

figure can grow up to be

president, and Yahoo now lists

30 Web pages in its " Fake

Candidates" category. With

Republican candidates making

repeated references to a "rebels

vs. Death Star" theme, the

front-runner in this election

seems to be George Lucas. Star

Wars fans have picked up the

theme, nominating Admiral Ackbar

and arguing that the

electorate's inbred xenophobia

"would be channelled into the

ridiculing of the dome-headed

buffoon that would be leading

our planet." Proving that

LucasArts is a big tent with

room for everybody, candidacies

have also emerged for Senator

Palpatine and Darth Vader, and

fact and fiction finally merged

hopelessly last week one when

one Web log displayed a

suspicious photograph showing

George W. Bush posing with Darth




The film critic's life seems

glamorous, sure, what with the

chance to see The Whole Nine

Yards before anyone else does

and the opportunity to be

shuffled off to a hotel

somewhere to ask Affleck the

preapproved questions he phoned

in to his publicist after a few

glasses of pinot noir. But

sometimes it still seems like

something's missing. There's an

emptiness that not even a Scream

3 crew jacket can cover up and

make go away. Maybe that's why

Entertainment Tonight's

unnaturally chipper film

reviewer Leonard Maltin has

teamed up with Travel Partners

Inc., an outfit that specializes

in "astrological travel

planning," to offer an 11-day

vacation cruise they're calling

"North to Alaska" after the

rowdy, tiresome, 1960 John Wayne

vehicle. For a mere US$3,600

(double occupancy),

self-punishing movie buffs can

hop on board the good ship

Volendam and take off from

Vancouver en route to America's

Last Frontier. When night falls

and the northern lights make

their lustrous appearance,

passengers can turn their faces

away from the aurora borealis

and toward a screen showing

Chaplin's The Gold Rush, the

Clarke Gable version of The Call

of the Wild, and —

inevitably — North to

Alaska. (What, no matinee of

Titanic?) The race is on for

good seats as the author of the

yearly Movie & Video Guide waxes

pleasant about each evening's

screening. Too bad Maltin won't

be showing the 1972 Charlton

Heston–Maria Rohm version of

Call of the Wild, perhaps the

only thing that could enhance

that Ship of Fools atmosphere

snooze-cruisers will inevitably feel.

We can only hope the Bearded

One's excursion is so successful

it inspires other more

hard-bitten film critics to

notch the concept to its

natural, x-treme adventure

travel level. A cruise through

the Mekong Delta featuring

screenings of Apocalypse Now and

The Deer Hunter and impassioned

explications by anti-auteurist

dowager Pauline Kael couldn't

fail. Or perhaps a cruise up the

Connecticut with David Denby to

rescue the Kurtz-like Kael from

the wilds of the Berkshires?



For the committed cosmopolite

film critic, however, a slow

boat to nowheresville may not be

enough to bring back the outlaw

excitement cinéastes once

got from savaging slow-moving

targets like Otto Preminger.

What else could explain New York

Observer "Man about Town" Rex

Reed's 12 February shoplifting

arrest? The Myra Breckinridge

co-star and one-time Gong Show

panelist was nabbed by security

as he tried to exit a Manhattan

Tower Records store with the

pocket of his suede Ralph Lauren

jacket stuffed with CD's. Found

inside the not-cheap topcoat:

discs by Peggy Lee, Mel

Tormè, and Carmen McRae

— the exact stuff he should

be getting for free as the

Observer's jazz vocals reviewer.

Reed rushed to his own defense

in the 21 February edition of

his own paper, explaining with

his patented brand of whimsical

charm that he's not as young as

he used to be. He claims —

in what sounds to us like

another scam — that in a mad

rush to return a CD he'd bought

earlier in the day, he simply

forgot that he'd pocketed Peggy,

Carmen, and Mel. Reed's

self-exoneration goes on to

mention that he had plenty of

cash and cards on his person, so

why would he steal? He'd just

made a legit purchase of a

couple of other CDs, and he must

be innocent of any wrongdoing

because he owns thousands of CDs

already and gets tons of free

ones sent to him every day. Do

these explanations sound one

iota different from the excuses

teenage Metallica fans offer to

security guards every three

minutes in malls across the

land? Is that, to paraphrase

Peggy Lee, all there is to his

excuse? And did every tabloid in

New York City beat us to that

punch line by almost two weeks?

Rex, we all get the urge to

shoplift. With the price of CDs

hovering at $16, petty larceny

is nothing to be embarrassed

about — especially when

you're walking around a store

with somebody else's property in

your pocket. How is old age an

excuse for that? Is that what

shopping was like before we were

born? You put stuff in your

pocket and walked around until

you decided it was time to pay?

Rex, admit you get the urge to

shoplift music like everybody

else does. You're not human

anymore since you've come out

the other side of The Gong

Show? You weren't getting free

records then, were you? Rex Reed

knows a thing or two about

shoplifting, is all we're saying. It

doesn't matter how much money you

have or what you get paid: We all

want to boot merchandise from the

pigs who would charge us top dollar

for our Sarah Vaughan! Rex, we

know a few men-about-town

ourselves who don't do anything

but shoplift Peggy Lee CDs —

and they can afford them too.

The thrill, Rex. Life isn't all

fuzzy reviews of The Cider House

Rules. Sometimes you have to

make your own rules. Peggy Lee

knows that too. Why else would

she send you her complete works

when she heard about the night

you spent in jail for art?



Love is fickle, and by now it's

clear that Rick Rockwell didn't

fare any better after Who Wants

to Marry an [Allegedly Abusive]

Multi-Millionaire than his first

time around in 1991, when model

Debbie Goyne alleged that

"repeated attempts to break off

an engagement have been met with

threats," including a statement

that "he would find me and kill

me." In a Web twist on reality

programming, The Smoking Gun

dug up Goyne's petition for

a restraining order, the actual

restraining order, and an

unintentionally damning

promotional head shot from

Rockwell's career as a stand-up

comedian. (The site then

fast-forwards to the

early-February marriage

certificate from Fox's knock-off

game show.) Think of it as When

Web Pages Attack, or an online

version of Cops in which a

brain-dead television concept

suffers a gruesome death in the

arena of public opinion. The

show was so reviled that even

before Rockwell's marriage went

south, TV commentators had

repudiated every detail,

including its co-host's breasts.

Though the show's announcer had

referred to their

behind-the-screen millionaire as

"mysterious," it looks like now

he'll return to his mundane life

as a wannabe stand-up comic,

starring in low-budget classics like

Killer Tomatoes Eat France. And

late Tuesday he was still

listed on the Web site for the

San Diego speaker's bureau as a

"Corporate Comedian," along with

Mark Russell and two hypnotists.



It had to happen. Much as we

supported America's rekindled

love affair with Jerry Lewis

(and remind readers that you

heard about it here first), we'd

been aware that the love affair

was too hot not to go cold. The

Nut had outlived his detractors.

The Dennis Millers and Harry

Shearers of the world had gone

back into their holes; even

jokes about the French embrace

of the Roi du Crazee had finally

flatlined. Love for the man

once considered a greasy relic

of old Las Vegas reached a

Basie-esque crescendo when The

New Yorker published novelist

James Kaplan's profile in its 7

February issue. Kaplan presented

readers with a deified Lewis all

the more Godlike for how

different he is from anyone else

who's ever lived or ever will

live; a man alone on Olympus, a

lucid Lear, large and in charge.

This pseudo-swingin' era of

would-be Rat Packers and

hyphenated showbiz gargoyles had

finally let Lewis take his

rightful place in its pantheon

next to its other problematic

Hercules, Frank Sinatra.


All that may be over now. Lewis'

comments at the US Comedy Arts

Festival in Aspen, Colorado,

already seem to have sent him

back to the pre-Hardly Working,

pre-Scorsese oblivion he seemed

consigned to in that

Percodan-haze period the rest of

us remember as the '70s.


"I don't like any female

comedians," the auteur who gave

the world The Ladies' Man in

1961 announced to the assembled

joke-buffs and stand-ups

manqué. "A woman doing

comedy doesn't offend me, but it

sets me back a bit. I, as a

viewer, have trouble with it. I

think of her as a producing

machine that brings babies into

the world."


Although Jerry's misogynist

lapse plunged the multimedia

giant back into the kind of

industry-opprobrium pit he'd

seemed to have left behind

forever — or at least since

the time he announced "God

goofed!" on the Telethon 25

years ago — the real pain

only arrived with the grudging

Lewisian apology issued a few

days later from Las Vegas.

"[T]here are times when half

statements get misinterpreted,

and that's what happened at the

Aspen US Comedy Festival last

week," Lewis wrote. "I love

Whoopi Goldberg, I adore Elayne

Boosler, I think Diane Ford is

brilliant, and how could I

forget the marvelous Phyllis

Diller ... the incredible

Beatrice Lillie, the

unpredictable Martha Raye, and

wonder woman Carol Burnett." The

brilliant Diane Ford? Beatrice

Lillie? Martha Raye? Jerry, what

about Joan Davis and Judy

Canova? "But when women doing

comedy do routines written for

them by drill sergeants, I take

objection," the press release

continues, leaving us scratching

our heads, wondering whom he

means (Margaret Cho? Belle

Barth? Totie Fields?). "Their

filth makes me and many ashamed

to be in our business, and to

me, women doing anything,

especially comedy, are looked

upon by me as one of God's great

miracles.... They can make a

baby, a baby who is the love of

someone's life. I see women as

incredibly strong people who

deserve our undying respect."

After a few remarks aimed at

"the media" and an appeal to

help his kids, Jerry concluded:

"Please accept my humble

apology, and let's get back to

where we were." Lewis may indeed

be back to where he was. The

obnoxious Lewis edge can still

make people uncomfortable. Jerry

has always mixed sentiment and

stupidity, opinion with

slapstick. At a time when Jim

Carrey's domestication of both

Lewis and Kaufman has made

comedy's two most notorious imps

of the perverse

establishment-friendly, it's

hard not to welcome such

incaution and left-field

taste-trampling back into the



Was the real Jerry Lewis getting

crushed under the weight of all

the Lifetime Achievement hot

air, the accolades and the

heavy-eyelid bluster? A man

who's put up with so much malice

from so many people in his

profession for so long must at

some level resent all the

johnny-come-lately approval. He

may have just deep-sixed his

Jean Hersholt Humanitarian

Award, but maybe by pissing

people off he's restored a

normal balance to the showbiz

universe. It's Jerry Lewis' fate

not to be mainstream, no matter

how many Billy Crystals follow

in his wake. Forever alone and

outside a system that can't

fully embrace the hostile,

destructive energy he first

unleashed with Dean Martin at

the 500 Club in Atlantic City in

1946, Jerry Lewis, who only

wanted to be adored, has sailed

the sea of love and returned to

shore as hated as ever. Welcome

back, Jerry. You never needed

The New Yorker anyway.

courtesy of theSucksters