"a fish, a barrel, and a smoking gun"
for 4 May 2000. Updated every WEEKDAY.

Hit & Run CCXXVI



Goods news for fans of the son

of God! In the tradition of TV

Guide's multiple "Star Trek,"

wrestling, and recent Three

Stooges covers — which

cleverly exploit America's

thriving celebrity memorabilia

market by tempting fans to buy

several copies of one week's

issue as a collectible set —

this week's Guide offers two

covers of Jesus in honor of the

new CBS mini-series about the

man from Nazareth. What a

stretch of Purgatory time we

could have bought our way out of

if only the folks in Radnor had

decided to do all 12 apostles!

With a fan base almost as

hardcore as Trekkies, Jesus is

remarkably down-to-earth about

His power to get both versions

flying off supermarket shelves

("Go and sin no more — not!"

he jokes with fans during a

break from shooting on location

in Ouarzazate, Morocco). But

even a messiah who, in TV

Guide's words, "loves to laugh,

eat, drink and dance in the

streets with wild abandon,"

isn't joking about the resale

value of the magazine's holy

diptych. You've seen how the

Shroud of Turin and such holy

relics as St. Paul's coccyx bone

have appreciated in value. The

book price of these

Murdoch-minted images of The

Lord is sure go Heavenward as

well. Don't be a sucker and pay

double, triple, or quadruple

their cover price on the Home

Shopping Channel — buy now.

Remember, there's no forgiveness

for the sin of stupidity, and

God hates posers.



Being a big man is no small

task. No sooner had Suck paid

its shillish tribute to

Gladiator than Hollywood's

greatest besandled giant passed

into Elysium. The death of

long-time Hercules Steve Reeves

on Monday may not have

occasioned much attention in

Tinseltown: It's been more than

four decades since Hercules

Unchained, and the

hulking superman's only role

since a 1967 spaghetti western

was in the self-parodic Hercules

Recycled (1994). But the passing

of Reeves reminds us all that

there was once a golden age of

strapping heroes, when the

highest compliment you could pay

a man was to call him

"barrel-chested," and overgrown

lugs like Victor Mature set

hearts a-flutter. The pictures

didn't get small; the actors

did. Where is the Wally Beery

of today? Who's believing it

when Hollywood tries to pass

off shrimps like Russell Crowe

and Kevin Sorbo as heroic

mesomorphs? It doesn't take too

many jokes about Stallone's

height to recognize the

lamentably low regard we give to

our bigshots. Even Gladiator

relegates German Mr. Universe

Ralph Moeller to strictly

third-banana status; another

hulking Teuton is quickly

dispatched in the ring.

Audiences even seem to have lost

all sense of scale: Arnold

Schwarzenegger retained status

as a muscular giant long after

he had reduced the body mass that

made Conan and Pumping Iron such

substantial pictures. The mere

fact that we must recruit our

Gargantuas from the

German-speaking world is

pathetic enough. In the America

our fathers fought for, we would

have had a full roster of

home-grown ogres, with nicknames

like "Moose" and "Chesty." How

long can John Goodman (who in

any event oscillates between big and

merely fat to an alarming

degree) hold the fort on his

own? It's time to awaken the

giant within. Remember the lesson

of Michael Lerner's endomorphic

producer in Barton Fink:

Deep down, what audiences really

want is big men, in tights.



Sprint PCS guys and Old Navy

dames of the world, unite! This

week, members of the Screen

Actors Guild and the American

Federation of Radio and

Television Artists began a

strike against producers of

radio and television

commercials, demanding to be

paid residuals for spots in

which they appear. We wish all

strikers success on principle,

but it's not like the bistros of

Los Angeles aren't teeming with

eager, non-union actors. While

such scabs may find themselves

blacklisted in the future, most

have probably realized that

their only hope to get a union

card in the first place is to

cuddle with the SAG

representative loitering around

the set of the latest Troma

film. SAG has always been a

secret-handshake kind of club,

and it may soon feel the pinch

of its own exclusivity. Not to

mention the fact that

advertisers will soon realize

that an actor doesn't need a

master's degree from MIT to pull

off "Kraft Cheese and Macaroni;

it's the cheesiest."



The satellites aren't falling

out of the sky — yet. Back

in March, loyal tech news

readers heard the sobering truth

that the once high-flying

satellite phone network Iridium

was headed for a Skylab-style crash.

User(s) were anguished.

Investors took a bath. The Net

Community did not take this

lying down, of course. Who could

sit idly by while the great

Anytime, Anywhere dream got

unceremoniously trashed like the

latest "Work From Home" spam?

The volunteers mobilized, and

chief investor Motorola has been

doing some clever management by

press release, floating stories

that somebody may yet come up

with the cash to save the birds.

We say more power to 'em. But

unless someone gives the new

buyers a nice subsidy, Iridium

still looks like a goner. If so,

Motorola might at least give the

fans a send-off to remember. Maybe

Controlled Demolition, Inc.

might be able to turn its death

rays on the satellites. If the

Seattle Kingdome can entertain

a city one last time, we bet the

wreckers could give us all a $5

billion fireworks display we'll

never forget.



By now everyone and her mentor

has lifted a well-plucked

eyebrow in the direction of O, the new

glossy from multimillionaire

kindness enthusiast and TV gab

maharani Oprah Winfrey. The

forced marriage of self-help and

literature, the vaguely

salacious name O (a welcome

relief from the tyranny of

four-letter titles that stretches

from Bust and Jane to Talk

and Vibe), the celebrity sob stories

and confessionals, the

production-cost-cutting workbook

pages where readers can scrawl

their own thoughts, the

punch-out bookmarks, even O's

obvious resemblance to one of

its main competitors, Martha

Stewart Living: all these have

been duly noted since the "The

Oprah Magazine" ("Oprah's

personal-growth guide for the

new century") emerged like a

tasteful, life-affirming,

proactive butterfly from the

hard-shelled pupa of the Hearst

Magazines Division.


Of all these quibbles, the only

one that troubles us is O's

unapologetic cut-and-paste

approximation of Martha Stewart

Living. Of course both magazines

feature many photographs of

their TV-show hostesses. If

that's where the lookalike

quality ended, we'd shut up and

hold our breath for Rosie!,

the Highlights-meets-TV

Guide version of Redbook. But

O's shameless ripoff of

Stewart's Guide for the

Perplexed goes much further than

that. Both Oprah and Martha put

their names in the upper

left-hand corner inside a block

of color, and both pubs are

exactly the same size (9" x

11"); both are perfectbound and

equally thick; both start with a

top-of-the-book greeting from

the figurehead and wrap with her

back-page farewell: Oprah calls

her au revoir "What I Know for

Sure"; Martha's is titled

"Remembering." The style of

photography both employ is as

identical and as ubiquitous as

the blow-in cards. From

calendars to guide sections, O and

Martha Stewart Living are mirror

images. Only the women of color

who pop up throughout O

and Oprah's open-mouthed smile

— remind us that the

tight-lipped glare of Stewart

isn't lurking somewhere between

the instructions for homemade

stationery (paper, scissors) and

the arrangements of narcissi.


Has Oprah Winfrey, the beloved

survivor, recast herself as

Martha Stewart, the

hardest-hearted non-victim in

the world? They've come a long

way from the time in 1987 when

Oprah plugged Martha's wedding

book on her show with

spoken-blurb like "If you're

planning a wedding, it is the

book to have." Is this a distaff

version of the Letterman-Leno



Or is it more sinister than

that? Everyone knows Stewart

left a landscape littered with

broken bodies behind her as she

clawed her way out of the pack

of Glamour magazine's

"Best-Dressed College Girls of

1961" to her IPO last year. The

colleagues, co-workers,

neighbors, friends, and family

members she turned into Chicken

Pol Pot Pie have earned her a

reputation as the

take-no-prisoners dominatrix of

catering — Iron Lady as Iron

Chef. The woman who in 1995

asked Larry King "What's

Kwanzaa?" forgot only one thing

— everyone else. Oprah

Winfrey, who can't stop dragging

her best friend everywhere,

knows that women today don't

need a Socialist Realist

Stalinette posed in a variety of

air-brushed holiday scenes as a

role model. Martha Stewart mania

has long been the stuff of

twisted irony; Oprah's dogged

sincerity has always been

stickier. Their latter-Women's

Day routes to magazine success

may be similar, but Martha bears

the same relation to Oprah that

Lana Turner had to Juanita Moore

in Imitation of Life — while

Turner lost her humanity to

become famous, Moore kept the

love light on at home and

cleaned up the human wreckage

Turner strewed in her wake. Once

again, a black woman seems to be

following a white woman with a

bucket and a sponge, restoring

the genuine feelings abandoned

by the blonde. But the scabrous

mammy-fication charges that have

been leveled against Oprah in

the past overlook a few key

elements of this case. For one

thing, Oprah could corner

Martha's sinking stock with her

pocket change. And on the

personal-fulfillment front

(which is what really matters,

isn't it?), Winfrey — unlike

Moore, who in the movie ended up

with her family devastated —

stands a better than even chance

of leaving Stewart in the same

shithouse she sent those Texas

cattlemen to a few years back.

Oprah still might marry Steadman

and live happily ever after;

but all the homemade doilies in

the world will never make Martha

truly happy.

courtesy of theSucksters