"a fish, a barrel, and a smoking gun"
for 15 March 2001. Updated every WEEKDAY.

Hit & Run 03.15.01

Martin Lawrence update: Since Suck first published its straight-from-the-set report on the out-of-shape superstar's imperial antics with the crew of his upcoming What's the Worst That Could Happen?, Lawrence has dispatched a stream of emissaries, some offering character testimony on the star's behalf, others attempting to destroy the credibility of his accusers. Having seen the depths the troubled comic genius could stoop to in his cinematic turd Blue Streak, we were not surprised by the pro-Martin counterattack. As always, our only goal is to get the truth out and let the people judge.

Lately, new evidence has begun to trickle in. Several readers claiming Worst experience have offered corroborating testimony for Suck's claims that Lawrence spent the shoot in tyrannical isolation, dispatching lackeys to browbeat his co-workers and earning the enmity of the crew. (On the plus side, all sources agree that diminutive mogul Danny DeVito was as beloved on the set as he is in our nation's theaters.) Most recently, a reader identifying himself as the skipper of a yacht used in the film confirmed the accuracy of our Martin report, adding that the "absolute legend" DeVito "had the total respect of the whole team" and that "the guy who was the College Dean in The Nutty Professor was in it and he was a very cool guy also."

Such hearsay, of course, carries little weight with us. But recently we came across something more substantial — ocular proof of on-the-set rumors that Lawrence's contract contained a "facial digitization" clause. According to that report, the studio agreed to Photoshop out any zits, moles or other imperfections in Lawrence's multimillion-dollar puss (an agreement that accounted for the star's confidence in alienating lighting and makeup personnel).

This week we caught the trailer for What's the Worst That Could Happen?, and it's painfully clear that the Martin visage has been gone over by Pixar, ILM, Digital Domain, or possibly all three. His couple of closeups are as textureless as a Terminator 2 special effect, making everything around them seem as richly detailed as an HDTV transmission. Make no mistake — Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer has honored its agreement to give us a digitally remastered Martin Lawrence.

Sure, paranoids tend to see what they're looking for, and in watching the preview we were more than usually attuned to possible hanky panky. Indeed, for a moment there we feared that we might be watching some digital impostor, and that the real Martin lay pining like Pope Paul VI in some MGM dungeon. But if there's even a possibility that audiences are not getting echt Martin, the people deserve to know. We urge readers to watch the trailer (sadly unavailable online at the moment) and judge for themselves. And we challenge MGM-UA to come clean about Martin Lawrence's digital enhancements, before it's too late.

A full year after the start of the Nasdaq's sphincter-tightening, no-net plummet, after the last dotcom sit-down strike has been sat, after even Chris Byron has given up laughing, Warren Buffett's chucklefest at the expense of the online economy comes as a hit so late we can barely see it through all the yellow flags on the field. But since we never really considered the Sooner State pill to be the first word in comedy, we probably shouldn't comment on his timing. In any event, what may be the last-ever attempt by the Old Economy to draw blood from the internet is taking place with Wham-O!'s war on Stephanie Nevins's Hula Hoop site. "Your misuse of Hula Hoop dilutes and infringes Wham-O's trademark rights," says the legendary company's cease-and-desist letter. The infringement is a little hard to fathom, since, as Wham-O! notes: "We appreciate that you are not selling hoops, but are only advertising your skills as a website designer." We have no comment on Nevins's design, nor can we really fault the San Francisco toymaker's efforts to avoid seeing its brand name diluted into kleenex and xerox oblivion. (There may be trouble brewing if anybody ever registers PlutoPlatter.com.) For that matter, Wham-O! deserves some support just for reclaiming its independence from evil toy conglomerate Mattel in 1997. And it's kind of soothing just to see that lawyers even bother to send out these gotcha letters anymore. But Wham-O! Really overplays its hand in demanding that Nevins remove "all references to Hula Hoop, hula hoop, and Hula Hoopla." We happen to know that those phrases were invented by the marketing guys at Hudsucker Industries.

"So far I've been disappointed [by the return on web advertising]" Pizza Hut chief marketing officer Randy Gier tells The Industry Standard this week. "If you know anyone who can turn all those Internet eyeballs into orders, let me know, because I haven't seen it yet." Our first suggestion might be to sell a product that doesn't smell and taste like vomit. (And after that we'd urge the Hague War Crimes Tribunal to put Gier and the rest of the Pizza Hut gang in the dock for atrocities against pizza.)

It's probably an unnecessary disclosure to admit that at this point we'd kill our own mothers for some advertising, but since nobody else is defending the banner ad, we'll give it a shot. If you're put off by the .5 percent clickthrough rate on web ads (which is an industry-wide total, including intelligent and successful campaigns by Volvo or Austin Powers, as well as the efforts of moon-faced idiots at Pizza Hut), consider what the implications are for the rest of the ad-selling world. Do we really want to know exactly how many people react to every form of advertising? From Super Bowl commercials to Hummel figurine half-pagers in Parade to newspaper ads for JC Penny underpants? Banner ads may have revealed some things about consumer behavior that, in retrospect, nobody really wanted to know; but it's a little late to be surprised that there's gambling in Casablanca.

Which brings us to direct mail, that arm of marketing where the statistics are similarly inflated, an industry that continues to grow despite success rates that make banner ads look positively attractive. Since charitable organizations are world-class direct mailers, and much of the action in this sector depends on trading lists of leads, we can only assume it was the donations we made to a few American Indian charities a while back that have turned the Suck office into a junkmail Little Big Horn, with St. Joseph's Indian School, AIRC, Christian Relief Services and a host of others guilting us with Dreamcatcher keychains, Rez-art Christmas cards and other freebies. As the unsolicited giveaways get bigger and more lavish, we have truly begun to understand statistics that say most fund-raising cash is frittered away on the fund-raisers themselves. Most recently, we got a beautiful 100% cotton, 100% unsolicited t-shirt from Running Strong For American Indian Youth. We're not inclined to give money to an organization that will just waste it on t-shirt deliveries, but just in case Running Strong wants to try again: What we really want is one of those great Frybread Power t's.

Amid antics like these, the new disdain for banner ads looks increasingly like a pot/kettle situation. Our only conclusion: Buy a banner ad on Suck — It really works!

courtesy of The Sucksters

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