"a fish, a barrel, and a smoking gun"
for 29 May 1997. Updated every WEEKDAY.

Hit & Run LXXXVI


[Friend-ly Guy]

Despite occasional glimmers, the

National Enquirer has been a

pretty dreary affair for years.

And now that the tabloid has

arrived as a Times-scooping

newspaper to be reckoned with,

it seems to be losing whatever

pale fire it once had. Last

week's cover promised the skinny

on "Who's Gay, Who's Not." But

readers who dove in expecting

some aggressive outing will find

only studio-ready denials and

People-level flackery for such

Gay-List perennials as Matt

LeBlanc (not - though this week proves

them perhaps less sure about

fellow-Friend Matthew Perry),

Richard and Cindy (nope), Tom

and Nicole (uh-uh), Pee Wee

(ditto), and Keanu (straight as

Wilt Chamberlain). Clearly, the

deadening hand of mainstream

respectability spares no

publication, even this one. In

next week's Suck: The year's

most intriguing people! The 10

hottest mutual funds! What your

doctor isn't telling you about




While Microsoft is doggedly

building a new-media empire in

the hope that online advertising

will one day pay off, its own

media-buying habits are hardly

sending a message of confidence

to the advertising community at

large. According to Advertising

Age, the company spent over 10

times as much on print and TV as

it did on the Web in 1996:

US$137.5 million to $13 million.

Arch-rival Netscape, on the

other hand, has been putting its

money where its advertising

revenue is: It spent $5.7

million on Web advertising, and

only $1.35 million on print.

(And nothing on TV.) A new

survey conducted by the American

Management Association may cause

Netscape to reevaluate its

strategy however; the survey

says that less than half of all

executives and managers use the

Web for more than four hours a

week. If Netscape is truly

betting its future on the

developing enterprise software

market, it probably makes sense

to start advertising in media

its target audience actually

looks at.



It was less than five years ago

that Robert Hughes seemed poised

on the brink of career suicide.

Almost overnight, his noxious

book Culture of Complaint had

managed to divide the audience

for his inoffensive art

criticism into warring camps.

Though he still gets credit for

propagating a meme more robust

(and pernicious) even than "a

bridge to the 21st century,"

Hughes has now regained his

status as a not-yet-naturalized

treasure with American Visions,

a PBS miniseries on American art

so prepackaged and synergized

we're amazed there's not an

American Visions Happy Meal or

grizzled-but-lovable Robert

Hughes action figure. Still,

there's plenty of advertising

acreage to go around, and

between the Web site, the

videos, and the Time

advertorial, one can view big

ads for United Airlines, BMW,

Alfred A. Knopf (publishers of

the companion volume), and the

Principal Financial Group (the

major series sponsors)

side-by-side with such

overexposed kitsch as Jasper

Johns' Flag and Edward Hopper's

Nighthawks. To bellyache about

rampant commercialization,

however, only plays into Hughes'

hands - and it misses the point,

because the ultimate American

masterpiece is the art of the



[Stevey Spielberg]

Scientists are still debating one

of paleontology's central

issues: Were dinosaurs

warm-blooded or cold-blooded?

Interestingly enough, people are

starting to ask the same

question about that impresario

of modern-day Jurassic

technology, Steven Speilberg.

Graphic debonings aside, and

even taking into account

the highly touted Fido-


scene, his Lost World brims with

the kind of warm fuzziness that

makes us long for the coming of

another ice age, most notably a

wincingly twee invocation of

environmentalism that puts us

more in mind of Barney than

Bellusaurus. What would the

Purple One say, then, to the

decidedly un-PC charges laid

against Spielberg's DreamWorks

studio by the Surfrider

Foundation? Citing the studio's

plans to build a megacomplex in

Playa Vista's endangered salt

marshlands, the environmentalist

organization called a press

conference last week to ask that

people "send a message to

Spielberg" by boycotting Lost

World. You can see how well that

worked. But the plan was flawed

from the start - DreamWorks has

nothing to do with the Amblin


Studios-produced film. Even more

puzzling is the protest's other

proposition, which asked "kids

who receive action figures or

other merchandise to send the

products to Spielberg along with

a rejection note stating their

preference of living creatures,

rather than special-effects

creatures." Well, who wouldn't

like to get a baby

Yangchuanosaurus with his

burger? (Or maybe a baby-dino

burger? Yum.) But it strikes us

as unlikely, as well as at odds

with many of the aims of the

animal-rights movement. What's

more, if the protesters actually

saw the movie, they might see

that it's quite the

earth-friendly flick after all -

imagine the trees they saved by

not having a plot, and, judging

from the emotional demands made

(or not made) upon the

characters, you can rest assured

that no actors were harmed

during the making of this film.

courtesy of the Sucksters

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The Barrel
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