Feb. 6, 2002

Rethinking the Olympics

By Roy Rivenburg
Torching the Olympics: We thought the Winter Olympics would be boring as all get-out until we heard about several new events:

-- The Moulin Luge: A combination feet-first sled race and visually dazzling musical in which athletes descend into an icy Bohemian underworld of sex, drugs and bad Toulouse-Lautrec impersonations.
-- Freestyle Shredding: Contestants try to destroy incriminating Enron documents as quickly yet creatively as possible.
-- Skating on Thin Ice: Iraq, North Korea and Iran are the favorites in this race to incur the future wrath of President Bush and the U.S. military.
-- The Mormon Tabernacle Choir Jump: Chained together at the ankles, the entire robed singing group is launched off a 394-foot-high ski jump at 60 mph.

Cupid 2002: If Shakespeare were alive today, he’d have to change the title of his famous love story to ‘‘Remote Control and Juliet’’ or ‘‘Romeo and Cadillac.’’ That’s because more and more humans are falling in love with their TV remotes and cars. According to a survey by Duracell, 32 percent of Americans said they would rather watch the Super Bowl with a remote control at their side than their spouse or significant other. And a survey from Progressive Auto Insurance found that 78 percent of Americans are in love with their car, 15 percent plan to buy it a Valentine’s Day gift and 43 percent consider their vehicle a member of the family.

Quote of the Week: ‘‘This project is a great way for me to utilize my love of pastry design to create a special product for our guests’’ -- Seattle hotel chef Sue McCown, commenting on the edible G-string bikinis she makes from baked fruit leather and red lace licorice as part of her hotel’s ‘‘Love Machine’’ romantic weekend package. The edible undies (and matching fruit leather pasties for women) come in raspberry or mango flavors.

Press Releases We Ignored: ‘‘Eating Canned Tuna May Improve Your Love Life.’’ Perhaps tuna should be added to the recipe for edible G-strings at a certain Seattle hotel.

Web Site of the Month: WhenWillOJkillAgain.com. From the creator of WhenWillTysonBiteAgain.com. Bets are $1 and the pool has reportedly climbed past $1,100.

Alarming Trends Bureau: As if New York City hadn’t endured enough trauma, a group of bagpipers is organizing the world’s largest bagpipe parade for April 6, National Tartan Day. About 7,000 pipers and drummers have been enlisted. On the bright side, at least it’s not a parade of accordion players.

A Plot As Thick As Pea Soup: The truth about the Enron debacle -- from Roy Rivenburg's story in the Feb. 4 Los Angeles Times:

Although the White House refuses to cough up details on Vice President Dick Cheney's meetings with Enron, we surreptitiously snagged the information through other channels.

In exchange for a year's supply of Milk-Bones, we had President Bush's dogs slip their master a drugged pretzel, then fetch us the documents when he passed out watching football.
From there, we pieced together this exclusive inside look at the Enron scandal:

-- July 31, 2001: In the first sign of trouble, Enron boss Ken Lay is warned about the company's questionable financial dealings, including the expenditure of $2 billion on those carnival games where you try to knock over a stack of milk bottles with a baseball. "We thought we could win a really cool stuffed animal," a memo explains. "It seemed like a great investment at the time."

-- Aug. 1, 2001: Lay promises to personally investigate and fix the problem, but winds up losing another $750 million on the basketball toss and the pingpong-ball-into-the-goldfish-bowl game. "They looked so easy," he tells a colleague later. "Before I knew it, I'd gone through the employee pension fund."

-- Sept. 18, 2001: Enron's board tries to have accountant Arthur Andersen straighten out the mess, but a mix-up causes Enron to accidentally hire Pea Soup Andersen, a well-known restaurant in Buellton.

-- Oct. 2, 2001: Saddled with enough pea soup to fill Lake Erie (plus $250 million in Saltine crackers), Enron executives arrange a series of meetings with Dick Cheney. For security reasons, the meetings take place at several of the vice president's "undisclosed locations": inside a phone booth in Poughkeepsie, N.Y.; aboard the International Space Station; and posing as a department store Santa in Duluth, Minn. Cheney promises to consider revising U.S. energy policy to list pea soup as a "promising new alternative power source."

-- Nov. 18, 2001: Enron replaces Pea Soup Andersen with actress Loni Anderson, who quickly funnels company money into a byzantine network of dummy corporations, offshore entities and a fictitious Cincinnati radio station.

-- Nov. 22, 2001: As the company's financial picture dims, Lay urges employees to buy Enron stock. He also advises them to diversify their portfolios with investments in Kmart and Global Crossing.

-- Dec. 2, 2001: Enron files the biggest bankruptcy petition in U.S. history. The Dow index soars, led by companies that make paper shredders.

-- Jan. 29, 2002: Appearing on NBC's "Today" show, Lay's wife, Linda, tearfully says her family is near bankruptcy. "We might have to compete on 'Who Wants to Be a Millionaire' just to get some pocket change," she wails. When asked if she understands the public's anger toward her husband, she says yes, but cautions critics: "Before you judge him, first walk a mile in his custom-fitted, gold-leaf-embroidered Louis Vuitton moccasins."

-- Jan. 30, 2002: Reacting to the plight of the Lay family, the Red Cross delivers emergency rations of caviar, Dom Perignon and steak tartare.

-- Jan. 31, 2002: "Today" show correspondent Lisa Myers, stung by criticism that she wasn't tough enough in her interview with Linda Lay, conducts a follow-up segment in which she ambushes Lay with a barrage of hard-hitting questions, including: "What's your favorite color?" "Who does your hair?" and "Which herbs and spices do you think the Colonel uses in his secret recipe?"

-- Feb. 2, 2002: In the first glimmer of hope for a comeback, Enron officials announce that they have received word from Ed McMahon that the company may already have won the Publishers Clearinghouse Sweepstakes.

Supermarket Tabloid Headline of the Week: In observance of Presidents Day, which is just around the corner, here’s a roundup of White House-related headlines from the Weekly World News:

-- ‘‘Abraham Lincoln Was a Woman! Was John Wilkes Booth Her Jilted Lover?’’
-- ‘‘Clinton Hires Three-Breasted Intern!’’
-- ‘‘Astrologist Picks Presidents and Hollywood Starlets Who Would Make Perfect Mates: Thomas Jefferson and Britney Spears; Richard Nixon and Whoopi Goldberg!’’
-- ‘‘Oprah to Replace Lincoln on $5 Bill!’’
-- ‘‘George Bush Needs a New Speechwriter: Neil Diamond!’’
Actually, we thought Diamond already was writing Bush’s speeches. Who else could dream up the line, ‘‘Not over my dead body will they raise your taxes,’’ except the genius who sang, ‘‘I am I said, to no one there, and no one heard at all, not even the chair’’?

Unpaid Informants: U.S. News & World Report, PR Newswire, Wireless Flash News Service, Chicago Sun-Times.

Copyright 2002 by Roy Rivenburg
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