MAXWELL:  On the less serious side of the news

9/14/1997 – Printed in the PERSPECTIVE section of the St Petersburg Times Newspaper


Please, no more news about another famous death. No more Princess Diana, Mother Teresa, actor Burgess Meredith, Chicago Symphony Orchestra conductor Georg Solti, Zairian dictator Mobutu Sese Seko.

Having reached a surfeit of dolorous emotions, I took a vacation from all serious news for a few days.

Instead of scouring the front pages for the latest on, say, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright’s first official trip to the Middle East, I went to the inside pages in search of stories that are inherently interesting for their comedic irony.

Many of the tales I encountered, however, made me doubt the truth of the long-held notion that the Maker created Homo sapiens in his, or her, own image.

Recently, the Chronicle of Higher Education, for example, carried a story about Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 prohibiting sex discrimination at institutions receiving federal money. The writer reports that Mattel Inc., pretending to be mindful of gender equity in sports, has put University Barbie on sale at 19 major institutions of higher learning.

That’s right _ University Barbie.

The toymakers claim that “America’s favorite doll” will satisfy “the fantasy of little girls everywhere who dream of going to college and experiencing the excitement of college sports.”

Those sly devils at Mattel _ seeing green _ know that little girls don’t fantasize about playing big-time college sports, which is why a company news release finally comes clean, informing readers that University Barbie will don “a team sweater and skirt fashion complete with pompoms, ankle socks, and sneakers. . . .”

Bottom line? The 19 schools in question have agreed to let University Barbie wear their logos and colors. Show them the money, “coeds!”

On to more money. How about Dorothy Hutelmyer of Greensboro, S.C.? After her husband, Joseph, ran off with his secretary, Margie Cox, the wife did more than get mad at the home-wrecker. She got even. Dorothy Hutelmyer took Cox to court, and the jury ordered Cox to pay $1-million for destroying the marriage.

Joseph Hutelmyer and Cox have since married. They deserve each other, Dorothy Hutelmyer said. By the way, this jilted wife and mother of three has been declared a hero by the First Wives Club.

Speaking of heroes, what about those wild and crazy Germans over in Berlin, who have turned the American TV show Hogan’s Heroes into a cult hit? The irony _ Germans delighting in a wisecracking U.S. colonel and his fellow prisoners of war outfoxing their Nazi captors _ is delicious.

The Third Reich is caricatured. Col. Wilhelm Klink, the monocled camp commander, and his lead-footed aide, Sgt. Hans Schultz, are lovable buffoons. Nothing about the Germany in the show is to be taken seriously. The “Heil Hitler” salute, for instance, becomes “Adios” or “Heil Schnitzler.”

Ah, the wonders of the New World Order.

Regarding prisoners, the following is one for the ages. According to the Palm Beach Post, Florida prisoners are going online seeking companionship and love. For a few bucks, special Web sites, such as Cyberspace Inmates, will publish inmates’ messages of love and their mug shots.

Folks, I’m not making up this stuff. If you don’t believe me, here are three “final appeals” by inmates:

“Sure I’m in prison. But that doesn’t mean I don’t know how to love” _ Mickey Brown, murderer, Florida State Prison.

“Smart, sort of handsome, stable, honest” _ Dave Hawkins, former death row inmate, Martin Correctional Institution.

“I also fit in well at social gatherings” _ David Lee Moore Jr., car thief, Florida State Prison.

Don’t you dare turn on that computer!

Now, prepare for the ultimate race card, dealt, of course, from the bottom of a bogus deck. Mary Anigbo, the black principal of a Washington charter school, recently was found guilty of assaulting news-writer Susan Ferrechio and two cops and of taking the reporter’s notebook.

Anigbo dismissed the proceedings as racist and aligned herself with some rather respectable martyrs. “I’m in good company,” she said. “Who can I name who was lied upon, who was pushed and shoved? I can name Jesus Christ, Martin Luther King, Marcus Garvey and Sojourner Truth. I can go on and on.”

Somebody, shut her up! Or better yet, grab a straitjacket!

Finally, let’s travel to the Big Apple, where zaniness is a cottage industry. There, Gov. George E. Pataki, with the blessing of Victoria Campbell, a spokeswoman for the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, signed a law that requires a motorist involved in an accident that injures a cat to try to find its owner or to alert the local police. Otherwise, a $100 fine could be levied.

Why this new law? Heck, the state has had one on the books for years protecting dogs from apathetic hit-and-run drivers. Cat lovers wanted a similar law. No more felinicide.

Sylvia Strum, president of the Metropolitan Cat Club, summed up the significance of this historic legislation, in all of its irony, for the New York Times: “Society has always been based on a very male attitude that dogs are better than cats.”

Say what!

Oh, well. As I have said, I had to get away from the serious stuff, had to take some mental health days.