According to an article in the press room at Garfield.com, a Web site that I honestly believed I'd never have a reason to visit, Garfield the comic-strip cat first appeared in the funny pages on June 19, 1978. In other words, that lasagna-eating orange bag of fleas has been wasting three panels of space between Funky Winkerbean and Hagar the Horrible for 26 years. A poll of most Americans with taste would likely suggest that Garfield's ninth life mercifully expired more than 15 years ago, which is roughly the last time someone over the age of six laughed aloud while reading the strip.
But celebrity can be an evil beast, and many who have experienced such a designation throw themselves at the mercy of the daily press with the hope of capturing just five seconds of publicity. Anna Nicole Smith let a crew from E! document her stupidity for a cable television series. Janet Jackson let Justin Timberlake liberate her nipple. Tonya Harding beat the crap out of Paula Jones on a made-for-TV Fox special. Dennis Rodman and Carmen Electra killed two birds with one stone and married each other. And, not surprisingly, Garfield is no different.
What's sad about Garfield is that he's recently had a resurgence in popularity. For some reason, some drunkard in Hollywood thought it might be a good idea to make a feature-length movie starring the comedy-impaired hairball. A few martinis later, and Bill Murray is recording the voice tracks that will go down in history as the low point of his career. Regardless, people began to know who Garfield was again. He no longer would be automatically turned away at Spago; he at least stood a chance of getting a table there during off hours.
And then the people from Wendy's called, interested in bringing Garfield in as a celebrity endorser. Recalling the drastic fall from grace that tainted other celebrities like Hammer and that guy who played Screech on "Saved By The Bell," Garfield said yes to the Wendy's people. Hell, Garfield would have said yes had Hustler called with an idea that included him, Spuds Mackenzie, an electic razor, and a 12-pack of Trojans. Garfield remembered the lean times, when the lasagna was nowhere to be found and dime bags of catnip dwindled away his savings account. Garfield decided to never, ever say no to cash again.
So he cut the deal with Wendy's, and everyone was happy. Until, in a fit of pompous self-absorption, he flipped off that kid in Florida.
Sadly, it's true. According to WKMG-TV, a mother in Florida is outraged over a toy at Wendy's "that appears to show the character Garfield making an obscene gesture by sticking up his middle finger." A spokesman from Wendy's has pointed out that Garfield is a cat — and, frankly, not even a real cat but a cat from the land of make-believe — and that cats really don't have fingers, but that mom in Florida isn't having anything to do with that hogwash.
"He has five fingers and there is a thumb on the side and another finger on the other side," said irate moron Tiffany Glad, who most likely is among the group of Floridians that will never be able to figure out a butterfly ballot. "It's clear as day he is giving you the middle finger."
Better yet, Glad says her daughter has taken to, umm, imitating Garfield's gesture for any and all who are interested. "Basically, we have a 3-year-old running around giving the middle finger," Glad said.
Garfield could not be reached for comment, but tell me this isn't going to make for a great first 40 minutes of his "Behind the Music" episode on VH-1.
WHILE WE'RE ON THE TOPIC of comic strips, that sure was a nice bit of censorship that Continental Features pulled on Garry Trudeau and his "Doonesbury" this week.
Continental, an outfit that produces the Sunday comics sections for a consortium of 38 newspapers mostly throughout the Southeast, decided to remove the popular strip from its sections after the group's president singled it out in a survey.
Van Wilkerson, the three-toothed partisan mongrel who runs Continental, polled the 38 papers that run his precious comic sections about their opinions of "Doonesbury." No other strips, like the habitually unfunny "Family Circus" or the chronically ignored "Drabble" — just "Doonesbury." Coincidentally, "Doonesbury" is also the only strip run by Continental that's spent any time criticizing President Shrub and the Iraq War. Of the 38 papers that run the Continental-produced Sunday comics section, 21 wanted to drop "Doonesbury," 15 wanted to keep it, and two had no opinion. Conservatives love simple majorities when they come out on the winning side, so Wilkerson dropped the strip.
According to the trade magazine Editor & Publisher, "the Continental head said he doesn't know exactly when 'Doonesbury' will leave the package; he's currently polling clients to see if they want to replace it with 'Agnes,' 'Get Fuzzy,' 'Pickles,' 'Zits,' or another comic." Suddenly, I'm aware of why it is I no longer read the funny papers.
The Anniston (Ala.) Star, one of the 15 papers that voted to keep "Doonesbury," accused Continental of censorship for dropping the strip. Star Publisher H. Brandt Ayers told Continental that he and his editors "strongly object to an obviously political effort to silence a minority point of view. For years, my New Deal father bore the opposition views of Orphan Annie and Daddy Warbucks, and I believe he would have fought an effort to silence them by a simple majority vote. This is wrong, offensive to First Amendment freedoms."
Trudeau expressed dismay that his strip was singled out for internal polling because of the views of Wilkerson, especially given other controversies involving "Doonesbury" in the past.
"Some years ago, the armed services paper Stars and Stripes received some criticism for carrying 'Doonesbury.' Shortly thereafter, the paper dedicated an entire page to responses from military personnel, almost all in support of the strip," said Trudeau. "Even some who didn't care for 'Doonesbury' or its politics felt the strip should remain. More than most citizens, it seems, professional soldiers give a great deal of thought to what it is they're defending. A free press that welcomes dissenting views is one of those ideals."
But if you're a right-wing zealot, the only free press speaks with an Australian accent and is nothing but a neo-conservative weasel in Fox's clothing. No other viewpoints need apply.
WHOOPSIE, WOULD YOU LOOK at that. The Pentagon done gone and found those "destroyed" military records from President Shrub after all. Late on a Friday afternoon, just in time for the end of a weekly news cycle, just before the Democratic convention. What an amazing coincidence. Maybe tomorrow, they'll turn up D.B. Cooper, too.
The newly found records, of course, shed no new light on the future president's activities during that summer. If they did, they wouldn't be newly found.
It should be noted that the Pentagon was able to rather easily locate these "destroyed" documents exactly one week after Associated Press sued under the Freedom of Information Act to obtain the records from a state library records center in Texas. In other words, expect the Freedom of Information Act to be blasted into tiny bits should Shrub somehow manage to steal a second term.
IF EVER THERE WERE A MARRIAGE that I knew was coming, it would be this one.
An actor by the name of Joseph Gannascoli recently announced that he's getting married to clothing boutique manager Diana Benincasa after just three months of dating. There's a very good chance you've never heard of Gannascoli, but there's also a fair shot that you know exactly who he is — and if you do, you aren't the least bit surprised that he's getting hitched after a whirlwind romance.
Fans of the HBO series "The Sopranos" may know Gannascoli as the actor who plays Vito Spatafore. Still not ringing a bell? Let me paint a clearer picture for you. Meadow's boyfriend Finn shows up at work early one morning and sees Vito performing oral sex on a male security guard in a pickup truck. Right. Now you know who Gannascoli is.
I'm hardly someone who is in the know, but I've read stuff from time to time that suggests actual mobsters are pretty big fans of "The Sopranos" — so much so that they seek out many of the actors on the show to let them know their true feelings. And, again I'm guessing here, I like the odds that most real-life Mafia types ... well, let's just say I doubt many of them would have voted against the Federal Marriage Protection Amendment. If ever there were an actor eager to run to the top of the mountain and shout, "For the love of all creatures great and small, I am really not gay! Honest!" it would be Joseph Gannascoli.
So Joe wants you to know he's getting married. To a chick. Tell a friend. Please.
EVIDENTLY, KRISPY KREME IS TRYING TO KILL all of us. There's not a doubt left in my mind.
According to a report from Central Florida's WKMG-TV, the very same station that broke the Garfield Is Flipping Off My Daughter scandal, Krispy Kreme has decided to come out fighting against an Atkins-inspired period of lagging doughnut sales by introducing a new product — a beverage that tastes like a glazed doughnut.
This new and dastardly concoction is apparently some sort of frozen beverage that comes in four flavors — raspberry, latte, double chocolate, and the aforementioned liquid glazed doughnut. Scott Livengood, the president and CEO of Krispy Kreme and an obvious agent of Satan himself, says this new swill is "designed to offer customers an even greater variety of choices and taste experiences."
Somewhere tonight, Homer Simpson just wet himself.
FINALLY TONIGHT, Peter Hartlaub of the San Francisco Chronicle has written a hilarious — and painfully accurate — article about the habitual ineptness of political strategists when it comes to picking campaign theme songs for their candidates.
"As much as the Democrats will try to look united on other issues, the party is in a dark place when it comes to campaign theme music," writes Hartlaub. "The disappearance of decent election music is a sad reality in this age of artistic angst."
Unfortunately, the musically impaired John Kerry is all too happy to carry on the tradition, writes Hartlaub.
John Kerry's introduction of running mate John Edwards two weeks ago began with Springsteen's deceptively complicated "Land of Hope and Dreams" ("This train/Carries whores and gamblers") and ended with Van Halen's "Right Now," an otherwise OK campaign song that is sullied by the fact that it was recorded by a dysfunctional band known for swigging Jack Daniel's and firing its lead singer every few months.
Lately, Kerry and Edwards have been stumping to Berry's "Johnny B. Goode," clearly hoping that voters will ignore the part about Johnny being a functional illiterate and focus on the catchy chorus. ("Go Johnny go!/ Go Johnny go go go!")
Lest we cast all the blame on the Democrats here, Hartlaub was quick to point out the newly deceased Ronald Reagan's flirtation with Bruce Springsteen back in 1984, when The Boss's "Born in the U.S.A." was the biggest thing on MTV and rock radio. Hartlaub also notices an inverse relationship between how patriotic a song sounds by its title compared to its actual lyrics.
It seems like the more patriotic the title ("Born in the U.S.A."), the more his lyrics seem designed to make voters want to take a handful of Xanax and move to Canada ("Born down in a dead man's town/ The first kick I took was when I hit the ground/ You end up like a dog that's been beat too much/ Till you spend half your life just covering up").
For what it's worth, George W. Bush's 2000 campaign used an original song. Before you go and get overly impressed by that fact, please take note that the guy who both wrote and performed it was electric hick Billy Ray Cyrus, he of the "Achy, Breaky Heart."
Which, of course, is Chest Pain Cheney's theme song.