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Is life an endless series of photo ops, or what?

What is with Madonna, and should we care? Any more, that is, than we
do about Prince Charles wanting to re-name himself King George and
royally repackage himself as a decisive Royal Fam figurehead instead of
a tampon-wannabe. Or the even more imperious Hillary “Rob-Them” Clinton
stuffing herself with TWO — count them — free breakfasts of scrambled
eggs, home fries, and rye toast on the campaign trail, stiffing a
$3-per-hour, $5,000-a-year single-parent waitress out of a tip, making
dourly dictatorial Rudy G. look compassionate by contrast, later
snarking to a reporter, “That’s just another wild story,” finally having
her staff reportedly mail poor exploited Trish Trupo a $100 savings
bond, which sure will go a long way toward the waitress’ immediate need
of getting health insurance, won’t it?

Be careful, doll. You risk alienating your core constituency –
soccer moms, waitress moms, and non-moms — who traditionally have voted
mostly for Dems.

And watch those “love”-handles, Hilly!

Meanwhile, that superbly pregnant phrase of Oscar Wilde’s, “the love
that dare not speak its name,” might as a brave and foolhardy gesture of
semantic reconfiguration be applied to Madonna and her fabulous
momentary male bauble of a chum, the exquisitely handsome and
brilliantly ebullient British actor/novelist Rupert Everett, who is,
truth be told, a genuinely droll guy with the instant bonding abilities
of Super-Glue. Believe me, I’ve experienced his charisma first-hand,
having interviewed him back in the ’90s before escaping the
self-righteous clutches of the mainstream media.

In case you were wondering what could possibly bring all this up
besides a bad case of acid reflux, the celebrity “un-couple” of Madonna
and Rupert graces the March 2000 cover of “Vanity Fair,” that bastion of
cutting-edge triviality. “What she does for him. What he does for her.
Is it normal? Don’t
ask.”

Yes, they are promoting a movie.

They co-star in “The Next Best Thing,” a new romantic comedy in which
they essentially portray celluloid versions of themselves, except that
their on-screen characters have sex. The all-too-dashing Rupert plays a
gay, fey, yoga instructor, her swoony confidante, much like his dreamy
character in “My Best Friend’s Wedding.”

What does she do for him? Laundry? Not on your life. What does he do
for her? Taxes? Bite your tongue. Nah. Get this. They banter. Verbal
tennis. Without a net. Love-0, Love-0.

And they’re not even as interesting as you might be, perhaps
conversing with your fondest friend who’s smart and funny as anybody
famous, but since he’s jes’ a regular guy with a dog and a sand dune, he
hasn’t made the pages of Vanity Fair … yet.

The growing popularity of these
women-falling-for-their-gay-confidantes movies makes me wonder whether
American women at this particular moment in the Great Gulf War Between
the Sexes lust after the conquest of gay men the way men traditionally
lust after the conquest of virgins. Although I can’t completely answer
that, I can speculate that in each case, it’s symbolic, an ego thing, I
would suspect, more shadow than substance.

But besides being entertainment, films can tell us what’s on a
culture’s mind. And when it comes to men and women, you don’t need a
weatherman to tell you which way the wind is blowing these days. …

Backwards.

Twenty-three million Americans may have watched the last half hour of
the recent two-hour Fox television special, “Who Wants to Marry a
Multi-Millionaire?” which will NOT be rerun as planned a few days later
as a one-hour wedding, er, special. How positively special. Taped,
appropriately enough, in Las Vegas for the obligatory circusy tenor, 50
contestants vied for the hand, and presumably other bodily parts, of one
Rick Rockwell, billed initially as a 42-year-old multi-millionaire
California real estate speculator and success trainer.

The only thing missing from this revolting spectacle of marital
desperation was Siegfried and Roy cracking their whips at the hapless
applicants who, under the cynical delusion they were pursuing a love
match with the proper stranger, had instead been drilled in endless
rehearsals on the fine points of strolling and strutting, turning and
swirling, in exchange for airfare, glitzy lodging, per diem petty cash,
meal chits, plus, it’s rumored, personal palm-sized computers, $135
wrist-watches, cameras, and the shoes they would have worn with their
wedding gowns had they won, so don’t weep for them, America.

Curtsy and bow! The things we do for love!

True to his basic red-blooded male instincts, Rick Rockwell — say it
five times fast, it’s soooo masculine — chose for his lucky bride a
blonde — and a California blonde at that — 30-something Darva Conger,
an ER nurse who served in the Gulf War. And they went on a honeymoon
while you didn’t.

Of course, as it turns out, nothing is what it
seems.
Rick Rockwell was playing an even more wonderful version of himself. An
enhanced version, upgraded, even. Colorized, Hollywood-style, like some
cinema hero. Originally, he was born back East as one Richard Balkey,
so the Philadelphia Daily News says, a déclassé Penn State grad
originally from the Nowheresville of Aspinwall, Pa. And, intuitively
hitting on The Royal Hood Ornament Soon to Be Formerly Known as Prince
Charles’ insight of repackaging your product when you want better brand
identification, he figured obviously that a last name like Balkey might
not propel him to sufficient heights. He was right, wasn’t he?

Yup, eye of the beholder.

When one of the “losing” chick contestants — steady boyfriend
notwithstanding — first set eyes on him, she congratulated herself that
she had not been selected, “Thank God, not me. What a toad.” Imagine the
confusion, boyfriend and all, if she HAD.

Now begins the deconstruction of Rick Rockwell, and it’s bloody.
Reports have surfaced he’s not worth two million bucks at all, but a
canny opportunist with a flair for publicity, a con and a fraud, even –
you should pardon the expression — a stand-up comedian who in an
unfunny moment nine years ago allegedly battered an ex-fiancée.

Fox is looking very foolish, and Rockwell’s descent from treasure to
trash could give you whiplash.

Oh, and he “acts,” too. The, um, pulpiest aspect of his seedy past
was co-starring in the eminently memorable 1991 B-flick, “Killer
Tomatoes Strike Back,” described
thusly:

    Those vicious vegetables are back and Dr. Mortimer Gangrene, a
    crazed scientist, is using them to take over the world. The only thing
    standing in his way is detective Lance Boyle who doesn’t believe in
    killer tomatoes. But an associate working with him, a gorgeous
    tomatologist, is determined to make him a believer, and she’s just the
    tomato to do it.

Why bother weeping over smashed tomatoes?

Leap Year beckons. It’s an occasion not just to clobber our
computers, but as an authentic challenge to real, red-blooded American
women everywhere. Ladies, why not confound your social programming,
break out of your repressed love-and-sex-object molds, and do an
authentic Sadie Hawkins thang — get
your guy to marry you, without making a TV-special spectacle of your
foolish selves. Light that candle in the shrine of your heart, I dare
you!!

Seize this opportunity. While there’s still time. The planet is
doomed. And so, apparently, are its institutions, like marriage, and
mental hospitals.

“I have every confidence that in about two decades,” writes the
visionary Eileen M. Ciesla so brilliantly in American Partisan, “we will
have the marriage of siblings, of children to adults, of pets to owners,
and of entire households. Gender will cease to have significance. Age
will be a subjective definition; lines between species will be blurred.
Monogamous love will be spoken about with hushed curiosity, as we today
speak about the closed religious communities in Lancaster Country,
Pennsylvania or the Hasidim in Brooklyn. Monogamous love might even be
outlawed as ‘emotionally and sexually discriminatory.’”

Finally, one marriage-rights issue I can personally get behind. Pets
to owners. As my old friend Jane wrote me, “I see my life as a chain of
canine companions.” Move over, Fido. Don’t hog the pillow!! Is this a
great country, or what?

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