By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
A couple of Hamms, PAUL AND MORGAN HAMM, were scheduled to do a pommel horse presentation at Chelsea Piers, so I was there in the club Lotus position, holding a fizzy cocktail and some hors d'oeuvres on the front mat. As you know, Paul is the one who won the gold medal but he didn't but he kept it but he deserved it but the other guy maybe was better. Morgan is his twin brother, who won a silver medal and got no argument about it whatsoever.
Their event turned out to be a promo stunt for their "2004 Rock & Roll Gymnastics Championships Tour," done before a gaggle of scarily athletic day-camp seven-year-olds. "Raise your hand if you watched the Olympics on TV," said the kids' grown-up leader in one of those soothing voices that make me crazy. Hands shot up like legs on a parallel bar. (Does no one watch cartoons anymore?) "Well, Chelsea Piers has brought you the best two guys from the Olympics. They look the same and they made the whole country proud!" Unprompted, the overwhelmingly white assemblage of tykes started chanting "U.S.A.! U.S.A.!" and suddenly this had become some kind of master-race rally for the prematurely double-jointed.
"Paul won the gold medal because he never gave up," continued the grown-up leader, calmingly. And not because the judges made a boo-boo, OK? The brothers then got to answer the kiddies' questions about their dedication to the game and to each other, Paul cutely sounding like he'd ingested helium. After their inspiring live-your-dream remarks, the grown-up said, "Morgan and Paul have to go get famous now. Everybody's gonna sit here like good campers when they leave." Well, not me! I was livid that they never did the pommel horse thing and started screaming for my mommy. Security promptly calmed me down with large syringes.
The Olympic-style events kept coming, like the MTV Video Music Awards, which were a weird mix of illiterate depravity exhibitions and preachy exhortations to be a better American. SEAN COMBS is probably not the right person to lecture me on how to be a good citizen and vote, and even the KERRY GIRLS probably shouldn't be made to spout such over-earnest material. (When the brunette one made a shushing gesture and said, "This is very important!" it made the booers want to yell, "Shove it!")
By the time JOHN MELLENCAMP told the audience to pull the lever, you wanted to push the remote button. Thankfully, CHRISTINA AGUILERA and ALICIA KEYS saved the show; they've emerged as beyond-the-stratosphere goddesses, oozing full-throttle charisma, talent, and accessories. You even forgave Keys for speaking and making up the word "ethnesticity," especially since the same telecast featured Combs's immortal "there's nothing hottier," MASE's "yoof," and every, like, wow, amazing thing ASHLEE SIMPSON said. At least her sister's supposed to be a ding-dong, right? (Oh, speaking of scary siblings, MARY-KATE OLSEN looked positively obese!)
AND THE WIENER IS . . .
The ultimate awards show, the Republican convention, was an eerily seductive propaganda parade whose speakers insisted that the Repub agenda is needed now because we are in a time of war and danger. Alas, they neglected to add that the Republicans started the war! These girlie men and women are so compulsively aggressive, they've even pulverized their own faces. LAURA BUSH's eyes are practically on her forehead, and we're supposed to believe her about what this country needs? (And was MARY CHENEY tied up in the audience when the rest of her clan converged onstage? I thought Dad was so proud of her.)
As for the danger thing, the Repubs have been masterful at manipulating post-9-11 fears and keeping the terrorist alerts ringing, sometimes based on info older than DUBYA's hazing rituals. The convention played 9-11 like a charm, trotting out the weepy widows and arguing that the nation owes it to the victims of that tragic day to vote for Bush. (U.S.A.! U.S.A.!) Of course the flip side of that argument would be, "Excuse me, but 9-11 happened partly because Bush's administration didn't pay close enough attention to warnings, and ever since, he's been using it as an excuse to engage us in unjusti-fied bloodshed amid hollow-sounding rantings about freedom and peace. How dare he and his band of elitist oppressors traipse into our town to promote themselves by exploiting our horror? Bush owes it to the victims of 9-11 to step down."
ButI'm just guessing herehe won't. Between the fear-baiting, the KERRY smears, Kerry's flip-flops (he's only the lesser of two evils, I know), and NADER's existence, Dubya might even pull off another lose-the-popular-vote-but-win-the-electoral-thanks-to-Florida stunt. I hate to sound like John Mellencamp, but that's why it's urgent that you votefor Kerry! (It bugs me when celebs just say, "Please vote," when they really mean, "Please vote for my candidate.")
BEAVIS AND BUSH-HEAD
Oh, kill me one more time, but I thought the Bush girls' stand-up routine was a riotthey were cute and amusing and at least they never shushed the crowd. Less advantageous for the Repub agenda was STEPHEN BALDWIN going on TV and praising the fact that Dubya is avidly into God, "eck-cetera, eck-cetera." I swear, this yoof today!