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FEBRUARY 23, 1999:  MEAT ON THE BONE: The magazine arrived in a manila envelope with an accompanying note from a friend: "I don't admit to many people that I read Vanity Fair, especially after the Demi Moore thing, but--"

But what? Here's what: the February issue confirms that, despite its embarrassing obsession with irrelevant East Coast socialites, Vanity Fair remains a pacesetter in mainstream analytical journalism.

Three current articles in particular demonstrate the magazine's engaging breadth and incisive commentary: "Hillary's Choice," by Gail Sheehy; "Imagining Hitler," by Christopher Hitchens and "The Tabloid Decade," by David Kamp.

Hitchens scours the depths of the Hitler enigma by exploring the unsettling ordinariness of the man. "Is it the insult to one's integrity and intelligence--the shame of having still to cringe at the thought of such a person--that partly accounts for our continued fascination with der F¸hrer?" Hitchens asks. "The maddening thought that, in other circumstances, he could have been such an ordinary bore and nuisance?" Indeed, Hitchens reminds us of something that is too easily forgotten: before the monster there was the twerp. On that point, we've become rather smug in our collective amnesia. If we remembered to fear the twerps as well as the monsters, then perhaps we'd never forget to fear ourselves.

Until then, we'll just keep handing our firearms over to Big Brother while pondering the really crucial question of our times: Which of the Menendez brothers is cuter, Lyle or Erik? Such is the legacy of the tabloid decade, which Kamp convincingly posits was, metaphysically speaking, christened by the 1991 "porn-wank shocker" of kiddie TV star Pee-wee Herman (a.k.a. Paul Reubens). Kamp writes, "It was, in retrospect, the beginning. It was also an ending, in that Reubens, unlike later disgraced celebrities of the '90s such as Hugh Grant, Marv Albert, George Michael and President Clinton, never attempted a rapid-response, stage-managed display of contrition--He was the last celebrity to be shamed into exile." From Buttafuoco to Bobbitt, Gillooly to Dodi, Kamp mourns the passing of the tabloid phenomenon's last redeeming quality: style. Noting that author James Ellroy once described his 1950s Southern California parents as a "great-looking cheap couple," he observes: "Alas, there's no such thing today--your cheap couples are overfed, surly, and sweat-suited. The gabardines have been replaced by polyesters, the fedoras by ball caps, the saloons by "gentleman's clubs," the Jilly Rizzos by Bobby Kardashians, the Judy Campbells by Monica Lewinskys, the Louis Primas by Michael Boltons--"

We don't normally tout Vanity Fair, but--Well, it's one of the best investments of $3.95 on the newsracks today, where the proliferation of choices has suffered a corresponding evisceration of true content. Sure, you'll have to navigate reams of insolent cardboard Tommy Hilfiger ads and some of the most nauseating pseudo-aristocratic tripe ever conceived, but with a little patience you'll find some real meat on those Kate Moss bones.

--Christopher Weir

ALTERNATIVE END DAYS: In the mere week it's been since CNN posted the headline "Falwell's newspaper outs 'Teletubbies' character' (www.cnn.com, Tuesday, February 9), it seems every major media has picked up the story: Irrev. Jerry Falwell says Tinky Winky is gay, and he cites the "gay pride color" (purple--heretofore, we would've guessed it was pink) and triangle antennae to prove it. Oh yeah, and the controversial "purse," or "magic bag." (A controversial subject demands a controversial name; may we suggest "fag bag" to further the debate?)

This widespread attention is of some disappointment to us in the alternative trenches who have, for years, caught and run with these lazy swings into left field without all the competition from the supposed heavy hitters among our press corps brethren.

Even stodgy local TV news affiliates and the daily Star have upstaged us with their commentary on the subject, delivered with the expected mix of conventional outrage and polite humor, all aimed at defending Tinky Winky's gender-neutral status.

So don't blame us for once again having to bring to light the underlying story ignored and deflected by the mainstream press: the Rev. Falwell is right; Tinky Winky is gay! In fact, The Weekly was first to point out the little creature's effeminate nature when the show aired back in April of last year. Are little gay extraterrestrial role models the thing that's eroding society today? Hardly!

See, this whole "story" about the largest Teletubby, and his equally chubby-faced naysayer, is but the tip of the iceberg.

An anonymous source last week revealed that Po, the red Teletubby, is actually a communist. Po's doughnut-shaped antennae--obviously a symbol of solidarity, uniting the (pre-)working class so the revolution can arrive--is another of what Falwell called the show's "subtle and intentional depictions--damaging to the moral lives of children." And don't forget the American way of life, buster!

But the British-conceived Teletubbies†program is just the latest in a generation-long global conspiracy to subvert American youth. Let us not forget the show that must have started it all--the beginning of the slide of this nation into nothing less than a pervasive quagmire of moral turpitude, paid for in part by your tax dollars--we're talking about Sesame Street.

Take Big Bird: a diva-like male character with fake eyelashes and blue eye-shadow, dressed head-to-toe in a fluffy yellow feather boa (of sorts). Obviously a role model for drag queens.

And Burt and Ernie? Hello! Two bachelors in a one-bedroom apartment? Taking baths together, with rubber toys? We're talking kiddie porn here, folks.

Then there are the popular children's specials starring Winnie the Pooh (a name rife with "subtle and intentional" innuendo). Who does the lilting and honey-tongued Pooh hang out with but his little friend Piglet (an utterly pink-clad fellow), with whom he is often observed skipping, holding hands, and expressing his love. They live in the forest--the state of nature, as it were. A more naturalistic model for homosexual, interspecies coupling is nowhere to be found in the "educational television" milieu.

Don't be fooled by the liberal media, which has been following the good Rev. and his Tinky Winky crusade just like rats after the Pied Piper, willingly led away from the town square and out to the boonies.

They're just skirting the issue (so to speak):

Batman and Robin: "caped crusaders" cohabitating in an "underground" pad, painting the town red in leather, tights, and a really tricked out convertible? Batman and Robin = GAY!

Barney: entirely purple and†triangular? Barney = GAY!

Peppermint Patty: butch athlete called "Sir" by her best friend/faithful companion? Peppermint Patty = GAY!

Mr. Rogers: fashionable collection of cardigans and shoes, emaculate house, primary concern being a good neighbor, rides a magic trolley into fantasyland? Mr. Rogers = GAY!

Strawberry Shortcake and Blueberry Muffin (need we spell this one out, delicate reader?) = GAY!

Felix the Cat and his "bag of tricks" = GAY!

Elmer Fudd: one stuttering phrase reveals him--a neurotic hunter always sticking his "gun" in Bugs Bunny's "hole." Elmer Fudd = GAY!

Mickey Mouse: he may use Minnie as a front, but make no mistake about it. Mickey Mouse = GAY!

Six Million Dollar Man = GAY!

Bigfoot and Wildboy = GAY!

Sigmund and the Seamonsters = GAY!

H.R. Puff-n-Stuff: perhaps the gayest of them all, with his flamboyant hand gestures and magic "flute." H.R. Puff-n-Stuff = GAY!

And speaking of bombastic fat guys, let's not forget the Pied Piper himself, who showed his true color (the royal purple) when he went after a little guy who couldn't even issue a comeback with a complete sentence.

That's right, Jerry Falwell: he may be backpeddaling now, decrying a misquote by the AP, but there's no denying he's a passionate man with a theatrical nature, an avowed servant of "the Big Guy upstairs" with a bit of an obsession over "deviant" sexuality. Rev. Jerry Falwell = GAY!

Remember, Rev. When you point the finger, there's three fingers pointing right back atcha. And we're watching--.

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