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JULY 20, 1998:  LEO'S "TITANIC" MANHOOD: This will be big news to the legion of prepubescent Leo fans in the world, but to the rest of us it's just another pathetic sign of the times: Leonardo DiCrappio's "definitive biography," Leonardo: King of the World, is now available on video. Ah, the perfect medium for the message. The life of Titanic's 24-year-old flavor of the month takes only 52 minutes to summarize; but 52 minutes has never felt like such a lifetime.

The video promises "never before seen photos" and "world-wide exclusive interviews," which is true enough, because the "videographers" interview people who, with good reason, nobody has cared to interview previously. CNN's young Serena Yang moderates with a modicum of sincerity as she asks such probing questions as, "What's Leonardo's best quality?"

The video also offers such poignant glimpses into Leo's life as "he was exposed to art, literature and political debate at a young age," being raised in an "almost hippie-like counter culture" in his southern California homeland.

While flashing a snapshot of mother and toddler-Leo on the beach, the video narrator intones of the divorced couple, "His mother is an attractive blonde," and "his dad still has long hair."

We might forgive the cheesy co-opting of public domain footage, if not for the fact that the video goes to such great lengths to exaggerate the accomplishments of what's essentially one of the most mediocre megastars of the decade. The most telling statement of his career may be the unwitting commentary of the narrator, who summarizes Leo's role in one of his many forgettable films as such: "The movie is funny and touching, and Leo looks great in it!"

"These aren't independent filmmakers," Deco Entertainment's PR spokesperson offered in the video's defense. "They're a video company based in Dallas. But (the video) doesn't fail to do anything it claims to do." In fact, it does what it claims to do many times over, looping the same images and commentary into what feels like a brainwashing session designed to convert viewers into a zombie-like army of Leonites whose sole vocabulary consists of the fervent adjectives "phenomenal!" "exceptional!" and "totally amazing!"

There's not a lot of motion in this money-grubbing suck-up to cuteness, either. It's primarily a slide show of movie stills and snapshots set against a helicopter ride over night-time Los Angeles. Some punishment of a soundtrack drones in the background, a tinny barrage of drum machines and synth beats that sounds like a Dead or Alive knock-off (remember, the '80s band?) of the theme from Mortal Kombat. Who endorsed this?

The PR spokesperson for video distributor Deco Entertainment admits that, "Leo is aware of this biography and has no problems with it, but he's not involved in any way." So when you see that young man drawing comic book monsters while the narrator talks about Leo's interest in drawing and inking comics, it's just an actor, not the actor.

In fact, Leo was on location somewhere in Europe when King of the World was being "filmed" at the end of May.

Clearly it's a tribute intended for fans' eyes only, particularly the teenage girl variety. For adults--even those from the pop-culture trenches--watching the entire video is akin to that torture scene in Clockwork Orange.

And through it all, Leo's melodramatic mug reigns supreme in a variety of stilted expressions, while his former teachers and neighborhood friends elevate every accomplishment this above-average cutie managed before he became "the King of the World to unparalleled artistry."

"It is what it is," said our pragmatic PR flak. But it's so bad, we essentially told her. She sidestepped this like a pro, deflecting our criticism into the general media's "oh, great--another thing on Leo" lament. "That may be," she says, "but you can't believe the media that have called for it. Clips and reviews have aired on all the network news. We are not to question why."

Indeed. Leonardo: King of the World is $14.95, available at Blockbuster, Tower Video and the Wherehouse, among other retail locations. Buyer beware.

MASS DESTRUCTION, COMING SOON! Scientists are no dummies, that's for sure. Capitalizing on the popularity of the prevailing doomsday blockbusters from Tinsel Town, scientists everywhere are recapturing our classroom attention-span by pontificating anew on a subject even laymen can grasp: the end of the world as we know it. (See "Terminal Tickets" in this week's City Week calendar for info on the UA Flandrau Center's humorous hop on the Armageddon bandwagon.)

Malcolm W. Browne's essay "Wondering How the World Will End? Some Mordant Thoughts from Physics" (The New York Times' "Science Times" section, from Tuesday, July 14) offers some entertaining, end-days elucidation on some prevailing theories...such as the decay of all protons (and by extrapolation, of all atoms, molecules, DNA, life, memory, inanimate objects, etc.). Or, we could all be snuffed by the nearby explosion of a supernova like the red supergiant star Betelgeuse, which is "an uncomfortably close" 430 light years from Earth. Failing that, our section of empty space might be sucked into even more-empty space, obliterating all protons and all existence along with them. (We never said this stuff was easy to understand.) These are but a few of the current fears regarding impending doom. Bottom line, alarmists: If space rocks don't get us, maybe the aging universe will. The grim possibilities are, according to the article, literally infinite.

Check out Science Times on the web through America Online. Call (800) 548-5201, or email scitimes@nytimes.com. You can subscribe to The New York Times online at http://nytimes.com.

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