Hold The Front Page, Zippy, For Late-breaking Eggplants

ROUTE 2 -- A weekly journey through Anne Arundel County

September 25, 1991|By Arthur Hirsch Candy Thomson

"Hey there, Mr. Community Journalist, what's this here?"

"Well, looks to me like we've just arrived in the American media Zeitgeist, just been absorbed by something bigger, something national in scope, something with many faces, many voices, many world-weary mouths to feed."

"Easy does it there, Mr. Local Angle, it ain't Nightline."

"No, but it is OUT THERE in the ever-surging ocean of largely irrelevantinformation, long may it swell."

"Get a grip, Mr. Neighborhood Scribbler. It's only eggplants."

Imagine, a story from right here inAnne Arundel County picked up by a nationally syndicated cartoon strip: Zippy. That's right. Last Friday, some 200 weeklies, college papers and mainstream dailies -- including The Evening Sun -- learned thestory of the Millersville farm that grew the weird eggplants.

"Several people sent (the story) to me," said Bill Griffith, the San Francisco artist who draws Zippy, the pinheaded, media-dazed master of the non sequitur.

On July 25, The Sun ran a page-1 story about the Pumphrey family farm and their eggplants that looked like such celebrities as Richard Nixon, former House Speaker Thomas P. "Tip" O'Neill and Bob Hope. Both the Associated Press and the Los Angeles Times-Washington Post wire services carried the story, which was in turn published by several papers across the country, including Griffith's localpaper, the San Francisco Examiner.

Griffith said in a telephone interview yesterday that the first person to bring the eggplant story to his attention was his sister-in-law, Ronnie Smith, who gets a credit line in the strip.

Why, then, we asked, did Griffith consider this story worthy of a Zippy strip?

"I needed an idea," said Griffith. "I need 365 ideas a year."

Besides, the shape of Zippy's head has often been compared to "either a Bartlett pear or an eggplant," Griffith said, so it was a "small leap to make" between the story and Zippy. "I made it."

But on a deeper level, we wanted to know what observations could be made about The Sun's decision to put the eggplant story on page 1 -- right up there with world and national events of great avoirdupois.

"I could be cynical and say it's just anotherexample of the dumbing down of America," said Griffith. Or, he said,it could just be more blurring of the line between news and entertainment. Either way, he said, "it doesn't bother me."


CAPTION: A story about weird eggplants from Anne Arundel County made the big time . . . sort of. It appeared in the nationally syndicated cartoon strip "Zippy." The strip ran in the Sept. 20 editions of The Evening Sun.


Finally, an election we can really get excited about.

Helen "Pit Bull" Bentley vs. Tom "Island Boy" McMillen. No holds barred. No punches pulled.Going for all the marbles.

The governor's Committee to Draw New Congressional District Lines That Don't Screw Things Up Too Badly has decided that the best way to create a new "minority district" is to wiggle stuff around a bit. The result, which pleases His Nibs, the governor, would force incumbent Republican and gubernatorial friend Bentley to run against McMillen, the incumbent Democrat and former Rhodesscholar.

The state lawmakers who have to approve the redistricting plan have been unable to agree where to draw the lines and the whole mess may end up being decided by a judge.

Do us all a favor -- don't touch a darned thing, folks.

Bentley, an ex-reporter, has never backed away from a confrontation, be it bashing the Japanese for existing to being accused of choking the bejesus out of a pesky process server/former cop three times her size. (Charges were dropped, which probably disappointed those who wanted to see a courtroom re-enactment of the incident.)

McMillen is known for, well, being very tall. Oh yeah, and he's a big shot on the House energy committee, which, as we all know, is the only thing that saves us from watching our TVsby candlelight.

Wait, though, he's done other stuff. Tall Tom hasthreatened to file some exciting banking bills. Now there's a concept -- exciting banking bills.

But unless he's talking about "free checking," I'm not sure it's an issue that voters will take to their bosoms. The sad truth is, if people really cared about banking issues,those S&L creeps and BCCI greedheads would be on a leaky boat to Iraq with Jeffrey Dahmer at the helm.

Tom also has an excitement problem. Mainly he doesn't exude any. His stump speeches have been favorably compared to the National Weather Service radio report.

The thought that Tom would run next year against some other boring white male in a blue suit was enough to send most political junkies scurrying for their tapes of old Bob Neall speeches.

Bentley would change all that. Remember, this is the woman who, when asked how she would separate Saddam Hussein from his presidency, replied: "I'd prefer if someone could go in and bump him off real fast."

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