Wrong but I believe that the Friday morning...


July 20, 1992|By THEO LIPPMAN JR.

I MAY BE wrong but I believe that the Friday morning journalism following the Thursday night close of the Democratic convention was unprecedented.

"Perot steps down; Clinton steps up" was The Sun's banner headline. The reporting on Bill Clinton's acceptance speech was the third political story on the front page, below two on Perot.

It wasn't just us hicks in the sticks who reacted this way. "PEROT QUITS RACE, LEAVING TWO-MAN FIELD" was the first line in the New York Times' banner, and the main story began with these two words: "Ross Perot."

New York Newsday, a tabloid with aspirations to serious journalism, filled its front page with pictures of Clinton and George Bush and this headline in red ink: "Scramblin' For Perot's Votes."

The New York Post, a more feisty tabloid, filled its front page with a huge picture of Perot and a huge headline: "WHAT A WIMP."

Tabloid headline writing is a serious business, with rules and traditions. New York Newsday used what some casual readers would think of as a similar headline over what was probably most New Yorkers' really favorite story of Friday morning.

There was a full-page layout of words and pictures dealing with the arrest of Donald Trump's girl friend Marla Maples' publicist. The headline said, "What a Heel!" In fact, experts recognize this as a so-called "pun head." The p.r. man was arrested for stealing 40-50 pair of Marla's shoes and boots.

Why? "You wouldn't understand," he was quoted as saying. The paper reported that police also found some of Marla's apparel in his possession and a magazine called Spike "that caters to an audience with foot fetishes" -- the paper helpfully explained to any who might have thought it was a magazine that caters to volleyball players.

The Post trumped (sorry) New York Newsday with the difficult "double-pun head": "MARLA'S ARCH-FIEND PROVES A REAL HEEL."

I wish this story had come out earlier in the week. I would have asked the platform committee if foot fetishism was "discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation irrelevant to ability," which the party came out firmly against.

Back to Ross Perot. Many Democrats at the convention said off the record that they were disappointed at his decision. This is because they believe George Bush has a better chance in a two-way race than in a three-way race.

One Democrat at the convention told me on the record he was disappointed. It had nothing to do with outcomes, however. The Democrat was Ted Venetoulis. The former Baltimore County executive is the author of a book about what happens when a presidential election goes into the House of Representatives. It has long been out of print. Last Thursday, he was discussing a new edition with Random House when the Perot bombshell exploded.

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