The novelty hasn't worn off for those who love, hate Newt

March 16, 1995|By Cox News Service

The word's out: Newt's a beaut. A nationwide cottage industry of novelty items feature the new House speaker on everything from "Nuke Newt" bumper stickers and "Newt Happens" T-shirts to "Newttopia" caps.

"Thank God for people like Newt Gingrich," says Bryan Skalku, 25, who credits Newtmania with helping put him through Georgia State University. He's selling items in 20 states that tout the Georgia congressman.

The 1994 GOP landslide sparked Mr. Skalku's first Newtism, a "Happy Newt Year" button.

"I'm having a blast," he says.

Newt's favorite item, says his Atlanta press secretary, Allan Lipsett, is a T-shirt with Mr. Gingrich's photo, proclaiming "The Second American Revolution."

"We all marvel at how fast he has become an American icon," says Mr. Lipsett. "Newt has a thick skin. He accepts it as a part of success in politics."

His detractors, meanwhile, are having a field day.

"He puts his foot in his mouth all the time. I should write him a note saying, 'Thank you for being a jerk,' " says Sherri Cheeseboro, operator of the National Organization for Women store in Washington.

Business has tripled since she stocked such Gingrich gear as the "No Newts Is Good Newts" button.

Newt trinkets are a hot commodity in Washington, where people eat politics for breakfast. The two Political Americana stores are doing "dynamite business," says manager Rick Chavez. Their T-shirts, bumper stickers, caps and buttons read, "Newt-er Newt," "Mute Newt," "The Gingrich Who Stole Christmas," and, on the pro side, "Speaker Newt, Deal With It," "I Salewt Newt" and "Elect Newt in '96."

"He's our most popular subject since JFK," Mr. Chavez says. "People really hate this guy or they really like him, and we have stuff for both."

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