The Year of Living Boringly A look back at a lame 1996

December 31, 1996|By Dave Barry | Dave Barry,KNIGHT-RIDDER NEWS SERVICE

Let's start with the good news: Under the current laws of physics, there is no possible way that 1996 can be repeated. This is important, because it means we won't have to go through the Madonna pregnancy again. Nor will we ever again have to watch wealthy twits desperately bid insane amounts of money for Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis' old stuff.

But above all, we will not have to repeat the 1996 presidential race, which was so lame that it could have been promoted by Don King.

Going into the year, you'd have thought it would be a close contest. Granted, the Democrats had an excellent campaigner in Bill Clinton, who can speak for days without inhaling and who is capable of sincerely holding, sometimes for minutes on end, exactly the same views as whatever group he is standing in front of at the moment (put Bill in front of a group of trees, and given enough time he will engage in photosynthesis). But Clinton also has distinct weaknesses, the main one being that virtually everything he gets involved with, including the White House Easter Egg Roll, seems to result in indictments.

So the Republicans were presented with an excellent opportunity, and they handled it with a level of tactical sophistication normally found only in pie fights. They nominated Bob Dole, who speaks with the eloquence and intellectual coherence of a Magic Eight Ball ("OUTLOOK HAZY -- TRY AGAIN").

So the voters, faced with this choice, wisely tuned out of the election and focused their attention on more relevant issues, such as what hors d'oeuvres were served at John F. Kennedy Jr.'s wedding reception. Even the news media gave up on the '96 campaign around mid-September and started hyping the expected matchup for the year 2000. You know things are bad when the media are looking forward to a campaign involving Al Gore and Jack Kemp.

Fortunately, the economy is doing fine, thanks mainly to the O. J. Simpson industry. Nobody can count the number of lawyers who are employed full time defending, prosecuting or providing expert TV commentary on O. J., who is also the subject of three out of every four new books published. If, God forbid, there ever comes a day when O. J. is no longer in court, we had better have a plan to arrest him again immediately for something.

And speaking of consumers, two major trends accelerated in 1996:

1. Americans became even more obsessed with eliminating fat from their diets.

2. Americans got fatter.

If these trends continue, by the year 2015 most Americans will be huge immobile blobs who will have to be fed their Snackwell cookies intravenously. But that is far in the future; you don't need to think about it now. Now is the time to sit back in a room devoid of sharp objects and reflect upon the eventful year we've just been through.

January

The year began on an ominous note when hostile alien beings from the Planet Gazoom put into action their sinister plan to take over the Earth. This involved beaming a powerful, precisely aimed ray across millions of light years, into the brain of Mrs. Wanda L. Klongwinkle, who at the time was sipping a Brandy Alexander with some friends in a bar in Elizabeth, N.J. Seized by a force that she did not understand but was compelled to obey, Mrs. Klongwinkle rose to her feet and, without any conscious thought, stuck out her left arm then her right arm

"Wanda," her friends asked, "What are you doing?"

"I don't know," she answered.

"Teach us how!" her friends said, leaping to their feet.

From across the galaxy, the evil Gazoomians watched this scene on their video screen and exchanged high-17 tentacle slaps.

"They're falling for it!" said their leader. "Soon, the entire planet will be infected with with What do we call that thing again?"

"The Macarena," his assistant replied.

Speaking of alien beings: In January Lisa Marie Presley and Michael Jackson broke up, reportedly because of a legal squabble over who would have custody of their larvae. Meanwhile, in the Iowa caucus campaign, Steve Forbes captured the attention of voters and the media by talking about the flat tax for three consecutive weeks without blinking.

In Washington, the federal budget crisis continued. With the government essentially shut down, it became necessary to furlough all "non-essential" workers; this effort required the formation of an Emergency Task Force To Determine Which Workers Are Non-Essential, which within weeks had become a permanent federal agency with a staff of 278,000 and a budget of $13.7 billion.

In the ongoing permanent Whitewater scandal, Hillary Clinton told a grand jury that she did not recall ever having lived in any place named "Arkansas."

In sports, the Dallas Cowboys won the Super Bowl in large part because of the superb play of wide receiver Michael Irvin, who made several spectacular catches by sucking the football into his nose.

February

Legendary defense attorney F. Lee Bailey was sent to jail when, following a tumultuous hearing in a Florida courtroom, the judge found out what the "F" stands for.

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