Club distills humor from hard times

Terrorism, war, recession targeted at Gridiron affair

March 10, 2002

WASHINGTON - The journalists of Washington's Gridiron Club distilled political humor yesterday from a harrowing year of terrorism, anthrax, corporate bankruptcy and war.

President Bush, the 20th president to be singed on the gridiron since 1885, endured a white-tie evening of musical skits set in places ranging from Guantanamo Bay to Vice President Dick Cheney's "undisclosed secure location."

Cheney's secret shelter is a place much like "Hernando's Hideaway."

"There is a dark, secluded place. A veep can sleep, without a trace. And no one ever sees his face - Dick Cheney's hideaway!"

Delivering the annual dinner's traditional lights-out "speech in the dark," Gridiron president Marianne Means of Hearst Newspapers said, "A year ago we didn't even know there was an axis of evil.

"Now we do: Enron, Arthur Andersen and Global Crossing."

Later, the "axis of evil" was redefined as the skating judges at the Winter Olympics.

Opening the evening, Gridiron members stripped away a black burqa concealing a captured "terrorist" to reveal veteran White House correspondent Helen Thomas, said to have terrorized every president since John F. Kennedy.

The anthrax scare was recalled in a tribute to Cipro, the antibiotic tablet.

"Now when we go up to the Hill, we take precautions. This little pill. A patriotic antibiotic. We're taking Cipro."

The Taliban and al-Qaida prisoners being held at the U.S. military base at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba were not forgotten, as the band played the theme from Cabaret:

"We'll feed you Fruit Loops and granola. Would you like a Coca-Cola? ... Welcome to Gitmo Bay, old chum, welcome to Camp X-Ray."

Attorney General John Ashcroft was found to have a few "Favorite Things." They include: "Secret tribunals and racial profiling, intimate things that I find so beguiling, listening in when your telephone rings, these are a few of my favorite things."

For one song, at least, reporters trained the cannons on themselves:

"Pompous pundits from the press, here to whine and second-guess. We dodged the war in '68. Now we're at war: The Fourth Estate."

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