Dear Russia: Please send our stars into outer space

August 18, 2002|By Leonard Pitts Jr.

WASHINGTON - To the Russian space agency:

I've been reading with alarm newspaper reports that say you might cancel an agreement to allow Lance Bass, from the singing group 'N Sync, to travel to the international space station aboard your Soyuz spacecraft.

These reports say Lance has not come up with the money he was supposed to pay for the privilege of becoming a space tourist. The fee was believed to be in the range of $15 million to $20 million, and word is, Lance is about $15 million to $20 million short.

As Russian spokesman Sergei Gorbunov told Reuters, "Theoretically, we can already dissolve his contract."

I'm begging you not to. In fact, please know that I have $478.62 in my checking account and am willing to put every cent of it on Lance's bill. Plus, I can get you another $500 or $600 by payday. Maybe you wouldn't mind taking a post-dated check?

Perhaps you're wondering why this means so much to me.

Well, forgive me for saying this, but I think you're missing what we in America call "the big picture." By that, I mean you've failed to consider what a service you do for our country when you strap our celebrities to flaming rockets and shoot them off into space. Heck, if you play your cards right, this could be a real growth industry for you.

I don't blame you if you don't understand why I say that. You're not exposed to American pop culture on a daily basis, so there's no way for you to appreciate how truly noxious it can sometimes be. Take it from me; it gets pretty bad. So much so that many of us believe prolonged exposure makes you stupider by the minute. Indeed, shocking research I just made up indicates that spending half an hour watching Smackdown! causes your IQ to drop by a full 10 points.

That's why I think you have a golden opportunity here. You need to realize that many Americans would happily pay through the nose - that means, pay a whole of money - to send certain celebrities into orbit. Indeed, I'd be willing to use the good offices of this column to get the word out on your behalf.

Think about it. You were willing to send one member of 'N Sync into space for $15 to $20 mil. Maybe you could give us a package deal for the entire group? Send four, get one free?

Come on, let's do business here. Name your price. How much would you charge to send P. Diddy and J-Lo into space? How about Michael Jackson and Al Sharpton? But don't stop there. Send Tom Green and Anna Nicole Smith. Send Whitney and Bobby, Britney and Christina, the Spice Girls and the Backstreet Boys. Send Miss Cleo and Dennis Rodman. Send Paula Jones, Amy Fisher and Tonya Harding. Send Maury, Jerry, Jenny and Ricki. Send anybody who's ever been on Survivor, Temptation Island, Big Brother or Meet My Folks. Send everybody who's ever been an executive of Fox.

Send everybody who's famous and no one knows why. Send anybody who's stretching fame into the 16th minute. Send O.J. so he can search for the real killers. Send Kato to keep him company.

I'm telling you, there's money to be made here. And you'll notice I haven't even mentioned Congress. There's a whole 'nother revenue stream right there. If you think we're eager to send our celebrities into orbit, wait till you see how we feel about our politicians.

So what do you say? Do we have a deal? I'm telling you, if you play your cards right, you could earn, conservatively speaking, a hundred bajillion dollars. You would also have the undying gratitude of your friends, the American people.

Now that I think about it, though, there might be one hitch. So far, every journey to the space station has been a round trip, but I think I speak for my fellow Americans when I say we're only interested in buying one-way tickets. Naturally, we expect that you will adjust that $15 million to $20 million fare since you won't be bringing our celebrities back.

Does TWO hundred bajillion sound fair?

Leonard Pitts Jr. is a columnist for The Miami Herald. His column appears Sundays in The Sun. He can be reached via e-mail at lpitts@herald.com or by calling toll-free at 1-888-251-4407.

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