Thursday, July 26, 2007

Slán, Weekly World News

It was via Craig Ferguson that the notice of the demise of my favorite tabloid came to me. Unlikely as it seems, the Earth will be a lesser place without the Weekly World News.

For those of you who are too classy to have ever associated with it (which is most of you), the Weekly World News was one of that collection of brain-draining tabloids at the checkout at the supermarket, along with such authoritative and dignified publications as the National Enquirer. Enquiring minds want to know, they say; well, I want to know why they're killing the rag that gave us Bat Boy. Yes, that's the thing that will make you remember WWN; that picture of the half-bat, half-boy staring at you in glorious black and white. That was the other unusual feature; save a few special covers, the WWN was never printed in color. There are reasons for this, good ones, too. However, they've never bothered to explain what those reasons are.

Who cares, anyway? It was the quality of the stories. Why, take the Apocalypse alone.... do you know how many times the WWN said that the Apocalypse was coming? And every single time, they said that it was coming right after next week's issue. Over and over they did that, and the vast majority of the readership never caught on; they went and bought the next week's issue to find out what time it was going to hit, so that they could get that last nail appointment in on time. Oh, but wait; who could worry about the Apocalypse when Bat Boy is on the loose again? "Besides, Marge, it says right here that the next issue is an Apocalypse Special, so I guess I misread it last week. Too bad I already lined the cat box with it."

Them people was clever.

At this point, since it's going out of business, I guess that I can give away the information that I, as a tangential insider, am privy to. Hold on to your g-strings, this is gonna be a lulu:

Most of the stories in the Weekly World News were fake. There, there, dry your calloused tears; it's best to know the truth so you can get on with your life.... such as it is, if the WWN was at its center. Then again, it could be worse; personally, I'd rather read the WWN than a "real" newspaper any day. Even the Apocalypse is less depressing than the "real" news these days.

Some of the stories were actually true; just enough to lure in those hopeful folk who could point to the article on Billy Graham (no, really, they ran a number of them) and claim that it was, too, a real newspaper.

As it happens, I myself, the Eye Wit, have twice appeared in the pages of the Weekly World News. I kid you not! Neither story had an ounce of truth to it, but that was beside the point. Not only that, I actually got paid (not much) for them to use my likeness. How did this happen? As a matter of total coincidence, I got to know a woman whose uncle was one of the senior editors. Hers was the face of Serena Sabak, the world's sexiest astrologer. She also was a photographer, and supplied them with pictures to go with the articles. Many of these were just "head shots" of either the author of the alleged article or its subject, and some were more elaborate, intended for greater things. For the head shots, it was common for her to bring her camera to parties; after people had had a few drinks was a great time to ask them to let her shoot a whole roll of face shots. If they want to use one of them, an editor calls you up to make sure that you're OK with the story it's to go with. Thus did I end up in the guise of ace Latino reporter Antonio de Maguez, who was breaking a big story on a secret plan to trade Elian Gonzalez for a shipload of genuine Cuban cigars. Absolutely scandalous! For this appearance in a national publication, I got twenty bucks.

The other time, it was a photo spread to go with a longer story. In this instance, I was Blaine Terziche, an office manager who was such a chauvinist pig, that he made all his female employees dress as cheerleaders. Every two hours, there'd be a pep rally. We shot this little gem in the evening at an office I'd worked less than a week at. For this, I got fifty bucks. They were awfully good sports there, and many of the people in the office also wound up in the WWN. Funniest among them was one of the owners, who was supposedly the commander of an international group of mercenaries who'd been thrown out of their armies because they revealed that they were homosexuals. That name of the unit? "The Gay Team". Precious! Another friend was some poor sap in Tibet who'd been molested by a female yeti (I suppose it could've been worse....).

How can they possibly put an end to this kind of fun? The articles were such a kick, the ads were from some of the "finest" companies in the U.S., and every week, there was a genuine giant crossword puzzle. What more could you ask? Profitability is no doubt what AMI (the parent company) has in mind. So now, all you'll have to select from are the "celeb" tabloids, and nothing delving into the sheer nonsensical like the venerable Weekly World News. In its history, it even spawned a stage play version of Bat Boy: The Musical. See it if you get the chance, it's hysterical.

But all of this was not enough. I suppose that when the "real" newspapers are full of so many reports of the rampant absence of truth (cross reference: Washington DC), the stylish lack of truth in the WWN just couldn't keep up anymore.

I hate reality.

Bat Boy, we're going to miss you, old friend. Even worse, my budding career as a model in a nationally-distributed publication has been cut short, perhaps never to rise again. To all you crazies behind the Weekly World News all these years, who got PAID to generate all this outlandish material, I say a warm "Thanks!" Who cares if people looked at me oddly when I bought it? It was a welcome island of lunacy, and a neat little escape from the ugliness of what's really going on, even for just a little while.

And darn it, without the Weekly World News on the story, how is the Apocalypse EVER going to get here?

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