Tuesday, November 14, 2006

A World Without Anger

I'm sadder than George Allen will be when he finds out that there are minorities in heaven...

When I was in high school, I discovered the wonders of the Weekly World News. For less than a buck, I could guarantee myself a good half-hour of outrageous articles, insane opinion pieces, and the self-proclaimed World's Biggest Crossword. This was a couple of dollars less than Mad magazine, and the writing quality was often comparable. I was hooked.

Every time that I went on a school-sponsored outing or worked on a school play, I, or one of my friends, would pick up a copy of the magazine. We'd pass it around, read portions of it aloud, and loudly discuss the latest outrage. Some of my best high school memories have a copy of the Weekly World News lurking in the background.

The key element, of course, was Ed Anger. His column, called "My America, by Ed Anger," was always good for a laugh, not to mention a well-constructed, if extremely coarse, diatribe. In one, he responded to some racist comments by the Japanese prime minister. Apparently, the PM had noted that American workers were lazy, and seemed to suggest that the cause might be the lower quality genetic stock of the United States. Ed, of course, responded to this with pure, concentrated bile. I remember one phrase in particular; Ed was commenting on America's racial diversity, which he argued was responsible for our cultural superiority. He concluded by stating that "In America, we even have japs. Except our japs are better than japanese japs because our japs are american. American japs know how to listen to different cultures and learn from them."

Pure genius.

Once you get past Ed's excessive, enthusiastic use of the term "japs," there's a pretty strong, liberal point. Therein lay the power of Ed Anger: he would take a fairly liberal positions, express it in ways that would make Phyllis Schafly blanch, and polish it off with a strong dose of humor. He deliberately ticked off as many people as possible, while simultaneously giving every member of his audience something to feel good about. It was pure brilliance.

Approximately a month ago, I was feeling nostalgic, so I bought a copy of the the Weekly World News. I had high hopes: it prominently featured an article about redneck aliens taking over a trailer park, and promised an interview with "Omaha Bin Laden," Osama's cowboy relative. I couldn't wait to get home, so I started reading the trailer park article in the car--I wanted to see if it was located near my house (I have some suspicions about my neighbors). Unfortunately, it's located in "Rebel Valley" South Carolina.

Rebel Valley? That didn't sound like a real place. This was only the first of many disappointments. One annoyance is that the price has gone up to $2.99 per issue, which seemed a little steep to me. Second, unlike the pseudo-sincere Weekly World News of my youth, the articles in this one were clearly tongue-in-cheek. I couldn't tell if the authors were laughing at their audience, or were parodying the the Weekly World News of yesteryear. Regardless, they weren't particularly funny.

The saddest point came when I read "My America." The article discussed the fact that some sports teams are apparently holding "faith days," in which they pass out religious bobblehead dolls. In a calm, steady voice, the author criticized these teams for failing to recognize the boundaries between politics and religion. Granted, this was exactly the kind of topic that Ed would have loved on, but he would have been a bit more outspoken. The author of this article, who was purportedly Ed, was far more reasonable and tasteful.

This bugged me so much that I googled Ed Anger, fully expecting to find out that he'd had a stroke and was no longer his old self. The truth was even sadder. I found out that Eddie Clontz, a former high school dropout and scallop fisherman, who had taken over editorship of the the Weekly World News in 1981, and had made it the three ring circus that entertained me so much as a kid, had died on January 26, 2004 at the age of 56. This explained the lowered quality of the News; it also explained the kinder, gentler Ed. Under the pseudonym "Ed Anger," Clontz had written some of my favorite diatribes. Here's his obituary, courtesy of The Economist. You should check it out, as Clontz is one of those people who definitely led a life worth living.

Maybe his legacy isn't notable for its journalistic integrity, but I can't help feeling that the world's a little less enjoyable without Eddie Clontz in it. One thing's for certain--Ed Anger's take on the midterm elections would have been entertaining.

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  • I remember Bat Boy. He made it to the funeral, you know.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At November 14, 2006 at 10:59 PM  

  • Omaha isn't all that. We dated briefly. Nothing a little Rogaine and Viagra couldn't solve.

    By Blogger mist1, At November 15, 2006 at 12:07 AM  

  • Crankster, thank you so much. The Weekly World News has clearly slid into mediocrity, with sheer outlandishness [and an undercurrent of condescension?] clearly more important than sheerly american-style carnival huckster ludicrousness with wit and self knowledge. It was utterly nice to have a rag in the late 80s/early nineties that clearly advocated an earnest sense of american alterna-vision, steeped in the language of trailer park rage.

    Ed, you are truly missed.

    By Anonymous John, At November 15, 2006 at 2:18 AM  

  • I know a person of reasonable intelligence who professes with great conviction that the bat-boy is real. This guy can hold his own in conversations ranging from string theory to the Pleistocene Die-Off and he will look you in the eyes and tell you that the freaking bat-boy is a proven fact! As far as I know, his brain is not damaged. He is normal in every way except when it comes to weasel-human hybrids and thousand pound gophers! I’m going into the rigors just thinking about it!

    By Blogger slaghammer, At November 15, 2006 at 3:03 AM  

  • The Weekly World News has gone downhill and is now more crap than carny.

    By Blogger David, At November 15, 2006 at 7:50 AM  

  • Claudia-
    I can see him now: back row, large black hat, sunglasses, raincoat, a lot of sunscreen.

    Does that count as providing succor to the enemy?

    Couldn't have said it better myself. America is less without Ed.

    Don't ruin it for him. It'd be like telling him that Santa doesn't exist.

    Exactly! And where are we supposed to turn for our fun alterna-news now that it's dead? By the way, thanks for stopping in!

    By Blogger Crankster, At November 15, 2006 at 7:55 AM  

  • Man, my sister was hooked on those magazines! I remember her telling me she had to stop and get one before her prom.

    Eddie could've started a cult back then?

    By Anonymous Drib, At November 15, 2006 at 10:20 AM  

  • lol...I remember these too...great fodder for alien stuff!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At November 15, 2006 at 10:28 AM  

  • I loved those , my dad and I would delight in reading them and as he would say as we discussed the headlines 'its all true jude only the facts have been changed'. What I want to know is what was the number of the london bus that was found on the moon and what was the fare...

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At November 15, 2006 at 10:33 AM  

  • I always loved the imagination that ran wild in this "news"paper. Where else could you read about a three-headed alien-gorilla hybrid born with an Elvis tatoo on his butt while the planets were in perfect confluence for the return of Jesus with Marilyn Monroe on his arm?

    By Blogger heartinsanfrancisco, At November 15, 2006 at 1:00 PM  

  • Me and my kids love Bat Boy. I'm such a good mom.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At November 15, 2006 at 1:14 PM  

  • I well remember the moment when WWN stopped making me smile with amused delight. At the time, I thought it was some change happening in me. Thanks for providing me with the true story.

    I, too, delighted in Ed Anger. Hail to Ed. Long live Ed.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At November 15, 2006 at 1:47 PM  

  • Drib-
    Aaah, the '80's, the heyday of tabloid journalism.

    And hours of fun reading.

    You think the London bus system found the hidden method for space travel?

    You didn't believe that one? I know what you mean--the old WWN was so imaginative. Nowadays it's just so obvious.

    Everyone loves an underdog. Like Rudy. Even if he doesn't really exist. Like Rudy.

    Mystic Wing-
    I can only hope to make the kind of difference that Ed made. Long live Ed.

    By the way, thanks for stopping in!

    By Blogger Crankster, At November 15, 2006 at 9:38 PM  

  • i like how aliens are conservative.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At November 15, 2006 at 10:05 PM  

  • Of course Bat Boy lives, don't be absurd and think otherwise

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At November 15, 2006 at 10:29 PM  

  • Matt-
    And yet Star Trek is so liberal.

    Thanks for keeping the faith!

    By Blogger Crankster, At November 16, 2006 at 10:09 AM  

  • Did you know the story of Bat Boy was made into a musical?

    I've heard the soundtrack - it's quite good!

    By Anonymous Jinja, At November 17, 2006 at 4:57 PM  

  • One of my former students was in an amateur production of it. Too bizarre!

    By Blogger Crankster, At November 17, 2006 at 11:22 PM  

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