Desperately seeking Jane of the jungle

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It’s been a brutal week for Tarzan and Pete Rose, and a
ridiculous one for the head guy in Washington.

A major television network blamed the King of the Apes for
its disastrous year, and writers coast to coast have turned on good old Pete the
hustler, who will sell you his autograph for 50 bucks, and his soul for just a
little more.

In Foggy Bottom, the big man announced, following his
colonization of the moon proposal, that he will spend a billion and a half
dollars promoting marriage.

I can understand the media scorn now being poured on Pistol
Pete. He asked for it with his recent interviews on his confessional book, and
has now been revealed for what he always has been, and what George Vecsey called
him in the New York Times: “unrepentent, unaware, unhappy,
unsatisfied, unpleasant.” The headline on that story, incidentally, was
“A Reputation in Tatters is Fully Down the Drain.”

Vecsey ventured that “never — and I do not use this
word lightly — have I seen an athlete (or maybe any public figure) downgrade
his public reputation as startlingly as Rose did in the last week. He has gone
from the image of a lying but vaguely charming rogue with a gambling addiction
to a downright unpleasant human being, unmasked in public.” That was the
nice part of the story. From there it went downhill.

The rap on Tarzan hurt far more.

I grew up with Tarzan.

Not in the jungle with his friends Numa the Lion and Tantor
the Elephant, but in the 29 Tarzan books of Edgar Rice Burroughs and the 55
Tarzan movies in which those wonderful animal pals appeared. I’m not sure what
kids today are raised on, although prime time television gives a good clue, but
I swung from every vine with Tarzan, pined for his sweetheart Jane, hated Tarzan’s
enemies, and then rushed to the movies to watch Johnny Weissmuller bring him to
life on the screen. It was Weissmuller, the Olympic swimmer with the body of a
Greek god, who got me hooked on body building. Thank goodness he can’t see me
now.

Executives of the WB television network, in a candid news
conference last week, blamed their dismal business year on Tarzan — their TV
version of him — for much of their downturn. What a joke! The way they portray
him, not in tattered loin cloth but in tattered blue jeans, would turn anyone
off, and they deserve whatever low ratings they get. Tarzan was a noble figure,
king of the jungle, fighter against evil, an English lord raised by apes,
invincible. That’s reality, kid. Never mind those weary, phony, setup reality
shows of today.

The president’s plan to toss away a cool billion and a half
on marriage counseling is another costly bad joke.

Never mind the hungry and unemployed, the sick without
insurance, the soldiers in daily peril on scattered imperial fronts around the
world. An election is coming, and the conservatives want blood. An
administration leader explained it candidly: “This is a way for the
president to address the concerns of conservatives and to solidify his
conservative base.”

The good old compassionate conservative, busting the country
to please the far right.

How do you promote marriage? A spokesman said the king
probably will visit programs to raise marriage rates in poor neighborhoods.
“The president loves to do that sort of thing in the inner city with black
churches,” he said, “and he’s very good at it.”

I can see it now. Any guy who will dress up in full military
regalia for a phony photo op on an aircraft carrier will do anything for a vote.
How will George dress for a talk on marriage in a black church? Will he do a
rapper routine with a marriage dialogue?

One thing is certain. When he gets rolling on this one, gay
marriages will take a terrible public beating. A constitutional amendment
prohibiting them is not out of the question. One spokesman, asked about it,
said, “That is a decision the president has to make in due time.”

Take me back to the jungle, please. I want to be with Tarzan
again.

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