Magazine article The Spectator

Did Aliens Abduct Al?

Magazine article The Spectator

Did Aliens Abduct Al?

Article excerpt

New Hampshire

THERE are times, frankly, when I feel a bit of a sissy boy writing about US politics. Out there in the Middle East, my fellow foreign correspondents are climbing into their flak jackets and dodging the flying rocks. In Belgrade, they're swept along in the throng as the crowd storms parliament. And over here? We're discussing Al Gore's make-up. Granted, it's pretty scary, but it's not actually life-threatening.

Some years ago, when my fellow pundits began writing about `the feminisation of politics', I don't think they meant that we'd all be sitting around the television set watching Al in the first formal presidential debate and tutting, `Who does your make-up, girlfriend?' For the record, it was Kriss Soterion, a former Miss New Hampshire who now runs Kriss Cosmetics & The Studio of Holistic Beauty down in Manchester, NH. Poor old Kriss, who gave the vice-president a heavy foundation with rouged cheeks that would have seemed a mite excessive on a pantomime dame, says that it was because he'd got sunburnt while in Florida, ostentatiously holed up - a la Big Brother - with a team of `ordinary people' helping him to prepare for the debate. Following her smear job on Al, she was invited on to The Tonight Show to make up host Jay Leno so that he looked like Tammy Faye Bakker, the heavily caked former wife of a disgraced televangelist who self-destructed in a hooker scandal some while back. But Kriss turned it down. As for AI's pancake, she would like to make up for her make-up, but she fears she'll never get another chance, and now seems to be going through some existential crisis, riddled with self-doubt and questioning her calling. She told the New Hampshire Sunday News that her catastrophic touch-up of Al has caused her to `think deeply about society's obsession with physical appearance' and `the psychology of make-up'. `It just makes me think about the whole thing, about wearing masks,' she said. `It's kind of a fascinating subject, to analyse why we hide behind it in the first place.' This is not a subject AI wants to discuss at this stage in the election cycle.

The word from his spinmeisters was that for the second presidential face-off Al would be appearing without his face on. At the time of writing I haven't actually seen this latest debate, officially because The Spectator has to go to press early, but unofficially because I plan to be watching the Mister Ed the Talking Horse rerun on Channel 173 that night. But it seems safe to say that if George Dubya Bush can underperform as woefully as he did in the first debate, he should be up another eight points or so by the weekend. Al can get a new make-up artist and learn to stop sighing so contemptuously when his opponent speaks, but there are certain things he can't do. For example, several of those who watched the first debate thought that he'd been working out excessively. Like Sylvester Stallone, his neck was wider than his head - and given how big his head is, that's some neck. On the average American television screen, Al's problem is that he looks `too big'.

Apparently, he started working out last year because focus groups showed that men didn't think he was as much of a `real man' as Bush. The Texas governor doesn't pump iron, but he does run every day, usually in the afternoon after a light lunch and a couple of execution orders. On the whole, it seems to be a more electorally effective regimen. On the evidence of my own exclusive columnar daily tracking poll, Al is more unpopular with men than ever. As part of my new improved service to readers, each day I take a different number from my town's phone book and dial it with every other US area code. For our post-debate poll, I used the number of my retired postmistress, Mary Etta. Not a single male respondent said he would vote for Gore, except a cranky old geezer in Florida whining about how much less prescription drugs cost in Canada (I helpfully suggested that in Goose Bay, Labrador, you could pick up a retirement condo for as little as $4,000), and a fellow in California, who sounded gay. …

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