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The Pick of the Quips, Comments and Cracks of '96

December 30, 1996

The Dow Jones Industrial Average zoomed well above the 6,000 level, "irrational exuberance" be damned. Shaquille O'Neal leaped cross-country and signed a $121-million contract to play the post for the Lakers. The movie "Independence Day" did a nice $306-million gross and still counting, thank you. A federal panel recommended that the Consumer Price Index be slashed by 1.1%. And Clinton beat Dole, 379 electoral votes to 159.

Those were the hard, cool integers of '96, one easy way to get a grasp on the 12 months about to pass by forever.

Headline-wise, it was a year of catastrophe in the skies over Long Island, the capture of a Unabomber suspect, the groaning growth of the Internet, mad English cows, the swift and lucrative demise of Michael Ovitz, the shotgun marriage of Boeing and McDonnell, great progress in treating AIDS, robust commerce, dullish politics and the triumph of Elmo.

It was another lamentable year in the O.J. Simpson saga, with enough lawyers, expert witnesses and commentators to boost the employment rate by a few percentage points. There was trauma and milestone aplenty for the tinsel gods of the tabs: Madonna, Michael Jackson, Princess Di and JFK Jr.

*

Finally, for marrying news of politics, commerce, celebrity and blushless egotism, Dick Morris was the incontestable Anti-Hero of the Year.

Who remembers a year in numbers and digits only? While there was little stirring oratory of the Lincoln-Douglas variety, the year had more than its share of insights, puns, profundities and cracks.

Here are a few of our favorites--to ring out the year, so to speak.

Or, in the timelessly apt grunt of the year . . . whatever.

"The Republicans must love families, they have so many of them. I'm offering a reward to any Republican candidate who's left his wife for an older woman."

--James Carville, Democratic party strategist, on the marriages of the GOP contenders for the presidential nomination.

"I'm embarrassed to ask, but just what is software?"

--Best-selling author Patrick O'Brian, who composes his books in longhand.

"After spending a year in Washington, I long for the realism and sensitivity of Hollywood."

--Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson, also known for his acting career.

"Some people compare me to John Kennedy, especially when I play under the president's desk during meetings."

--George Stephanopoulos, President Clinton's senior White House advisor.

"So what?"

--Prince Philip, showing his charm after a tourist well-wisher, Ronnie Chana, told him it was his little daughter Kitra's 6th birthday.

"He had me all screwed up in jail, made me want to give everything away. Tolstoy was a square."

--Boxer and reader of great books, Mike Tyson, on Leo Tolstoy, whose books Iron Mike read during time he spent in prison on a rape conviction.

"If hypocrites could fly, this place would be an airport."

--Los Angeles City Councilman Joel Wachs, on the speed at which a top-secret report on how to prevent leaks at City Hall was leaked to The Times.

"Programming today is a race between software engineers striving to build bigger and better idiot-proof programs and the universe trying to produce bigger and better idiots. So far, the universe is winning."

--Rich Cook, science fiction writer and computer expert.

"Our Communists are fanatics, local Communists are pragmatists."

--Russian President Boris Yeltsin, while visiting China, on the difference between Russian and Chinese Communists.

"The most remarkable thing about my mother is that for 30 years she served nothing but leftovers. The original meal has never been found."

--Author Calvin Trillin, remembering his mother on Mother's Day.

"Politics is show business for ugly people."

--James Carville.

"You can always tell the difference between a dog and a lobbyist--because when you finally relent and open the door and let them in, the dog will stop whining."

--Dick Feeney, a onetime congressional aide and now a lobbyist.

"I don't get out much anymore. I don't get asked out much anymore. It's amazing how many people beat you at golf now that you're no longer president."

--George Bush.

"It's all about the future. That's where we're headed in this country."

--GOP standard bearer Bob Dole.

"It's not about the money. I just want to be young, have fun, drink Pepsi and wear Reebok."

--Shaquille O'Neal, after signing a seven-year, $121-million deal to play with the Lakers.

"I'm not trying to restore an image. I'm not trying to get back what wealth that I lost. I'm trying to do one thing. I'm trying to go to heaven."

--O.J. Simpson, after being made an honorary member of the Brookins African Methodist Episcopal Church.

"People hate us because we don't write songs about how much we hate our parents or how much school sucked."

--Darius Rucker, lead singer of Hootie and the Blowfish.

"There are so many famous people, everyone cancels everyone out."

--Madonna, on why she plans to raise her daughter in L.A.

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