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April 01, 1998|ROY RIVENBURG | Times Staff Writer

When Eight Balls Attack: Nearly 4,500 Americans were hospitalized for billiards-related injuries during 1995, according to Playboy magazine. And no, Off-Kilter wasn't looking at sleazeboy Hugh Hefner's magazine for the centerfold. We read Playboy strictly for its billiard-safety reports.

By the way, we don't mean to make light of pool-hall tragedies. So, taking a cue from our new idol, "Titanic" director James Cameron, we ask readers to join us in a moment of silence to honor America's 4,484 billiards victims.

How to Get Elected: Just once, we'd like to see politicians hire a rank-and-file human to write their TV commercials. Then, instead of enduring would-be California Gov. Al Checchi's vapid spots of kids mispronouncing his last name (Chiclets, Chewbacca, Ceausescu, Cheez Whiz) and Jane Harman's borderline feminine-hygiene-product ads, we could have the Taco Bell Chihuahua or the "Hey, Vern" guy.

We'd also like to see candidates stop droning on about education, capital gains and other boring issues. Let's have a campaign platform that tackles real problems. For example:

* Force movie theater owners to have their answering machines tell the movie times first, not directions to the theater or admission prices or gift certificate information or how proud they are to present whatever movie they're proud to present. New law: "Get to the point or go to jail."

* Outlaw supermarket shopping carts with wobbly wheels.

* Shoot all magazine editors whose publications make you wade through any ads to get to the table of contents.

* Institute the death penalty for deejays who chatter over the beginnings or endings of songs.

* Forbid the manufacture of stereos that beep every time you press the radio-station preset buttons.

* Require vans, trucks and sport-utility vehicles to be made of transparent materials and/or to get out of the way of normal cars on freeways.

Help for Four-Footed Sam Donaldsons: At last, an important medical breakthrough for balding dogs. It's new "doggy Rogaine." Well, sort of. A Marina del Rey company is selling a balm called Itch-Stick, which contains a mixture of witch hazel, oatmeal and vitamins designed to relieve flea allergies, eczema and "licking sores" that cause canine hair loss. Personally, we think dog toupees and hair transplants look better--and would make great fodder for this column--but the $6 Itch-Stick is probably a better bargain.

Best Supermarket Tabloid Headline: "Naked Accordion Player Arrested in Laundromat!" (Weekly World News)

The story doesn't say whether the crime was indecent exposure or indecent choice of musical instruments.

* Roy Rivenburg can be reached by e-mail at

Contributors: Wireless Flash News Service, Zack Taylor

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