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April 07, 1998|RAY RIVENBURG | Times Staff Writer

Tax Deduction of the Day: Tired of the same old boring tax write-offs year after year? Then pick up a copy of John Croucher's "Great Frauds and Everyday Scams" (Allen-Unwin) and do something creative this April 15. Our favorite is the salesman who claimed a $250 deduction for the cost of shortening his pants. He told the IRS that the tailoring was necessary to avoid static electricity shocks from the carpeting in his office.

Weird Publicity Stunts: In honor of National Procrastination Week, which was, um, a month ago, we wanted to tell you about a strange press release we received the day after the Oscars show, which was, um, two weeks ago. It announced the 1998 Rogaine Hair Awards for celebrity hairdos at the Academy Awards. We were hoping for categories like best and worst toupees, but instead it was lame stuff like Michael Bolton winning "best hair comeback." (Actually, we agree that Bolton looks better without his 1970s-style mane, but we still wouldn't give him an award just on principle.) Anyway, that's not the weird part. What caught our attention was the next-to-last paragraph of the press release, which listed other products by the makers of Rogaine, Pharmacia & Upjohn. This company has a monopoly on treatments for yucky bodily malfunctions: Kaopectate for diarrhea, Nasalcrom (our favorite bizarre product name) for drippy sinuses, Micatin anti-fungal ointment, Dramamine anti-barf medicine, Cortaid anti-itch cream, Emetrol for nausea, and (read no further if you're still eating breakfast) Doxidan and Surfak stool softeners and laxatives. Imagine if the entire product line sent out press releases for post-Oscar awards.

Bizarre Facts Aisle: Here are the latest purchases from our supermarket of the strange:

* A group of native Hawaiians believes that Willie Nelson is the reincarnation of an ancient island king.

* Dragline spider silk is so strong that some scientists say a strand as thick as a pencil could stop a Boeing 747 in flight.

* The next big trend in men's fashion will be Mr. Rogers-style zip-up sweaters, according to the National Assn. of Men's Sportswear Buyers. Guys will also start copying the sweater ensemble worn by Olivia Newton-John in "Grease," the group says.

* Contestants in a Philadelphia shopping mall's Leonardo DiCaprio look-alike contest include two middle-aged Italian guys who bear no resemblance to the 23-year-old actor.

Belated Birthday Department: Bake a big cake and fire up 2,061 candles for Jeannie, as in "I Dream of," who was born on April 1, 64 BC, according to the birthday monitors at Wireless Flash News Service.

Tipping the Scales of Justice: For three hours the other day, the judicial system toyed with the idea of putting Off-Kilter on a jury. Then someone came to his senses and scotched the idea. But we consider it a miscarriage of justice. In other words, the dismissal ruined our plan to get on a panel that would be sequestered for the entire time that Barney's new movie is in theaters.

Best Supermarket Tabloid Tall Tale: "Microchip Pet Collar Lets Animals Speak" (Weekly World News)

The computerized gizmo supposedly translates barks and meows into English. Sample dog sentence translated by WWN: "Give me a treat or I'll pee on your leg."

* Roy Rivenburg can be reached by e-mail at

Contributors: Wireless Flash, Washington Post

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