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January 16, 1998|ROY RIVENBURG | Times Staff Writer

Grade Me Tender: Getting into college isn't as easy as it used to be. At the University of Chicago, applicants must submit stellar high school transcripts, outstanding SAT scores and a two-page essay proving that Elvis Presley is alive. We're not kidding. The offbeat admission question--the latest in a series used by the elite school--is designed to test the creativity and thinking ability of potential students. We can go along with that, but we think it's crazy to do it by asking for proof that Elvis isn't dead. If it were Jim Morrison, sure, we'd understand. He's alive. But Elvis? No way--and we'll prove it in today's final Off-Kilter item.

Beam Us Out of Here: Did you know that the wine goblets used by the Klingons in "Star Trek: The Next Generation" were also used in the 1956 production of "The Ten Commandments"? Did you care? Apparently, the Las Vegas Hilton thinks you might, because it just spent $70 million to present such facts at its new "Star Trek" attraction. Other highlights include a gift shop that sells United Federation of Planets tote bags for $45, a Klingon uniform for $12,000 and "floating Enterprise pewter paperweights" for $225. There's also a History of the Future museum that imparts incredible bits of cosmic wisdom, such as the fact that the medical scanner used by Dr. McCoy in the original TV series was a saltshaker.

Strangest Business Slogan Department: The cover of Connecticut-based Yankee Energy System's 1997 annual report features a picture of Martha Stewart making raspberry jam, with the headline: "Martha Stewart Warms Up to Natural Gas." You can supply your own punch line.

Barbie Update: Our fantasy news item on Jan. 7 about the coming divorce of Barbie and Ken, which stated that neither doll has a last name, prompted a note from reader Kurt Bray, who said Barbie's surname is Roberts. We checked and he's right. Barbie even has a middle name, Millicent, and parents named George and Margaret. Also, anyone interested in replacing Ken should know that her sign is Leo.

Weird Tombstones Department: This week's wacky epitaph comes from a grave in Nashua, N.H., courtesy of cemetery buff Clyde Chamberlin's "Solitude in Stone" newsletter: "I expected this, but not so soon."

Best Supermarket Tabloid Story: It's almost impossible to top the Weekly World News in this category, but today's award must go to the Star for its recent revelation that Michael Jackson wants to have a baby with ex-wife Lisa Marie Presley because he's "absolutely convinced that mixing the Jackson and Presley genes" could create "a black Elvis." Subsequent reports indicate that Scientology-addled Lisa Marie is seriously considering the scheme.

So are we, and it's not a pretty picture. What we're imagining is a bloated, crotch-grabbing lounge singer in a rhinestone-studded jumpsuit with too-short pant legs who gives free Cadillacs to little boys and shoots out TV screens whenever they show the film "Elephant Man."

And this is why we can assure the University of Chicago admissions committee that the King is definitely dead. Even if he were still hopped up on narcotics, a living Elvis would never let this happen.

* Roy Rivenburg can be reached by e-mail at

Contributors: Hartford Courant, Premiere Radio, Kenny Noble Cortes

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