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July 22, 1998|ROY RIVENBURG | Times Staff Writer

What's Wrong With This Column?: The judges have issued a verdict in our "Can you spot the six mistakes in this column?" contest from two weeks ago. About 70 amateur detectives took part, including a 10-year-old (Michael Mirrielees) who reads Off-Kilter in the Crystal Lake Herald of Illinois; a political science professor (Sandra Sutphen) at Cal State Fullerton; and a Studio City mom (Gioia DeBlasio) who now keeps a letter from us next to a note she got from Jimmy Carter, the only president to ever see a UFO and be attacked by a rabbit.

Four contestants found every error we planted in the column. Congratulations (and fabulous prizes) to Wayne Terry of Los Angeles, Jack E. Coulehan of Bakersfield, Juliet Wilson of Sherman Oaks and Nicole Elliott of Arcadia (our youngest winner at age 16) for noticing the following goofs:

* We referred to ourselves three times in the first-person singular (I, me, my) instead of the usual "we" and "our." To those of you who counted each instance as one error, we apologize. We inserted three because even our best friend missed it when we just had one.

* We said Off-Kilter normally avoids death-related humor, which is absolutely true, unless you count the stories we've had on circus dwarfs being swallowed by hippos, hunters being shot by their dogs, volcano suicide fads, hologram tombstones, killer ants and dozens more.

* We mentioned our write-in campaign for U.S. Senate when, in fact, we're running for governor of California (now that King of the World is taken). However, we were flattered that a few people thought we were on the ballot for president or ayatollah.

* Our campaign platform suggested changing the national anthem to either "The Macarena" or Jimi Hendrix's "Purple Haze" in honor of Barney the dinosaur. "This has to be a mistake," said reader Rachel Crane. "Please say it's a mistake." Don't worry, Rachel. We would never do anything that so clearly violates the Ten Commandments, the Koran, the Bhagavad-Gita, the Geneva code and our bulletproof New Testament, which we decided was too cool to give away as a prize after all.

* We used a normal newspaper headline instead of a supermarket tabloid headline.

* At the very end, instead of "Contributors," we listed "Paid Informants." Actually, we now prefer the contest version, so we're going to permanently change it to "Unpaid Informants."

Finally, we wanted to name our runners-up, who found five of the six mistakes: Hallel Newman, Lauren Coffman, Randy Rightmire, Ingrid Chung, Daniel Karlin, Michael Sachs, Randall C. Laws, Bill Lundy, Eric Cummings, Josh Munce, Melissa Calvano, Anthony Newman, Pinky1000 (a.k.a. Brian), and honorary runner-up Bill Williams of Oregon, who technically got only two right, but we added bonus points because he had our favorite wrong entry, namely, "When read backward, column is exact duplicate of standard 'Suddenly Susan' script." That was no mistake, Bill. All of our columns can be converted into bad sitcoms.

Best Religious Adaptation of a Movie Title: On the marquee at a church in Orange: "There's Something About Mary's Son Jesus."

Best Supermarket Tabloid Headline: "Millions of Americans Will Work Naked on National Nudist Day!" (Weekly World News)

Aug. 14 will bring new meaning to the phrase "casual Friday."

* Roy Rivenburg's e-mail address is

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