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Off-Kilter

July 28, 1998|Roy Rivenburg | Times Staff Writer

Spare the Riot Act, Spoil the Child: As a public service to parents who feel as if they constantly need to read the riot act to their unruly kids, we thought we'd publish the real thing, which was passed in Britain 283 years ago last week:

"Our sovereign lord the king chargeth and commandeth all persons, being assembled, immediately to disperse themselves, and peaceably to depart to their habitations, or to their lawful businesses, upon the pains contained in the act made in the first year of King George, for preventing tumults and riotous assemblies. God save the King."

Take that, Dr. Spock.

Monopolygate: It's been a bad summer for journalism. CNN retracted a story about the use of nerve gas in Laos, the Boston Globe fired a columnist who fabricated quotes and the New Republic sacked a writer who it says made up several stories. Now Off-Kilter might be going directly to jail--without passing Go or collecting $200--for last week's report on Monopoly game tokens. Numerous readers want us locked up for daring to question the existence of game pieces shaped like a wheelbarrow and a horse with rider.

"How could you possibly doubt those two tokens?" asked Tre'Vaughn Dixon, who described himself as "president of the Nonexistent Peoples' Monopoly Brigade." Three other readers--Leslie Koch, Christy Trejo and Ed Rushman--offered to send photographic evidence of the mystery game pieces.

No need. Our editor came in after the column was published with a tiny metal wheelbarrow and bucking bronco that she obviously had custom-made as part of an elaborate prank that also involved hiring actors to bombard us with "reader" e-mail about the topic.

To prove this conspiracy, we called Parker Brothers in Massachusetts. OK, so maybe they couldn't confirm the conspiracy. But we did find out why our 1966 Monopoly game doesn't have the horse and barrow. Apparently, some 1960s sets were packaged with only eight of the 10 tokens.

We also spoke with collector Chris Mospaw of Florida about some other unusual game pieces, including a locomotive in the 1985 deluxe edition, a lantern and purse in pre-Eisenhower versions and a gun token that appeared briefly during the 1950s or '60s (although maybe it was accidentally transferred from Parker Brothers' Clue game).

Two other bits of trivia: Neiman Marcus once sold a $600 all-chocolate version of the game. And, in 1983, a Nevada jail inmate almost escaped prison by using the wheelbarrow token to dismantle the lock on his cell door. The handles of the barrow fit perfectly into the "escape proof" security screws of the lock.

Unfortunately, none of this information saves our journalistic hide. Just when we wriggled out of the token debacle, reader Michael Yampolsky, size 9 1/2, pointed out another flaw in the column: We said Nike made "the Pump," but it was actually Reebok.

Best Supermarket Tabloid Headline: "Man Pushes Radish 211 Miles--With His Nose!" (Weekly World News)

Hindu mystic Nayir Toot-Bagnar apparently performed the feat to atone for bad karma from a previous life. In a related story, if Off-Kilter is ever reincarnated, we promise to push a Monopoly token for 70 yards with our nose as penance for journalistic evildoing.

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* Roy Rivenburg's e-mail address is roy.rivenburg@latimes.com.

Unpaid Informants: Chicago Sun-Times, Louis Mraz, Jack McMahon

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