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September 17, 1998|ROY RIVENBURG | Times Staff Writer

Sock It to Me: Where is Socks? Ever since President Clinton confessed to an inappropriate but legally accurate relationship with Monica Lewinsky, the White House cat has disappeared from radar.

Although Hillary and Chelsea Clinton quickly rallied to the president's side--and Buddy the dog still poses for photos with his beleaguered master--Socks has been conspicuously absent from public view.

Has something terrible happened? According to the Washington Post, the first feline's official spokeshuman insists the cat is "alive and well."

So that leaves a couple of possibilities. One is that Socks, like several other leading Democrats, is distancing himself from the president.

Another, more ominous theory suggests that the black-and-white kitty is consolidating power as part of a worldwide animal conspiracy to take over the planet. In fact, Off-Kilter has just learned of a secret government document that alters the line of succession in cases in which the president cannot perform his duties.

Although government officials insist it's just a clerical error, the new order of succession is: vice president, speaker of the House and "small, soft-furred, domesticated mammal named after human footwear and living in the White House."

She's Baaaaaack: A Canadian film company has announced plans to create a "digital Princess Diana" who will star in a new movie in which she survives her fatal car crash and saves the world. According to the Sunday Times of London, Diana will be brought to cinematic life using the same technology that allowed "Forrest Gump" and Woody Allen's "Zelig" to insert fictional characters into documentary footage.

A spokesman for the Diana memorial fund, which has previously licensed such products as Princess Diana butter in a tub, called the project "too bizarre [for] a rational response."

Singing in the Drain: The finals in a nationwide singing-in-the-shower contest will be held in an onstage bathtub at the House of Blues on Sept. 26. Sponsored by the makers of Dove and Caress soap, the competition has been narrowed to 21 acts, including an Atlanta couple who plan to dress like Ike and Tina Turner while lathering up, a Los Angeles man who goes by the shower stage name of Leonardo Showercaprio and a Cleveland group called Bob Soap and the Lather Sisters.

Alarming Trends Department: If we say the word "Christmas," who's the first person that comes to mind? Santa or Jesus? No way. If you're like most Americans, you think of race-car driver Richard Petty, which may explain why Hallmark has introduced a Richard Petty tree ornament for $15.95.

Bureau of Random Facts: The latest entries in our almanac of the weird:

* A survey by BabyTalk magazine says 69% of Americans claim their style of parenting is most similar to the show "Mad About You," while 11% compare themselves to "The Simpsons."

* A Virginia university requires incoming freshmen to pass a swimming test.

Best Supermarket Tabloid Headline: "Man Saws Off Arm to Get Handicapped Parking Sticker! 'I'll Never Have to Wait for an Empty Space Again,' He Says!" (Weekly World News)

* Roy Rivenburg's e-mail address is

Unpaid Informants: Olympia Daily World, Wireless Flash News, Washington Post

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