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What's in a Name? For Next Pontiff, Maybe Pope John Paul George Ringo

March 22, 2000|ROY RIVENBURG

Vatican Forecast Bureau: Questions are swirling around Pope John Paul II this week as he visits the Holy Land: Will frail health cause him to retire? Who might take his place? And is it OK for Catholics to eat Spam on Fridays during Lent?

The jury's out on the Spam question because theologians are still debating whether it's actually meat. As for speculation about John Paul II's successor, we think it's ghoulish. Just because the pontiff is no longer able to play in the weekly game of Twister with the other cardinals doesn't mean it's time to write off his remarkable papacy.

However, there is one crucial question that Vatican-watchers seem to be ignoring: What will the next pope's name be? Don't laugh. As Pope John Paul II noted after his own election in 1978: "All the good names have already been taken, including Eleuterius, Telesphorus and Lando."

To avert a crisis, John Paul II (whose real name is Karol Wojtyla) reluctantly settled on the title of his immediate predecessor, Pope John Paul I, who also had trouble finding a decent original name and was forced to combine the names of John XXIII and Paul VI.

Fortunately, Rome insiders are now drawing up a list of possible names for the next pontiff. The leading contenders:

* Pope John Paul George Ringo

* Pope Jean-Paul Sartre

* Pope John Paul Jones

* Pope J.P.

* Pope J.P. Morgan

* Pope Morgan Fairchild

* Pope Half-John, Half-Paul

Suggestions for other names can be mailed to Name the Next Pope, Vatican City, CA 92555.

Alarming Trends Bureau: A taxidermist in Waco, Texas, claims he is the world expert at stuffing deer rumps, which he sells for $100 each. He also stuffs the derrieres of raccoons, foxes and buffalo--some of which can be viewed at his Web site,

Future Birthdays Bureau: Capt. James T. Kirk of the Starship Enterprise will be born 228 years from now, on March 21, 2228, in Riverside, Iowa.

Reverse Oscars: Boxoffice magazine has named "julien donkey-boy" the worst movie of 1999. It's the heartwarming story of a schizophrenic boy whose father is addicted to cough syrup.

Best Supermarket Tabloid Headline: "Now You Can't Even Bad-Mouth a Space Alien!" (Weekly World News)

Extraterrestrials have just joined the political-correctness bandwagon. A group called the Space Alien Anti-Defamation League is pressuring the government to outlaw negative stereotypes of ETs.

"Films and TV shows typically portray [aliens] as either a malevolent, unfeeling species bent on destroying Earth or as a cutesy-but-ugly race of creatures with big heads who serve the same dramatic function as pets," said a spokesman. "This is unfair and even destructive."

The group wants Congress to make it a federal crime to "demean, malign or denigrate beings from outer space in novels, films, TV shows or video games."

Which pretty much ruins Hollywood's plans for "alien donkey-boy," the heartwarming tale of a schizophrenic space creature whose dad takes over the Earth to maintain his addiction to cough syrup.


Unpaid Informants: Daily Titanic, Thad Whitley, Wireless Flash News Service. Off-Kilter's e-mail address is Off-Kilter runs Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, we attend meetings of Robitussin-aholics Anonymous.

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