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STYLE & CULTURE | AL MARTINEZ

The village just loves that grin

October 10, 2003|AL MARTINEZ

Once upon a time in the land of Col-lee-forna, a village elected an idiot named Serios Gropper to run things.

The villagers all knew he was an idiot, but he was strong and had the widest grin anyone had ever seen and was always on stage lifting things and grinning whenever there was an opportunity, so everyone knew who he was. Familiarity counts.

The leader ousted in favor of Gropper was a 90-pound weakling named Maxim Dul who was always getting sand kicked in his face at the beach and who hardly had any grin at all. Gropper, everyone said, had substance and a bold face, and that's what Col-lee-forna needed. Nice hair too, perfectly colored and sprayed.

The differences between the two men were apparent right from the beginning. Take the lifting contest, for example. The village council decreed that the first determination of leadership ability would be physical strength.

The village idiot, which is to say Gropper, got right out there, flexed his magnificent muscles, grinned his incredible grin, and hoisted a 150-pound boulder over his head. Then he heaved it into a group of women, smashing one or two, and raised both arms in the air. The crowd went wild, with the exception of the women who were smashed. They were naturally a little quieter.

Then Maxim Dul stepped into the center of a ring set up for just such a contest, looked at the rock and shook his head. The poor fool wanted to know just exactly how the lifting of a rock could determine a person's ability to lead. Well, the crowd, still breathless over Gropper's demonstration of strength, was in no mood for a lot of thinking, and shouted almost in unison, "Lift the rock! Lift the rock! Lift the rock!"

Dul realized that in order to win the election, he had to at least make an effort to match Gropper's performance. He stripped off his shirt, which was probably a mistake because it displayed his pale, skinny arms, and tried hard to lift the boulder, but he couldn't get it off the ground. Even an attempt to roll it didn't work.

Realizing that this sort of wimpish display wasn't going to keep him in office, Dul attempted to explain to the crowd how the village had progressed under his leadership. He cited statistics and logistics and several other kinds of tics, but that wasn't what the crowd wanted to hear.

Poor Dul wasn't sure what to do. He challenged Gropper to a debate, but Gropper just laughed and flexed his muscles and asked in his deep and popular voice, "You think these pecs and these abs need to prove themselves?" He was wearing only a thong bikini, and when he walked through the crowd, his glutes rolling easily, his pecs dancing up and down, smashing one fist into the other to prove his manliness, the resulting cheer was deafening.

Dul, meanwhile, knowing he could never outmuscle Gropper, was busily trying to prepare for the smiling and name-calling contests, which were to be the final determiners of who would lead the village. Efforts by Dul's camp to also include some sort of basic mental performance went nowhere. The crowd just shouted it down. They'd tried smart leadership. Now it was the idiot's turn. He was one of them.

The smiling contest was no contest at all. Dul had a little mouth to begin with, and so his smile, when measured by the judges, proved a good inch smaller than Gropper's. And, no matter how hard he tried, he couldn't out-beam Gropper, either, an ability measured by a device that monitored the light radiated by one's grin. When Gropper smiled, his whitened teeth flashed in the Col-lee-forna sun. It made strong men weak and weak women weaker.

The name-calling contest was similarly won by Gropper, who boomed out a delicious mix of invective and untruths that caused a good deal of laughter and applause. Poor old Dul, being too nice a guy, just couldn't bring himself to call names, so he cited statistics again and tried to emphasize in a polite way that idiots have never made good leaders. "Our idiots," one villager was heard to muse, "always seem to know more than our sages."

A final blow to Dul's leadership came when several women in the village stepped forward at the last minute to announce that Gropper had made uninvited physical advances and touched them in very personal places.

That's all the village needed. It proved once and for all that Gropper was a man's man, and he was elected in a landslide.

Flushed with victory, he strode through the crowd, his body oiled and shiny, to wild cheers, while poor Maxim Dul and those who backed him sulked off into the shadows, done in by an idiot with a wide smile and dancing pectorals.

*

Al Martinez's column appears Mondays and Fridays. He's at al.martinez@latimes.com.

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