THE MIND IS REELING

There Newt Gingrich sat, innocent as a choirboy who's just ditched a cancer-ridden first wife, meeting the press. If truth is stranger than fiction, it doesn't get much stranger than this.

The Washington pundits were asking Gingrich, the next Speaker of the House, about Hillary Clinton's derisive denunciation of his suggestion that orphanages replace aid to single mothers. Rather than encourage the First Lady to smoke pot with the 25 percent of the White House staff that he went on to accuse of recently lighting up, Gingrich instead urged her to visit her nearest video store (no doubt the one patronized by "Long Dong" devotee Clarence Thomas) and rent Boys Town. That's the 1938 flag-waver in which priest Spencer Tracy reforms juvenile delinquent Mickey Rooney--who goes on to put on some swell shows with Judy Garland. In reality, of course, Rooney went on to half a dozen marriages and a career that hardly makes him the ideal poster child for Gingrich's Contract With America, but that didn't faze Gingrich. (It didn't slow Rooney, either. In fact, he went on the record urging that Boys and Girls Towns be set up in every state, the better to save the youth of America and, not incidentally, help further his own plans for a Boys and Girls Town TV show.)

Gingrich's reliance on cinema very verite doesn't end with this country's social policy, either. His foreign policy is right out of Fail Safe.

And it must be catching. While the current cast of characters in D.C. recalls the Reagan years--both in Hollywood and at the White House--reel life continues to unfold across the country.

Somehow it's easier to see reality as something suitable for the big screen rather than as yet another example of how messy and mundane life can be.

Exhibit A: Our own Local Hero, the Lord of Discipline. If Ruben Perez were a foot taller and a kick-boxer, he might be considering a career in Hollywood. As it is, the discipline don of Horace Mann Middle School could be contemplating unemployment--as of Monday, he was still deciding whether he would accept the official reprimand he'd received from Horace Mann principal Martha Guevara (herself the star of an earlier flop at the Denver Department of Parks and Recreation).

But America loves a good action picture, and the people have certainly sided with Perez. Within hours of the vice principal's planned suspension of the dirty eight dozen, he was a star on the network news. People has already been here, and the calls keep coming in from across the country. Admiring Horace Mann teachers have taken to describing the veteran educator as a larger-than-life hero. One of his earlier attempts to bring order to an unruly classroom--the day in November when he suspended ten kids at once--"was like something out of a movie," they told reporters.

And unless the Denver Public Schools administration soon comes to its senses, Perez could have plenty of time to watch movies.

Suggested viewing: For Perez, High Noon, Walking Tall, Stand and Deliver. For DPS administrators, The Blackboard Jungle--judging from their inept, inert response to this situation, a forty-year-old movie about discipline problems at inner-city schools is about their speed.

Exhibit B: Local Zero. Actually, a movie proved to be former state lawmaker David Bath's downfall, since the video showed him having sex with, among other people, a seventeen-year-old boy. Last week, a judge overturned his conviction--but that still doesn't entitle Bath to watch Boys Town anytime soon.

Exhibit C: Local Hero, part two: Dirty Bobby. Back in 1986, Colorado was so star-struck that it tagged a new piece of legislation with a line from a Clint Eastwood movie. As it turned out, though, the "Make My Day" law became less a protection for vigilant homeowners who blew away good-for-nothing punks than it did an excuse for homeowners to blow away whatever good-for-nothing inebriated relative, friend or neighbor happened to pound on the door at 3 a.m.

Even so, that loophole couldn't stretch far enough to cover Robert Coleman, the former cop (one year on the force) and real estate agent who took aim at Jeffrey Nowman, one of the two fellows accused of attempting to break into neighbor--and state senator-elect--Pat Pascoe's house at eleven one recent morning. In honor of Coleman's incredible efforts--dashing outside in his red pajamas, he hit the fleeing Nowman in the back from a hundred yards away--lawmakers plan to extend the law to allow gun-toters to "Make My Neighbor's Day." In the meantime, Denver District Attorney Bill Ritter has charged Coleman with assault. But in a town desperately looking for a happy ending, no one really expects Coleman to do time.

Suggested viewing: For Jeffrey Nowman, Wait Until Dark and Things to Do in Denver When You're Dead (scheduled for a 1995 release). For Coleman, Johnny Got His Gun and 20,000 Years in Sing Sing. For Pascoe, the entire Dirty Harry oeuvre--the better to prepare for the 1995 Colorado General Assembly.

But Denver's biggest disaster epic is still in the making. Working title, pending release date: Airport '95.

Required viewing for all city employees: 2001.

 
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