I have a yellowing piece of newsprint, dated June 7, 1994, tacked up over my desk. It’s got what they call a “screamer” headline in large, block type: “12 U.S. SENATORS ARE SPACE ALIENS!” It has pictures of the, uh, aliens, including Senators John Glenn, Phil Gramm, Christopher Dodd, and my personal favorite, Nancy Landon Kassebaum (which is the only one that makes any kind of intuitive sense, given that her dad was -? Alf.) . It also has a picture of President Bill Clinton shaking hands with one of those anemic-looking aliens I believe that the researchers refer to as the “small gray,” with the giant almondy-shaped eyes. I have taken this with me from job to job for thirteen years now, and it never fails to start a conversation. Thank you, Weekly World News of Boca Raton, Florida. With the end of the newsprint run of the paper, I’m going to have to find some other source for my periodic updates of office decor.
It’s a piece of true Americana that helped ground me in my travels. You could always count on the Weekly World News for your daily dose of weird at the grocery store, no matter where you are. You could kind of tell what was bothering Americans by what was on the cover. Back in the 90s, I seem to recall a fair number of Elvis covers, which seemed to indicate that what we most feared was apparently gaining a great deal of weight and working at Burger King. Now, we’re all worried about much scarier stuff, like sleeper cell terrorism and the Chinese junk bond market. The last few years they’ve trended toward featuring mutants, like Bat Boy, or impending economic meltdowns, or plagues of biblical proportions. Scary stuff for scary times. We know it’s fake, and it allows us to chuckle knowingly, while tapping into that strange, dark current of fear that runs at the bottom of our collective psyche. Cool.
Anyway, once the Weekly World News goes away, I will be stuck reading about Lindsay Lohan’s twenty-ninth trip to rehab or about Mischa Barton’s hangnails while I’m in line, waiting to pay for my groceries and the occasional last-minute pack of Wrigley’s Spearmint. It will free me up to actually have my check filled out when I get to the register, because I won’t be hunting around for the Ed Anger column or Serena Sabak: America’s Sexiest Psychic, or strangling on spit trying to keep from laughing at the psychotically bad advice in the Dotti Primrose column (”I think you should just hire a hit-man!”). I’ll just feel the smallest bit sad, is all, at the disappearance of the greatest, long-running deadpan inside joke in America. Say what you will about it — the Weekly World News always stood with its own bizarro dignity, screaming its lunatic headlines in a surprisingly staid and somber black-and-white, next to the bright, showy peacocks of mainstream glossy magazines. What I’ll really miss is the weird, deep-down sort of honesty of the Weekly World News. At least its lies were staring you in the face, and you knew what you were getting into – unlike the bigger, more dangerous lies of the glossies, promising that we can all be thin, rich, young and beautiful, forever.
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