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Friday, August 3, 2007

You couldn’t make it up

By Paul Bannister
So it’s goodbye, Weekly World News, or is it?

The American Media publication was supposed to fold both its online and print editions on August 3rd but, for reasons which insiders say make no sense, management has now announced an August 27th demise for the print edition, while the online version of The World’s Only Reliable Newspaper is supposed to continue in cyberspace.

It’s on a credible/incredible par with everything else about the paper and its intriguing headlines. I’d also like to believe that the core of the planet Mars is composed of molten chocolate, as it reported.

The Wacky was begun in 1979 to utilise the National Enquirer’s unwanted printing presses at Pompano Beach and quickly reached cult status and a profitable million copies a week.

Everything about the Wacky seemed to have a sub plot, though.

Mike Irish - who, John Garton reminds me, was supposed to run the Mirror’s Ulster edition until the IRA blew up the colour printing plant in Belfast - was one of its editors. Mike’s real estate agent wife had an even more explosive claim to fame. She helped the 9/11 hijackers find a place to live in Delray Beach while they took flying lessons.

Photo editor and anthrax attack victim Bob Stevens did work for the Wacky after surviving a near-miss gunshot when his pal, former Manchester Evening News artist Jack Grimshaw, was demonstrating handgun safety. Jack lost his thumb and forefinger in the incident, Bob survived, only to become the victim of a still-unsolved murder.

Another creative Wacky editor was former Daily Record reporter Joe West, who gave up his brief career as a Glasgow copper for the news biz after a nasty after-dark incident involving a bucket full of human excrement and his foot.

But the vagaries of the Wacky’s staff only added to its charms.

Selby’s finest, ex Mail man Joe Mullins, now living the life of a lotus eater in Florida, notes: ‘The demise of WWN has been covered pretty well by the mainstream over here. There have been lists of favourite splashes (mine was Famed Psychic's Head Explodes, which they made into a T-shirt) and an interview with Rafe Klinger, who created the crazy columnist Ed Anger. Countless people thought Ed was real and agreed with everything he wrote.

‘We had a neighbour whose daughter Cindy was an aspiring model. One day her mother bragged that Cindy had clinched a photo feature in a world famous magazine but was puzzled by the subject matter... she had to swim through a pool with a big fish in her mouth and break the surface with it clasped in her teeth. The mother thought the magazine was National Geographic and was rightly proud. The mystery was solved when WWN came out with something like Fish Girl Catches Them In Her Teeth. Angry mom wanted to sue but they had signed a release that covered everything.’

And, the Wacky did offer in-depth coverage.

They explained, for example, why Moses wandered the Sinai for 40 years. He’d lost the map. Rabbi Zalman Schmotkin-Fisher of the Moses Studies Institute, the paper reported, said a parchment sealed in an urn found near the wreckage of an Egyptian chariot contained a map etched by the fiery finger of God. It plainly showed the way to the Promised Land and the journey shouldn’t have taken much more than a month, even for the Red Sea Pedestrians.

The good rabbi theorised that Moses dropped the thing as he rushed for the parted waters and stubbornly refused to ask God for directions. That ticked off the Creator so much He wouldn’t let the Israelites in when they eventually did find the Promised Land.

In the columns of the Wacky, we learnt of the Calcutta man who, while digging a water well, hit a gravity well instead. ‘A gyrating maelstrom of pure energy’ began to pull everything in the area into the ‘great maw’ of the ‘whirling abyss.’

As the roots of the tree the well-digger was clinging to began to leave the earth for the abyss, a huge boulder got there first and fortuitously blocked the hole, saving us all.

The Wacky team were diligent in their coverage of events closer to home, too. They reported that a skinny green alien had landed his dusty spacecraft at Woody’s Car Wash in Lake Worth, Florida and ordered ‘The works.’

A housewife found stuck in her dining room ceiling hadn’t quite ascended to heaven. She was a victim, the Wacky told us, of being taken up in a Half-Rapture.

A cannibal gourmand interviewed by the magazine’s intrepid journos said he didn’t favour eating Mexicans or Chinese as they were ‘too spicy.’ He wasn’t thrilled about munching on Germans, either. Too greasy.

Another foodie, a Mexican taco vendor amazingly discovered by the staff, was using a miniature alien flying saucer as a sombrero.

Sometimes the Wacky raised questions of a deeper, philosophical nature: ‘700 lbs of Oprah Winfrey! Where did it all go?’

Other exclusives deserved the splash. The Wacky revealed that survivors of the Titanic were still bobbing around the Atlantic, having survived since 1912 on the ship’s beer supply. They also reported that a tiny mermaid had been found inside a tin of tuna, and interviewed researchers who said the deer and the antelope had never, ever, played together.

The paper covered the romance of Saddam Hussein and secret dwarf Osama Bin Laden, and their adoption of a shaved ape baby, Robert, which they proudly displayed as their human child, and the magazine handed out practical advice, too. You could learn how to tell if your guardian angel is gay; or discover that the latest technology is a rotary mobile phone.

Through it all, the Wacky editors never blinked. The stories, they insisted, were not fake. They’d interviewed the talking toaster and the chicken that could do calculus…

‘It all depends on how you define fake,’ they explained.
I just hope they’re faking the paper’s demise, too.