The Shortest Show on Earth
Bus-stop advertisements have touted her likeness for weeks -- "Only Chance This Century! Relive the Dream of Flight!" Tonight she is here at the Cow Palace -- Airiana the Human Arrow! Star attraction of the 126th edition of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus! Before the show, children loiter at the concession booths, drooling over the official Airiana action figure dolls ($15), toy crossbows with tiny Airianas ($10), and sanctioned Airiana glass slippers ($5).
Anticipation builds. On with the show! Two hours roll past of clowns, tumblers, jugglers, Frisbee dogs, trapezes, trick horse riders, African lions, Asian elephants, more clowns, a woman hanging by her hair, blah blah. But whither Airiana? Impatient kids are tweaking on cotton candy and Pez -- they want their Human Arrow! Look, they're bringing out her human crossbow!
At last, Airiana will soar into the heavens! The three rings fill with dancers, midgets, clowns, Roman soldiers, a giant ogre ... the crossbow is cocked ... the music swells ... POOF! Airiana flies into a net. Show's over. All of 1.25 seconds. Good night, everyone.
Imagine the parking lot full of tantrums after that "entertainment" wad shot.
Through the Looking Glass
Pedestrians passing the DLX skateboard shop at 1831 Market have been stopping to admire a bizarre window display of two mannequins in sweat shirts, lying face down with hands tied behind their backs. The slice-of-life vignette was created by Kevin Ansell and, according to an employee named Dan, "was more elaborate awhile ago, but somebody threw a brick through the window."
Babewatch on the Web
As with NutraSweet or cyclamates, some of the more hunger-sating discoveries are happy accidents. Such is the case with Jeffrey McManus. Last October, the 29-year-old was sitting in his Cole Valley apartment, writing software that would flow contents of a database into a World Wide Web site. Just for fun, he decided to test his efforts with a database of news anchorwomen, and -- voila! -- the official News Babe Page was born, a tongue-in-cheek cavalcade waxing enthusiastic over "the heavily lacquered hair, the red blazers, the pearls, and especially the razor's-edge balancing act between flippant casualness and no-nonsense professionalism."
The page (http://www.well.com/user/jeffreyp/newsbabe1.html) started with nine photos and bios of female on-camera news talent, each linked to their respective station's site, says McManus, but response was so overwhelming, he expanded his project, which now includes over 330 news babes.
Click on "Katherine" [sic], and up pops a photo and background data on KRON weekend anchor Catherine Heenan ("Don't ask her to recite the names of movies by Alfred Hitchcock," says her bio. "She'll do it.") Sixteen other hometown heroes range from KGO's Leigh Glaser and Sydnie Kohara to Heenan's KRON cohorts Marty Uribes, Claudia Cowan, and Suzanne Shaw. (McManus explains that KPIX and KTVU are a little slower on getting their Web act together.)
Helpful icons indicate any postgraduate degrees, beauty pageant victories, prior experience in the meteorological arts, and marriage status. Since March, the page has attracted nearly 40,000 hits, with media mentions from the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, and the Boston Globe.
"It sings to the fact that the Web offers every man and woman the ability to explore their own particular perversity," says McManus. While he freely admits that the site really has no point, reader responses have poured in with babe requests, including a friendly note from Soundgarden's Chris Cornell. When asked if Bay Area news babes stand out from those in other parts of the country, McManus is magnanimously nonjudgmental: "I'd like to think there's a certain universality of babedom."
But isn't it sexist, voyeuristic, incorrect ... weird? The babe-keeper insists he's completely neutral and appreciates everything. "Less than a half-dozen respondents have been critical," he says, and claims to have received several positive news-babe replies.
McManus admits his fave old-school news babe is Jane Pauley but lately confesses a special affinity for Soledad O'Brien, a Harvard and Radcliffe graduate who clocked time as KRON general assignment reporter.
Reached at her current job hosting MSNBC's The Site, produced here in San Francisco, O'Brien was exultant when informed of McManus' cybercrush. "All right! I love him! I'll take it where I can get it."