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Illicit Passions

by John Grant

AOL 8.0 has entered its beta-testing stage, I'm told, and as a result a few selected users are having the exciting privilege of infecting their computers with software glitches, spending three hours on a long-stance line waiting for Tech Support to answer, and then being told that it's all their own blasted fault the only remedy is to sterilize their hard disk.

Among the joys available to those stout-hearted users are a whole gamut of new AOL services, each accompanied by its own variant on that AOL "Welcome! You've got mail!" whose friendly bonhomie has done so much to make the bottom of the Hudson River a mecca for those in search of used computers.

It is my pride to be able to reveal to readers of Entertainment Geekly what some of these new services are:


Welcome! You've got chickenpox!


Welcome! You've got an overdraft!


Welcome! You've got B.O.!

Most relevant of all to devotees of this zine, however, is the


-- or, rather, pair of forums, because there's one each for male and female users:


Welcome! You've got a hot flush coming on!


Welcome! You've got a

. . . anyway, you get the general idea.

Purely in the interests of sociodemographic research, I clicked on CRUSH FORUM -- FOR GUYS, seeking ideas and information concerning those archetypal females who, Cybele-like, provide an inspirational and ideological mainspring to contemporary society -- a historiographic counterpoint, as it were. In short, I was interested in contemplating their anterior and fundamental dichotomies, and sought candid photographic exemplars of same.

I put a Bruckner CD in the player, a wad of bubblegum in my mouth, and a box of Kleenex at my elbow.

The first thing that came up on screen was an invitation to an AOL Users' Poll. I have to confess that in general I'm not a great fan of AOL Users' Polls, since most of them seem to ask you to express your opinions on the great political issues of the day by voting for which Backstreet Boys song you think is the greatest piece of music of all time. But in this instance I was hoping the poll might be illustrated, so I dutifully clicked.



Vote here for the babe with the mostest whom you'd prefer the best to spend six hours in a jacuzzi with. (Exclusive to AOL users.)

1 Britney Spears

2 Britney Spears

3 Britney Spears

4 Britney Spears

5 Britney Spears

6 Britney Spears


This was not exactly what I'd been expecting. I am certain Ms Spears has hidden musical talents, and I'm sure she'll be a very lovely woman when she attains adulthood in a decade or two, but for the moment I found the options presented unappealing. I checked the results of the poll so far, though, out of desultory interest, and discovered that Ms Spears had garnered a triumphal 2.8% of voters.

What has always infuriated me about these AOL Users' Polls is that they preselect the very short list from which you are expected to make your selection: there is no opportunity presented for users to enter their own nominations -- not even a box labelled "Other" so that one might register dissent. Of course, AOL may well feel that by offering such options they'd be opening the floodgates to all sorts of spurious nominations or to that nightmare of those who market popular culture: freedom of thought.

Imagine the conversations that must rage in the boardrooms of ad agencies all over the land.

"Look, TJ, I have here hard evidence that there's someone in Cincinnatti who's refusing to buy Britney's latest!"

"You mean he hasn't even bought one copy ofOops Boops a Doogle Boo? Has the man no culture?"

"Seems not. We even sent Al `The Spike' Guglielmo and his, er, consumer choice consultants round with a bucket of concrete, but still the bastard was adamant he preferred Mozart."

"Can't be an AOL user, then. This calls for desperate measures. Time to send in the heavy cavalry!"

"You mean . . .?"

"Yes, Britney herself! Choose a seasonal theme -- dress her up as the Easter Bunny or something, and tell her to go and ring his doorbell and let bits fall out of her costume for an hour or two."

"We can't do that, sir."

"Why not, Carruthers? Surely you're not objecting on the grounds of taste? Everything Britney does is in the very best of all possible taste -- 98% of AOL users agreed on this only last November."

"It's not that, sir -- you surely know me better than that! It's just the fact that we dressed Britney up as the Easter Bunny last year. And we dressed her up as an Easter Chick the year before. We'll have to think up something new with appropriate seasonal relevance . . ."

"I've got it!"

"You're a genius, sir . . ."

And, to be sure, that last bastion of resistance in Cincinnati -- or wherever -- is bound to rush to his record store for a copy of Oops Boops a Doogle Boo when he wakes up on Easter morning to find Britney Spears crucified in his front yard.

But to return to the matter of the AOL CRUSH SERVICE. Frustrated by the lack of an "Other" box on the polling roster, I decided to do something to redress the lack -- and called my old hacker friend Dave Knuckle, lately of the marketing consultancy Knuckle, Duster, Snatch, Greenbax & Scarper and more recently, following the collapse of that company and his spellbinding star role before a Congressional Committee, pursuing a new career subsequent to his graduation from the Dannenfelser School of Computer Science.

I explained to him my problem.

"Easy as pie," he said. "Just gimme a half-hour to hack into the AOL CRUSH SERVICE and it'll all be done."

He was as good as his word, and for a full 48 seconds, before AOL's technical staff crunched down to reverse the changes he'd made at my behest, users were presented with the kind of Crush Poll they deserved, compiled from a brief, highly selective list of those female celebrities upon whom your humble correspondent has a major, lifelong, romantically pure and unbridled crush:

  • Natasha Richardson
  • Joely Richardson
  • Corinne Bohrer
  • Kate Jackson
  • Halle Berry
  • Chrissie Hynde
  • Winona Ryder
  • Anjelica Huston
  • Christina Ricci
  • Geena Davis
  • Junior Rockets
  • Jodie Foster
  • Cameron Diaz
  • Monica Potter
  • Darryl Hannah
  • Ashley Judd
  • Tilda Swinton
  • Maureen O'Sullivan
  • Gene Tiernay
  • Linda Hamilton
  • Piper Perabo
  • Georgina Jones
  • Diana Rigg
  • Felicity Kendall
  • Vivica A. Fox
  • Meredith Brooke
  • Helen Buday
  • Pamela D. Scoville
  • Enya
  • Mariah Carey
  • Kathleen Turner
  • Jane Fonda
  • Sigourney Weaver
  • Jenny Agutter
  • Catherine Deneuve
  • Linda Kozlowski
  • Daisy Duck
  • Jana Novotna
  • Hillary Clinton
  • Marlene Dietrich
  • Mary Pickford
  • Xaviera Hollander
  • Vivien Leigh
  • Erin Grey
  • Sheryl Crow
  • Jessica Rabbit
  • Shelley Long
  • Uma Thurman
  • Jennifer Saunders
  • Patsy Kensitt
  • Buffy Sainte Marie
  • Anna Ford
  • Steffi Graff
  • Rene Russo
  • Angelina Jolie
  • and most especially the late Ms Veronica Lake prancing around in her jimjams in Rene Clair's movie I Married a Witch (1942)

I believe I may have been the only user who had the time to vote before the AOL Security Police stepped in to crush all dissidence, but, in the manner of my hero, Mr Robert Mugabe, I maintain the result still stands:

Veronica Lake, 100%

Britney Spears, 0%

The End of Chapter 1