• Mercurial Acts

    David Bowie, Elton John and George Michael - they're Freddie Mercury's kind of royalty. Last week they and nearly 100 other rockers saluted Queen's lead singer, who died of AIDS in November, at a London benefit concert. Weirdest sight: Annie Lennox, eyes so blackened with makeup one critic christened her "Queen of the Raccoons." Call it Mercury Theater.
  • A Folk Hero's Hot Odyssey

    Like Spike Lee in film, playwright-director George C. Wolfe has broken new stylistic ground in treating African-American experience. Shows like "The Colored Museum" and "Spunk" saw that experience through a prism of spiky angles and irreverent attitude. Joily's Last Jam holds that prism up to the life story of Ferdinand (Jelly Roll) Morton (1890-1941), one of the giant figures in Afro-American music, the crucial link between ragtime and classic jazz. Wolfe treats Jelly (Gregory Hines) as a man of folk-hero dimensions, starting with his death, which sends him into a honky-tonk purgatory presided over by Chimney Man (Keith David), an engaging hybrid of Satan and saint who ushers Jelly back through his fantastic life. ...
  • No Father, And No Answers

    My father was not the sort of guy who comes to mind when most people think of a deadbeat dad. He was an attorney, a judge and a respected civic leader. He was president of the local NAACP and a church deacon. Above all, he was a good father to his three daughters. As he once told me, he was not "some little boy in the ghetto who makes babies and doesn't take responsibility for his actions." ...
  • A Cadillac With Smarts

    How small can a pothole be? An inch deep, let us say, and a foot in diameter. Now imagine a tire hitting the lip of that hole at 60 miles an hour. The tire is on a 1993 Cadillac Allante, which, since the base price is just under $60,000, chances are you'll never own - but if you did, here's what would happen. Instantaneously, the Road Sensing Suspension would detect a drop in the road surface and communicate it to the Electronic Control Module, which in turn would signal a small electric motor to firm the shock absorber for that particular wheel, and that wheel only-a process that can be completed in as little as 10 milliseconds, which means that by the time the tire hit the opposite lip of the hole, the car would have been braced and ready for it. And the lucky personal-injury lawyer or commodities trader at the wheel would never feel a thing. ...
  • Seeking New Solutions

    As Leslie Fernen and Jeffrey Smith took turns holding their newborn baby boy last week at Swedish Hospital Medical Center in Seattle, staffer Dorothy Mitchell handed them a brochure. Because they are not married, Mitchell explained, Smith would have to sign a paternity statement if he wanted his name on the birth certificate. This enables the state to "go after you if you were to break up," she added, "but we don't even want to think about that now."The proud parents may not want to think about it, but the state of Washington sure does. About one in every four children is born outside a marriage, and enforcing child support is most difficult In cases where paternity has not been established. So Washington decided to got men on the hook while they're most proud of fatherhood. In about 40 percent of out-of -wedlock births the father is now acknowledging paternity at the hospital. Smith was one who gladly signed.Washington's program is one of many innovative approaches states have...
  • Slavery

    Suleika mint Barka, 10, missed her mother. She was removed to Nouakchott, the capital, in her master's custody, leaving the rest of her family at a Bedouin camp deep in the Mauritanian desert. From there the master drove the girl to a remote oasis and sold her to another Bedan (white) named Muhammad for the price of four camels. There was nothing anyone could do about it. ...
  • Short Take

    The shake-ups continue at General Motors. In the latest sign that the board may be forcing chairman Robert Stempel's hand, GM announced it was reorganizing its moneylosing North American operations. And executives hinted that GM might drop several models. But the automaker, which had a 1991 record loss of $4.5 billion, won't comment on reports that the Chevrolet Caprice, Buick Regal or Pontiac Grand Prix might get axed.
  • The Fat And Happy '80S

    Remember the 1980s? The decade of Ronald Reagan's presidency is already receding into history as the second Gilded Age - a time when, amid prosperity, many Americans became worse off. There were, to be sure, some notable achievements: inflation subsided, for one thing. But there was plenty of downside, too; the federal debt tripled, and the growth rate of disposable income fell sharply. Which aspect of the '80s you most remember will determine what you think of Robert L. Bartley's "The Seven Fat Years - And How to Do It Again" (347 pages. Free Press. $22.95), an entertaining, if self-congratulatory, survey of what supply-side economics wrought. It all began in the late 1970s at Michael 1, a Wall Street restaurant where Bartley, journalist Jude Wanniski, economist Arthur Laffer and the group's guru, a long-haired Columbia University professor named Robert Mundell, began dissecting the failures of the ruling Keynesian economic orthodoxy. Academics, like the University of Chicago's...
  • 'The Handwriting Of God'

    There's no dearth of creation myths, from Easter Island's bird god that laid a world egg to the Old Testament's six days of genesis. But for the truly weird, imagine the big bang. An explosion of space, not in space. A kernel of cosmos inflating so wildly that, faster than an eye blink, a blob smaller than a proton grew as big as today's entire visible universe. This infant world developing ripples of energy in the fabric of its space. The ripples stretching as the universe expanded and creating the sparkling necklaces of stars and the pinwheels of galaxies that bedeck the night sky. ...
  • Smart Woman, Foolish Choices

    As the teenage target of Robert De Niro's seduction in "Cape Fear," Juliette Lewis won a thumbs-up from critics. Now, instead of a sicko ex-con, she's making it with a bowling-alley hood. That's the premise of "One Hot Summer," in which Lewis, 19, plays a good girl who meets the wrong boy (C. Thomas Howell) and ends up pregnant and unwed. Isn't Lewis tired of playing, um, impressionable teens? "They're people, too," she sniffs. Her next costar: Woody Allen, who's all thumbs at bowling.
  • An Amateur Sport?

    For three years, Pat Conway's Cleveland tavern has served its home-browed Heisman beer - named after footballer John Heisman, who grew up just down the block But Conway's plan to distribute it regionally was derailed when the Downtown Athletic Club, the Heisman trophy sponsor, said "cease and desist:' Conway, who's out $4,000, calls the DAC a bully. He can't afford to fight, so he'll change the name.
  • Mickey Matters

    Nobody ever heard much from the French Association of Little People until Euro Disneyland asked if it would help recruit dwarfs "to parade around in Mickey costumes." Group leader Patrick Petit-Jean called the request "an affront to our dignity" and asked, "Why only think of us for that sort of job when there are also jobs for gardeners or secretaries?" Euro Disney spokesman Nicholas de Schonen explained that the park was just looking for "qualified" people. "Mickey is not played by a dwarf," de Schonen said, "but by a person [who is] five-three. That's not a dwarf. Donald Duck is a dwarf."
  • Just Too Good To Be True

    Michael Her Many Horses remembers the first time he doubted Chief Seattle's famous speech about caring for the planet. It was a TV program about the Northwest rain forest. The narrator quoted the 19th-century Suquamish Indian's plea for living in harmony with nature. "My reaction was that here's a guy that understood what the environment could provide for his people," recalls Her Many Horses, executive director of the Oglala Sioux tribe on the Pine Ridge (S.D.) Reservation. But somehow the chief's words didn't ring true. "It made me feel good, but it seemed too perfect." ...
  • The Open Barn Door

    It's tough enough these days for American companies to compete with their Pacific Rim rivals, even when the playing field is level. It's a lot tougher when your trade secrets are peddled by competitors. One Dallas computer maker, for example, recently spotted its sensitive pricing information in the bids of a South Korean rival. The firm hired a detective agency, Phoenix Investigations, which found an innocent-looking plastic box in a closet at its headquarters. Inside was a radio transmitter wired to a cable connected to a company fax machine. The bug had been secretly installed by a new worker-a mole planted by the Korean company. "American companies don't believe this kind of stuff can happen," says Phoenix president Richard Aznaran. "By the time they come to us the barn door is wide open." ...
  • A New 'Life' For A Jazz Great

    Nearly 30 years ago, tenor saxophonist Joe Henderson arrived on the jazz scene with a voice remarkably free from echoes of contemporary superstars John Coltrane and Sonny Rollins. A leading member of the Blue Note Records stable, he appeared on such classic '60s albums as McCoy Tyner's "The Real McCoy," Horace Silver's "Song for My Father" and his own "Mode for Joe." Although his off-center improvisational genius never faltered during the '70s and '80s, his records almost always sold poorly. Now he's suddenly getting his due; last week, his 27th recording as a leader rose to No. 1 on Billboard's jazz chart. "It's great, highly unusual for me and I'm trying to convince myself that I deserve all of this," he says. Other musicians don't need convincing. But what happened? ...
  • Scorecard

    Remember those black armbands the Yankees wore after Thurman Munson died during the 1979 season? Every year it seems more and more teams feel compelled to wear some sort of tribute or memorial on their Here's an arm-patch guide for this young season: A gaudy patch commemorating the team's 25th anniversary in Oakland.Diamond marks the deaths of front-office assistant Sheri Berto and Maureen Schueler, wife of team vice president Ron Schueler.An initial for the late Bill Shea, an attorney who headed the group that brought the Mets to New York in 1962.A commemorative patch marking the team's 100th anniversary.The initials of late majority owner Jean R. Yawkey, widow of longtime owner Tom. She died following a stroke earlier this year.A blue patch marking that momentous event: the opening of Dodger Stadium 30 years ago.An All-Star Game insignia reminding us that San Diego is hosting the midseason classic this year.
  • A Goof-Proof Deal?

    Did Time Warner goof when it paid Madonna a reported $60 million for a seven-year pact? A 1990 concert was the highest-rated entertainment event in HBO history, and her albums have sold more than 70 million copies. But the Material Girl, 33, has a mixed film record (remember "Shanghai Surprise"?), and she'll be 40 when the deal expires. She'll have to show remarkable longevity to justify their love.
  • Shutterbug In The Shadows

    There are few stories in the annals of American art as strange or beguiling or troubling as that of Marion Post Wolcott, one of the Depression-era photographers who worked for the Farm Security Administration. Along with such betterknown contemporaries as Walker Evans, Dorothea Lange and Carl Mydans, she was hired, to be blunt about it, as a propagandist for Roosevelt's New Deal programs. Working nonstop for three years, between 1938 and 1941, she produced an astonishing number of first-rate photographs (her total output was somewhere in the neighborhood of 100,000 prints). Then, at the age of 31, she quit, not just government service but professional photography altogether. Three years of exemplary, wondrous pictures, and then 50 years of silence. Wow. ...
  • Playing A Losing Game?

    Ross Perot said farewell to towel snapping and steam rooms last week-and learned the truth of the axiom "The personal is political." On April 16, a caller to the "Larry King Live" show asked the presumptive presidential candidate if he belonged to a club that excludes Jews or blacks. Perot replied with typical candor: " Yes, I do. All my Jewish friends in Dallas, they've had a great deal of fun with me over this. If it bothers the people, I'll quit immediately." It did. A few days later, after complaints from blacks on his political staff, Perot resigned from Brook Hollow Country Club and the Dallas Country Club. ...
  • Another Big Bone Find

    They've struck again. The Black Hills paleontologists who in 1990 unearthed the most intact Tyrannosaurus rex ever have found a second T. rex at a different South Dakota site. The new find, identified in January and left until a spring thaw permitted a secret excavation, is smaller and lighter-boned than the 95 percent-- intact skeleton found earlier. So far, the scientists have isolated a femur, vertebrae and teeth. The excavations suggest the new rex, thought to be a male, is 60 percent intact and perhaps 1,000 generations younger than the 1990 find.