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Jewish World Review Dec. 24, 2001/ 9 Teves 5762

Kathleen Parker

Kathleen Parker
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Consumer Reports

Where's Waldo I mean, Geraldo?

http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com -- ANYONE who says there's nothing funny about war hasn't been watching Geraldo Rivera live from Afghanistan.

At my house, we have a "Geraldo Watch." We take turns monitoring the TV, summoning the rest of the household when Geraldo appears. His war coverage for Fox News has breathed new life into what was beginning to feel like just another conflict that wasn't going anywhere.

When the news is the same day after day, week after week, it ceases to seem like news. Your eyes glaze, you begin to ponder the pollutants produced by a billion people respiring, or alternatively, the dust ball under your bureau, when comes the jungle call:

"It's Ger-AAAALLLLL-do! Hurry, hurry, hurry!!!"

We emerge from our respective comas and race to the tube like Talibans to a beauty parlor. I haven't been this mesmerized by the television since Katie Couric had her colonoscopy. This guy is a magician who manages to be hilarious in the grisliest of circumstances.

There he is dodging bullets. Wait, let's roll that again. There he is dodging bullets, breathlessly explaining into the microphone that he is, in fact, dodging bullets. There he is wrapping his arm around the shoulder of a bewildered-looking but benignly cooperative Northern Alliance fighter in front of a real tank. Did you get that? A real tank.

This isn't Geraldo, war correspondent. This is comedian Geraldo playing Geraldo Rivera, war correspondent. "Saturday Night Live" can't improve on Geraldo's own comedic impersonation of himself.

I am not, by the way, joining the Geraldo bash-fest that started almost the minute his sturdy, 58-year-old, 31-inch-waisted bod set boot to sand. How do I know he has a 31-inch waist? Because he said so in one of the many stories written to detail why Geraldo was leaving his CNBC job as host of the network's highest-rated show and heading over to Fox to become a war correspondent.

"I'm very fit. I still box. I don't smoke," said Geraldo, no doubt struggling against his characteristic self-effacing reluctance. "I'd like to find a reporter who can outdistance me. I have a 31-inch waist, a 42-inch chest. I'm still real butch." Phew. Is it hot in here or is it just me?

As I was saying, I'm not part of the crowd that's slamming Geraldo for getting some of his facts mixed up. So he's not good with a map. He apparently was confused when reporting that he was standing on "hallowed ground" where "friendly fire took so many of our, our men and the mujahedeen yesterday."

Actually, it turned out that Geraldo was hundreds of miles away from the site where several days earlier three Army Green Berets were killed by an errant U.S. bomb. But he came clean when challenged, explaining that he had confused the incident with another "friendly fire" accident that, as it turns out, actually took place three days after Geraldo's report.

So he has some issues with time and place. It's probably jet lag. Anyone who travels extensively knows how easy it is to lose one's bearings. And let's give credit where due. While we're all warm and toasty in our own homes, critiquing TV, Geraldo is at least within hundreds of miles of Central Asia and every day has to get up and face those gripping wardrobe decisions.

At our house, we're still arguing over Best Outfit. For me, it's between the smashing Sixties ('Nam '68) ensemble of bandanna headband with rose-tinted glasses and the perfectly Persian Gulf nostalgia number featuring a black-and-white checked cowl reminiscent of Yasser Arafat's headdress, cheekily juxtaposed with his mustache waxed into a Salvadore Dali-esque curlicue, ironically suggestive of a Muscovite general.

War may be hell, but Geraldo has been heaven-sent in these unfunny times.


JWR contributor Kathleen Parker can be reached by clicking here.

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