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Lord of the Cargo Shorts

April 22: An Introduction
April 23: Philip Michaels
April 24: Gregg Wrenn
April 25: Ben Boychuk
April 26: Greg Knauss
April 27: Jason Snell
May 1: A Loyal Reader
I used to wonder where washed-up celebrities went to die.

When I was younger, they tended to wind up on The Love Boat or Fantasy Island. You knew that Bob Denver's career was long dead the instant that he stepped off that plane, the mannequin he's fallen hopelessly in love with tucked under his arm, and sauntered over to Mr. Roarke. Later, in my teen years, they tended to wind up on the NBC "Movie of the Week." As soon as you heard the announcer wax rhapsodic about Meredith Baxter-Birney's courageous battle with bulimia or Judith Light's terrible, terrible drug problem, you knew that their careers were over.

But of late, washed-up celebrities have been all over the place. For a while I thought they were winding up on the Lifetime network, but that didn't last very long. Oh, sure, they never abandoned their old haunts on Hollywood Squares and some of them continued to get jobs working as "reporters" at Wrestlemania. But the image of heaps of bones in the Old Celebrities' Graveyard was starting to look like an old explorers' myth as more time passed. Then, not two months ago, I suddenly found out where they've all been going.

Old Navy has them trapped on a desert island, shilling for cargo shorts.

If you haven't seen these commercials, consider yourself lucky. They feature Morgan Fairchild, a cute dog named Magic, three of the Four Tops and a bunch of celebrities so obscure even I don't recognize them. Together they sit around on a remote tropical paradise and hold fashion shows instead of, say, building a raft so they can escape, or gathering food so they don't die of starvation.

You really have to wonder how advertising executives pitched this commercial to Old Navy. "It'll just like Gilligan's Island, only not funny at all! We'll have a whole passel of washed-up celebs sitting around on bamboo furniture and wearing your clothes! People will eat it up! It's so post-hip!" What the ad execs apparently didn't get was that Gilligan's Island at least tried to be funny, even if it failed. Old Navy's castaways just sit around and extol the values of cargo shorts, staring straight ahead and smiling continuously.

Last time I checked, that sort of behavior indicated brainwashing. And perhaps that's what's happened. Perhaps Morgan Fairchild, distraught over the end of her acting career, turned to her local cargo shorts vendor for comfort and found herself seduced by the charismatic seaman. Soon, he converts her to his bizarre new "Cargo Shorts Cult" and she finds herself hanging out with some familiar old faces. Then, before she knows it, she's knocked up with his divine offspring and finds herself packed off to Bora Bora to sew pants at eight cents an hour and hawk his new line of clothing. Makes perfect sense to me.

I suppose I wouldn't be this bitter about it if I could avoid these ads, but they're ubiquitous. I tune in for a night of sitcoms, and they're there. I watch a baseball game, and they're there. I tune in to a rerun of Gem and the Holograms on the Cartoon Network, and they're there. Huh? Since when to eight-year-olds really care about what they're wearing? I don't ever recall hearing a small kid bug his mom for a new pair of shorts. Maybe it's just part of the cult's efforts to get them young. I can see that. Soothing ukelele music and the calm, measured voice of Morgan Fairchild could easily sway the youth of America to Old Navy's side, and they could always use a few more home schoolers working in the sweatshops.

Unfortunately, I see a tragic end for Old Navy's castaways. The poor things just don't have those built-in survival instincts necessary to make it in the wild.

When the Harlem Globetrotters arrive to do battle with those evil basketball-playing robots, they'll be greeted by a grisly spectacle. Most of the celebrities will be missing, and those that are left won't be alive. They'll be lucky if they can piece together one whole Top from all the remaining bits. Poor Magic will have his head on a stick, covered with a swarm of flies. And Morgan Fairchild will be sitting in the center of it all, covered in blood and chanting, "It was all fun and games until Piggy got killed," over and over and over.

Actually, that thought brightens me right up. Now if only I could find some way to get Carrot Top on the island before it happens.


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