Balladur did produce a bit of amusement, though, when an outsize sculpture of his head was withdrawn from an exhibition in Paris. The sculptor, Georges Oudot, said the plaster work was removed from the Galerie de la Presidence because it was 'very fragile'. But reliable sources said Balladur was anxious to avoid appearing to foster a 'personality cult'.
Devotees of the Balladur cult had to make do with a photograph of their idol.
BALLADUR needs more than a plaster head to rival the cult of Regina Betancourt de Liska, a Colombian senator. Known as Regina 11 - 11 being a lucky number - she offers spiritual guidance to her followers, conducts astral voyages, foresees an invasion by extra-terrestrials and plans to be Colombia's next president.
'Surveys show that I have the support of 2 per cent of the vote but I really have 80 per cent,' said Regina. The founder of the Metapolitical Unitarian Movement, she has big plans if she wins in May.
Regina plans to pacify her violent country by sending soldiers and their families to live along the country's borders in peace communes similar to kibbutzim; to abolish all ministries except interior and foreign affairs; to legalise drugs, and to send street children and the homeless to work camps in the eastern plains.
Unlike other candidates, she shuns bodyguards, but has not been threatened by guerrillas, drug traffickers or paramilitaries. She keeps them at bay with her mental powers.
Having a bit of trouble with her mental powers, Isabel Allende has yet to write her memoirs. 'They would be a pack of lies,' the Chilean novelist said. 'I can't separate reality and fantasy anymore.'
Allende fled Chile in 1973 after her uncle, President Salvador Allende, died during a coup. The best Latin American fiction, says the author of The House of the Spirits, has been written in exile. Her own exile has now taken her to the United States, where her keen insight prevails. Allende's view of Californians: 'Those who are not searching for the goddess are in search of the perfect cappuccino.'
In search of a laugh, even over the make-or-break issue of health-care reform, Bill and Hillary Clinton starred in a video spoof of a television advert critical of their health plan. Sitting together on a sofa and poring over a hefty document, they played Harry and Louise, the fictional couple who appear in the advert.
Louise tells Harry she was alarmed to learn that under the Clinton health plan 'we could get sick'.
'What?]' he replies.
And there's more, she says. Referring to a fictional page 27,655 of the health-care plan, she reads that 'eventually we are all going to die'.
In unison, they chorus: 'There's got to be a better way.'
The video closes by saying it was paid for by the 'Coalition to Scare Your Pants Off'.
The Clintons' acting debut was screened at the annual evening of skits, song and gentle derision of politicians by the Gridiron Club, a Washington journalists' organisation.
The Vice-President, Al Gore, appeared, er, live, at the dinner, wheeled to the podium on a trolley to underscore his reputation as a 'stiff'.
'When people ask me what it's like to be number two at the White House, I say, 'She seems to enjoy it,' ' Gore said. And, he revealed, 'Al Gore is so boring his Secret Service code name is Al Gore.'
Is Madonna boring? The Boring Institute says she is, and awarded her film, Body of Evidence, the dubious honour of being the most boring movie of 1993. The New Jersey-based institute has only one member: Alan Caruba. He keeps membership to a minimum because meetings would be too boring.
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