The Magazine Reader

Dalliances At Disney, Picked Up By Radar

By Peter Carlson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Every once in a while, you read something in a magazine that just makes you feel better about the whole wide world. The premiere issue of the reborn Radar magazine contains just such a story.

It's called "Wild Kingdom," and it reveals the deliciously tawdry goings-on among the "long-suffering, hard-drinking, cross-dressing" folks who play Goofy and Pluto and Cinderella at Disney World.

As an American parent coerced by hype-induced prepubescent whining to cart my kids to Orlando's money-sucking happiness machine, I'm delighted to report that when some of these "cast members" finish a hard day of hugging your drippy-nosed rugrats, they just can't wait to get stoned out of their minds and have kinky sex.

Go ahead, admit it: This revelation brightens your day and gladdens your heart, doesn't it? In fact, there are sentences in this story that made me want to belt out a chorus of "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious." Here's one of them:

"Trevor Allen, a former Disneyland Pluto who wrote a play called 'Working for the Mouse,' relates an incident when Winnie the Pooh dropped acid, went on set, literally tripped, and rolled down a flight of stairs onto Disneyland's Main Street U.S.A."

Surely, nobody who reads that sentence could fail to believe in a just and righteous God. Besides, you've gotta love a story that quotes people identified as "one former Pluto" or a "former Mickey and Minnie."

At one point in the article, a "former Minnie Mouse" named Susan Santamauro recounts the tale of a crew of costumed characters riding in a van to a breakfast appearance at Disney's Polynesian Resort when suddenly Goofy and Pluto started to . . . well, we can't report exactly what Goofy and Pluto did because this is a family newspaper.

Tyler Gray, author of the article, used to cover Disney World for the Orlando Sentinel, and he has good connections among the folks who make $6.50 an hour prancing around in those hot, sweaty costumes. They tell him tales of dope and sex, and they take him to the "head room," a cavernous storage space where "hundreds of Minnies, Donalds and Mickeys hang side by side, their lifeless heads impaled on posts."

They also invited Gray to a party at "Vista Way" -- a 1,000-unit dormitory complex for Disney's low-level serfs and a notorious "party mecca" for off-duty Mickeys and Cinderellas.

"I hop from party to party," Gray writes. "One room features a wall dedicated to pilfered panties. In another, a stolen Disney security guard uniform is draped over a cardboard cutout character from 'Grand Theft Auto.' Nearby, a mock Disney street sign directs visitors to the bedroom: DRUNK AND HIGH CAST MEMBERS NEXT RIGHT."

Too bad I didn't read this story before I took the kiddies to Disney World. I would have enjoyed the place a lot more.

Asked to respond to the article, Disney World spokeswoman Jacquee Polak said, "This is a publicity stunt to sell a new publication."

The new Radar magazine is a resurrected version of the old Radar magazine, which published two issues in 2003, then went broke. Founding editor Maer Roshan refused to give up and found new backers, including Mort Zuckerman, owner of U.S. News & World Report.

I didn't much like the old Radar, which seemed to believe that making fun of celebrities constituted courageous muckraking. The new Radar exhibits some of that sophomoric spirit, too. There's a story identifying "TV's Dumbest, Meanest and Vainest Anchors." This childish exercise is an insult to the esteemed profession of broadcast journalism and I refuse to dignify it with comment, except to say that CNN's Aaron Brown was among the "vain" and NBC's Ann Curry and CNN's Rick Sanchez were among the "dumb."

Fortunately, the new Radar has more substance than the old one. In "Being There," reporter Bartle Breese Bull captures the off-duty life of the soldiers in one Army platoon in Iraq in all its glorious details, including their fondness for video games, Internet porn, junk food from home and, believe it or not, Fashion TV, which they watch avidly, waiting for the models' breasts to accidentally pop out of their gowns, which apparently happens more often than you'd expect.

Manufacturing Doubt

Back in 1969, an executive at the tobacco company Brown & Williamson wrote a line that summed up Big Tobacco's attempt to confuse the public about the health effects of smoking: "Doubt is our product since it is the best means of competing with the 'body of fact' that exists in the mind of the general public."

"In recent years, many other industries have eagerly adopted this strategy," David Michaels writes in an important article in the June Scientific American. The article is called "Doubt Is Their Product," and it exposes how drug and chemical corporations hire "product-defense" companies to create "scientific" studies that whitewash the dangers of their merchandise.

Michaels, a professor of environmental and occupational health at George Washington University, knows his subject. He watched these companies in action in the 1990s, when he was assistant secretary for environmental safety and health at the Energy Department and was trying to regulate the highly toxic element beryllium.

"If a pharmaceutical firm faces questions about the safety of one of its drugs," he writes, "its executives trumpet company-sponsored trials that show no significant health risks while ignoring or hiding other studies that are much less reassuring. The vilification of threatening research as 'junk science' and the corresponding sanctification of industry-commissioned research as 'sound science' has become nothing less than standard operating procedure."

To illustrate his point, Michaels recounts the tales of how drug companies used dubious studies to defend the pain-reliever Vioxx, which was shown to cause heart attacks, and the appetite suppressant PPA, which caused hemorrhagic strokes in young women. Both drugs have now been withdrawn from the market.

The Bush administration and its allies in Congress have aided these corporations, Michaels says, by passing a bill in 2001 that made it easier for companies to challenge government-funded research.

"I believe it is fair to say that never in our history have corporate interests been as successful as they are today in shaping science policies to their desires," Michaels writes. "We need a better balance between health and money."

Geraldo's Fantasy Island

Unlike most American mags, the Atlantic Monthly doesn't do many celebrity profiles. But the June issue features a long piece on Geraldo Rivera, who took reporter Sridhar Pappu to the island he owns off Puerto Rico and revealed his dream of retirement:

"I'm really a hippie at heart. I'd love to live on my island and look like Howard Hughes and have the kids come and pick the lice out of my hair."

© 2005 The Washington Post Company