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'Jerry Springer' May Be Unholy, But Sales Are Divine

By Amy Argetsinger and Roxanne Roberts
Friday, July 25, 2008

If you want your protest march to stand out in the jaded nation's capital, you've got to bring some serious showmanship. A Catholic group out of Spring Grove, Pa., did just that when 30 members rallied Wednesday outside the Studio Theatre to protest the opening of " Jerry Springer: The Opera":

White robes. Red capes. "Hail Mary" chanted through bullhorns. Bagpipes -- in the rain! For theatergoers, it seemed the show was starting early on the sidewalk out front. For some passersby, it was enough to inspire them to buy a ticket -- and help the show sell out.

"I thought, if they're protesting it that much, it's got to be good," a tourist from Florida passing through the neighborhood told our colleague Anne Midgette.

Actually, the folks from the American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property just call it straight-up blasphemous. The spoofy musical riff on daytime trash TV features talk show host Springer going to Hell to tape an episode with the Devil, Jesus, Mary and God. Jesus is half-naked, obese and spoiled; Mary is a dowdy housewife. There are Crucifixion jokes, Eucharist jokes, the singing of "Jerry eleison" (instead of "Kyrie eleison") and other bits we really don't feel comfortable describing in a family newspaper. At the end, Springer emerges as the savior of mankind.

Hey, that is kinda blasphemous, isn't it?

"This production is a parody, with tongue firmly in cheek," director Keith Alan Baker told us. "No disrespect is intended."

Despite receiving "thousands" of angry e-mails in the past week, "we didn't have an inkling there would be a protest," said Morey Epstein, a Studio Theatre senior manager. The group had its permits, though -- along with a statue of the Virgin Mary flanked by two men in white knee-length robes topped with black tunics, and others in suits and matching umbrellas who scrambled to protect the statue from the pouring rain.

It was an encore performance for the 30-year-old religious organization, which has also protested "Jerry Springer" productions in N.Y.C. and Cincinnati. President Raymond Drake wasn't troubled when we told him his protest helped sell tickets. Their demonstrations "have turned many away from going in," he told us via e-mail. "Uncountable others saw their faith strengthened by our public witness."

THE SOURCE QUOTE

"That's not really up to me. But I wouldn't resist."

-- German Chancellor Angela Merkel on getting another presidential shoulder rub from either Barack Obama or John McCain, like her friendly chair massage from George W. Bush at the 2006 G-8. That minx!

THIS JUST IN . . .

Special VIP lawsuit edition.

· 50 Cent sued Taco Bell in N.Y.C. federal court claiming the fast-food chain used his name without permission in spoofy ads asking him to call himself 79 Cent, 89 Cent or 99 Cent -- reflecting the prices, respectively, of their cinnamon twists, crunchy tacos and bean burritos. A Taco Bell rep told reporters the ads represented a "good faith" offer to the rapper for a one-day name switch in exchange for a charitable donation.

· Rudy Giulian i's son sued Duke University in North Carolina federal court Wednesday over his dismissal from the school's golf team. Andrew Giuliani, 22, a rising senior, claims the coach manufactured accusations against him. A Duke rep said the school will fight the suit.

· Starlet Sienna Miller sued two British tabloids and a photo agency for "breach of privacy" in London's High Court for publishing topless shots of her frolicking with still-not-unmarried actor Balthazar Getty, her lawyers told People.

· Brad Pitt threatened to sue anyone who publishes recent paparazzi photos (taken via a powerful telephoto lens) of his and Angelina Jolie 's growing brood at their French estate, the Smoking Gun reports.

No Tough Questions at This Screening

Remember the good old days when Helen Thomas drove presidents nuts?

"I think that presidents deserve to be questioned, perhaps irreverently, to bring them down a size," says the legendary White House correspondent in a forthcoming documentary. Alas, Thomas's front-row zingers have been few and far between since she stopped writing for UPI and was moved to the back at presidential news conferences.

But her dogged queries are captured for posterity in "Thank You, Mr. President," a 45-minute HBO film screened Wednesday at the National Press Club. "She's always been a hero to me," said director Rory Kennedy, daughter of Bobby and Ethel Kennedy."Simply because she asks the questions -- continually, relentlessly and singularly."

The film, which begins airing Aug. 18, was shot last year at Hickory Hill, RFK's family home in McLean. Thomas reflects on 48 years covering nine presidents, starting with John F. Kennedy (she loved him) up to George W. Bush (not so much). Her sobering take: "Access to a president doesn't mean you're gonna get the truth."

Unfortunately, the 87-year-old Thomas was too ill to attend the screening; instead, former White House press secretaries Marlin Fitzwater and Joe Lockhart and journalists Martha Raddatz and Bill Plante shared Helen stories. Said Plante: "We don't owe presidents any respect except respect for the office."

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