The word on the street is that interest in Ollie North souvenirs is plummeting and vendors are now stuck with everything from videotapes to T-shirts. Curious as to what all this means, I stopped by a stand on Pennsylvania Avenue that was loaded with Ollie North plaster statues wrapped in American flags, ashtrays with pictures of Gen. Secord and Albert Hakim on them and bronze paper shredder bookends with Ollie and Fawn Hall on each side.
"Business seems slow," I said.
"It's a disaster," the vendor replied. "Olliemania has gone down the tubes."
"But why? It seems to me that Ollie is as great a hero now as he was in his heyday."
"People are fickle," the man said. "There is nothing as old as yesterday's T-shirt."
"I see you still have a lot of Ollie North letter openers," I said.
"It was one of my best-selling items. I couldn't keep them in stock. Now I can't give them away. You wouldn't be interested in an 'Ollie, Death Before Dishonor' tattoo, would you?"
"I already have one," I told him. "When did you realize the Ollie boom was over?"
"I don't know if it was when the Ollie butter plates stopped selling or when people ignored the Ollie Colt .45 cigarette lighters. For months I had people lined up at my stand waiting for me to sell them an Ollie North night light. Then suddenly it was like I was in the Sahara. People walked right by me to buy Mrs. Aquino wallets and Princess Di gold necklaces down the street."
"What did you do?"
"I yelled at them. I said, 'Is that any way to honor an American hero?' "
"What did they say?"
"One wise guy asked me, 'How do you know he's an American hero?' and I said, 'Because the president of the United States says he is.' And he said, 'How does the president know that when he doesn't know what time it is in Tehran?' So I retorted, 'If you're going to talk like that I don't want you to buy anything having to do with Oliver North.' So he said okay and I lost another sale. I never believed the attention span on Ollie would be so short. He came through strong and forthright and I thought his incense lamps would burn forever."
"Everyone else has been wrong about Irangate, why shouldn't you be?" I told him.
A man came up to the stand. "Are these authentic Ollie North paperweights?"
"I didn't realize I had any left," the merchant said. "You're very fortunate to have found the last one."
"There are a dozen of them here."
"The stock must have come in while I was out to lunch."
"You don't have 'Ollie's New Testament to History.' "
"No, but we have a book of all the presidential findings he wrote to Bill Casey."
"I want something that's going to go up in value."
"How about a coin from the Freedom Fighters Fund?"
"What does Oliver North get out of that?"
"The usual standing ovation."