One of the essential tools for survival in the 1980s is a Hypemeter inside the head of every man, woman and child. The Hypemeter measures an ad, and tells us what part of it is truth and what part is hooey. Thus, we are somewhat safe from recap tire sales and time sharing deals in Hoboken.
That's the way it's supposed to work, anyway. The trouble is that some ads are so sincere that the Hypemeter gets confused. The meter is especially confused by an ad that's been all over the tube lately. It's a pitch for radio station WMZQ-FM.
An incredibly purposeful gentleman looks you right in the eye and says: "WMZQ plays the most country music allowed by law."
The Hypemeter takes that in and says to you, "Gee, I never knew there was a law governing the amount of country music a radio station can play. They couldn't imply there's a law if there's no law, could they?"
Yes, they could.
There's no such law. There's never been such a law. And if you think about it, there never could be such a law. If legislatures could tell radio stations how much country music to play, the First Amendment would be worth even less than a time sharing deal in Hoboken.
What are you guys trying to do, WMZQ program director Bob McNeill?
"It amazes me that everyone is taking it so seriously," Bob said. "Lighten up! It's just fun."
Bob said "a bunch of nuts" at the station dreamed up the idea. It was loosely based on a credo found in the station's programming manual, which says WMZQ will play the "most country music possible." What does the ad slogan mean, if anything? "It means practically nothing, I guess," Bob said.
There has been no negative reaction to the slogan from anyone except newspaper columnists (those ogres!), radio commentators and lawyers with the Federal Communications Commission, Bob said. There have also been questions, from small radio stations around the U.S. that have heard about the WMZQ campaign. They're calling the FCC to ask if maybe they missed something in the law.
All in all, perhaps we should salute WMZQ, rather than raising eyebrows.
Any ad campaign that can confound the Hypemeter is doing a big job, indeed.
End of Churchill mystery, at last.
A few days ago, I described the disappearance of a Washington tradition. For several years, a woman had been walking up to the Winston Churchill statue in front of the British Embassy each weekday morning and placing fresh flowers in Sir Winston's hand.
No one ever knew who she was, although embassy staffers heard through the grapevine that she was a Greek national who worked in the neighborhood. Apparently she retired last year and moved away, embassy staffers said, because the flowers stopped.
The other day, I received the following letter:
"To solve your riddle as to who was the Greek lady that would place the flowers in Sir Winston's hand. It would have had to have been Mrs. Katina Kokinas.
"I was former ambassador to Switzerland and lived on Woodland Drive, some three blocks away from the British Embassy and Katina Kokinas was Greek and my housekeeper for some 20 years.
"She would 'jog' early every morning, and although I cannot vouch that she deposited the flowers, she was the kind of person who would have.
"I sold my home there, and she now resides in Fort Myers, Fla.
"All good wishes!
"(Signed) True Davis."
Researcher Cathy McCulloch tried to locate Katina Kokinas in Fort Myers. Turns out that she was only vacationing there when she dropped Ambassador Davis a note. She lives somewhere in Mexico with her daughter -- city unknown.
So the trail is cold. But the memory isn't. Thank you, Katina Kokinas, for brightening up Massachusetts Avenue all those mornings.
Another update on a recent column item, this one from Paul McVey of Herndon. The subject: kids' behavior in grocery stores.
Paul was waiting to check out of a Herndon Giant Food store not long ago. A young boy in the same checkout line was having a tantrum to beat the band. His mother was trying to make him stop, but when a kid wants to pitch a fit, he pitches. And this kid was pitching like Grover Cleveland Alexander.
After a few minutes, a man from a nearby checkout lane could stand it no more. He walked over to the boy, bent down and whispered something in the boy's ear. Miracle: the kid calmed down right away. Nonmiracle: the Mom didn't ask the man what he had said. Parents well know that if it works, it works. You don't inspect the dentures of gift horses.
But Paul was more curious. When Mom and kid had left, he asked the man what he had said. "I told the kid that if he didn't shut up, he'd grow up to look like Michael Jackson," the man replied.