Something Smells

We find the funk in Branson, ride along with a stunt pilot and check out the STL Zoo's new species; plus, a local Gephardt gaffe

Post-Dispatch Zoo Bureau Chief

Sherman the grizzly bear mounted Annie the alligator last night in the Saint Louis Zoo's crocodile pond, which may result in what is believed to be the world's first "grizzligator" embryo.

The idea for the pairing was born from "animal attraction," says zoo manager Diane Wilson.

"We noticed that Sherm was throwing a series of fetching glances at the croc pond last week," said Wilson. "And then we got to thinking what a formidable beast the grizzligator would be and permitted Sherm to have his way with Annie."

Dr. Cheryl Asa, the zoo's director of research, said the decision to spawn the grizzligator is firmly rooted in practicality and not the "look at my rhino fucking your parrot!" sexual zoonanigans that have drawn criticism from the religious right.

"Alligators are equipped to withstand extreme heat and mugginess, whereas grizzly bears thrive in subzero conditions," said Asa. "So, you see, the grizzligator will be the ultimate fishing machine, whether he's in an Everglades swamp or the Arctic Sea."

As for the technicalities of the interspecies mount, Asa said it was rather simple. Sherman the grizzly entered Annie the alligator while the female gator was in her natural belly-down position, causing Wilson to quip, "She'll probably end up birthing a puppy."

"Some of these interspecies mounts -- for example, attempting to cross-breed a walrus and butterfly -- are highly tactical," said Asa. "But this one was easy. Sherm really likes tail, and Annie really liked Sherm."

Unfortunately, the coupling may well signal the end of the great grizzly's interspecies breeding career as, upon climax, Annie the alligator promptly snapped off Sherman's penis with a sharp molar to the pubic region. Asa said the zoo has no immediate plans to reattach the grizzly bear's wang, at least not until he starts taking foreplay a little more seriously.

Todd C. Frankel, Deb Peterson and Eli Kintisch contributed to this report.

Who Tricked Dick?

Last week was tough for Dick Gephardt as he was relegated to the role of political bridesmaid.

John Kerry was tight-lipped about his vice-presidential selection throughout the process, but some media members thought they had the dirt nonetheless. The most embarrassing gaffe occurued on July 6, when the front page of New York Post trumpeted an "exclusive" report that Kerry has chosen Gephardt.

Less notable -- but nearly as cocky -- was the posting on local Web site Blog Saint Louis (http://bsl.archpundit.com). Run by Larry Handlin, a graduate student in Washington University's political science program, Blog Saint Louis focuses on local politics. On July 4, the site boasted, "It's Gephardt."

"Just got some scuttlebutt," read Handlin's entry, "[that] top Gephardt aide Joyce Aboussie has been sent a private plane to join Dick Gephardt for...one can only assume the announcement that Dick Gephardt will be the next Vice President Nominee for the Democratic Party....If Aboussie is being flown out and ordering staff to be ready for a change, it's hard to imagine that it is anything, but gearing up for an announcement that he is the VP nominee.

"This is going to be embarrassing if I'm wrong given the firestorm it created!" the post concluded.

The posting created a flurry of rumors and calls to Gephardt's staff. Two days later Kerry's actual choice was revealed -- and red-facedness ensued.

"I've got a sense of humor about it," Handlin tells Unreal. "The strange thing about the whole thing is, I hadn't been paying attention to the vice-presidential pick at all. Maybe the first post in a couple months on it was the post about Gephardt."

As for his source, Handlin is mum.

"I don't think the person burned me," the blogger says. "I just think they had it wrong. I think they took a hypothetical and read it as actually happening, instead of what would happen if certain things happened."

In any case, this faulty prognostication has generated more press for Blog Saint Louis than any actual scoop could have. Jo Mannies of the Post-Dispatchmentioned the site in her July 6 column, and NationalJournal.com's Hotline-- a daily briefing on politics that is widely read by politicians and members of the media -- linked to the Blog Saint Louis.

"It's a rather bad way to make the Hotline," Handlin despairs. But he seems to have learned his lesson. As to other questions -- such as whether Gephardt could make the short list for a cabinet position in a Kerry administration -- Handlin's keeping his mouth shut. "At this point," he says, "I guess I'm shy to make any predictions about Gephardt."

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