Respect Your Elders

Unreal gets in, um, touch with former Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders. Plus, a steamy local novel and an unloved aboveground pool.

As U.S. Surgeon General under President Bill Clinton, Joycelyn Elders made headlines — and was forced to tender her resignation — when she suggested that masturbation be addressed in sex-education classes. Elders also advocated the legalization of marijuana during her tenure as the nation's top doc. In other words, she's Unreal's type.

This Saturday, September 16, Elders will serve as keynote speaker at NARAL Pro-Choice Missouri's annual gala at the Frontenac Hilton. Unreal caught up with Elders via phone from her home in Arkansas.

Unreal: It's been twelve years since the infamous masturbation conflagration. Will you ever rub that one off your résumé?

Former U.S. Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders: I don't want to. I was surgeon general during a time when we had a major AIDS epidemic and rampant adolescent pregnancy. I thought I had a responsibility to suggest alternatives that could protect Americans, especially our youth.

Do you think our nation would be in the place it is now if our elected leaders loosened up and played with themselves a bit more?

I'm really opposed to the war in Iraq. I feel if more of our world leaders focused on peace as opposed to going to war, yes, the world would be a lot better off.

With the exception of you and Colonel Sanders look-alike C. Everett Koop, why is it that Surgeons General are so forgettable?

In a word: controversy. Koop was trying to make us learn about AIDS, and I continued that message. You can't talk about sex in the government. You can have sex, you can whisper about it. But don't dare bring it up in public. That's what is wrong with the entire system. We don't have a healthcare system in this nation. We have a sick-care system. We don't talk about prevention. We don't educate people how to be healthy.

Do you think more people would take Surgeons General seriously if instead of wearing admiral outfits they dressed like real doctors and carried a stethoscope?

I don't know. Other than the president, if you go all across America, more people know there is a Surgeon General than most other government officials.

Do you still advocate the legalization of drugs?

There again I probably don't give the politically correct answer. In the case of marijuana, I think that's absolutely true. We treat it the same way we treat much harder drugs. In my opinion it should be treated like alcohol.

They grow some pretty potent pot in Arkansas, huh?

I wouldn't know. I've never seen it grown. I'd have to educate myself. People say they smell marijuana — I don't even know what it smells like. I've never smoked the stuff.

Your friend Hillary Clinton might run for president in 2006. Any words of advice?

I think I'm the last person in the world she'd come to for political advice. I hope she runs and wins, but she could face a strong gender divide. I think if she were a man, she'd be a shoe-in for president.

But if Hillary were a man, then she and Bill would be in a gay marriage and Republicans could use that to win another election.

You're right. See what I mean? I'm not giving out political advice.



All Is VanityAs the author of several thinly veiled and as-yet unpublished romans à clef recounting our salt-mining days on the Upper Peninsula, Unreal was particularly excited to discover that St. Louis' own Mary Christian recently published her novel, Vice Versa.

OK, as a British-born ex-ballerina now living in Reno, Nevada, Christian isn't exactly a St. Louisan. But she did live here, and Vice Versa, which chronicles the gruesome exploits of Connie O'Hara, a dull, timid girl with a dark secret, takes place mainly in the Mound City.

More to the point, we're convinced that Unreal's literary genius is just waiting to be discovered. To prove it, we're going to go head to head with Christian in a multiple-choice quiz. Each question has three answers: two by Unreal, one by Christian. See if you tell Christian's bons mots from Unreal's blather:

1) High school jock and all-around playboy Ike Luna was pretty sure Connie O'Hara was a virgin when he asked her to the prom. Why did he think that?

A) "Jerome always played up his cocksmanship. But unlike the rest of his teammates, Ike knew when his quarterback was bluffing: His left hand twitched. And when Ike confronted him about Connie one day after practice, Jerome fumbled."

B) "He could tell by the prissy way she walked and held her books high, knees together, which made her wiggle her behind, like two apples rubbing together, as if she had something valuable to preserve."

C) "Ike said he was like a dog: He bragged that he could always tell when a bitch was in heat. Connie had the heat all right, but he'd never caught the scent."

2) The normally shy Connie turns into a sex kitten when a man utters a certain phrase. What is it?

A) "Be nice to me."

B) "I love you. You love me. We're a happy family."

C) "Ecce homo."

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