It started with the Photoshopped image of a rifle-toting Sarah Palin in a stars-and-stripes bikini. Then came VPILF.com (Get it? A MILF crossed with a VP?) and a site dedicated to Palin erotica. Now there's a porno titled Who's Nailin' Paylin? starring a silicon-enhanced doppelganger. A company called TopCo Sales is even peddling a Palin-faced blow-up doll.

Don't think St. Louisans are immune to up-dos, Tina Fey glasses and babes who say "aboot." On Thursday night, October 30, the Penthouse Club in Sauget, Illinois (slogan: "Where the magazine comes to life"), will host a "Sarah Palin lookalike strip-off" with a top prize of $1,000. The club's website promises that "local secretaries, nurses and school teachers will take it all off in a fair and balanced bi-partisan extravaganza."

Channeling Katie Couric, Unreal called Albertto Fortuny, regional director of IEC, the company that owns the Penthouse Club, to learn how anything that involves so much Bush could possibly be bipartisan.

Unreal: How many people have signed up?

Albertto Fortuny: We just placed the first ad this week, and we're starting to see a few entries. I know for a fact eleven girls have signed up.

Who are the judges, and what's it gonna take to win this baby?

The judges will be some people who supervise the club. What they judge on will be costuming, communication skills and the really look-alike part — her face, etc.

Communication skills?

Maybe we'll create a political debate. We'll come out with a question like, "As vice president, what do you think we should do with the war in Iraq?" You know, put them on the spot and see what kind of crazy answer they give. Also, because we're hosting a sexually oriented event, we'll ask the governors of Alaska, "What is your favorite sexual position?" We can go both ways. It's going to be fun to hear people talk and answer wacky and crazy questions.

Will any of the following be involved: firearms, snowmobiles, a pit bull, Joe Six-Pack or Russia?

Absolutely. Russia will definitely be one. Also, there will be animals and drinking beer. She has showed that she can handle her beer, so we might have a chugging competition.

So, to be fair, during the primaries did you host a Hillary Clinton strip-off?

We thought about it, we really did, but I think a lot of women were really angry about her, so we didn't. This lady, she's such a hoot, I believe we'll have some fun. She is an attractive lady. She has a way of expressing herself — you can quote me on that — she sounds like George W. Bush on the female side.

You know, polls have shown that people who saw Palin on Saturday Night Live recently were more likely to vote for her and McCain. True of your event, too?

I don't think so. We don't have a political reason or agenda. It's come in and see how many girls look like this lady. And, of course, have them take clothes off as well.

As a strip-club manager, how would you sum up the appeal of Sarah Palin?

I think her charisma, and definitely her sexuality, are very strong. She's a very sexual person. Take it from a man who has been doing this for eighteen years now: She has a lot of sex appeal. 

Things That Go Pop! in the Night
These days most people think ghosts, ghouls and goblins are a bunch of hot air, but later this month the folks at Sammy J Balloon Creations in Fenton will take that belief literally. The company has been invited to participate in Balloon Manor 2008, where they will help construct a haunted house out of more than 100,000 balloons. The inflated invention opened earlier this month in Rochester, New York. Unreal called Thad James, the owner of Sammy J, to find out what's poppin' with the boos and balloons.

Unreal: How are these different from regular balloon art?

Thad James: All the rooms are created out of balloons. All of the walls are made of balloons, the characters, the furniture, appliances, decorations — they're all made of balloons.

So it's not like balloon poodles with mean faces drawn on?

No, not at all! The characters are all multiple-balloon creations all designed by different artists.

What's the most frightening part?

To be honest, it's a family-friendly haunted house, so there's not a lot of true fear involved. We're not out to scare people, because we want people of all ages to enjoy it. It's not as much a haunted house as it is a museum for balloons. Things don't jump out and grab people by the leg, but it is a monster theme.

You know what would be scary as hell? Ghosts talking with helium voices!

That would be terrifying. That would be a scary part. We actually use air from a pressurized tank, though, not helium.

Well that blows. What's this about a "Scare U: Ghoul School" theme with different rooms — inhumanities, Anti-Social Studies, Under-World History. Why not add, say, calculus, to that list?

Yeah, calculus and algebra — that would have scared people away. And anyone with the nerve to go in would just be confused.

You know what would be the most frightening thing of all? If all of the balloons popped at the same time!

Yeah. It'd be easier to take down that way, too. 

Hard Cell
After receiving press release numero quatro from Amnesty International, ol' Unreal decided to mosey up Natural Bridge Road toward the Hilton St. Louis Airport Hotel to check out this traveling "Guantanamo Bay cell" the Washington, D.C.-based organization so badly wanted us to see. It was a Friday — what the hell, we thought.

And besides, there's no torture like trying to get near Lambert on the eve of the weekend. Surely that would put us in the spirit!

Unreal arrived a whole minute early, at 11:59 a.m., expecting to be trampled in the back parking lot waiting for a look at this thing. But no. "Nobody's been — the [Amnesty regional] conference hasn't started yet," said an AI member.

St. Louis is the eighth stop for the Guantanamo cell, joining the ranks of St. Paul, Minnesota; Portland, Maine; and Santa Monica, California. The cell is orange, a replica made in Australia. And no, to answer your question, Harold and Kumar had nothing to do with this endeavor.

Unreal took a step into the spare plywood box and blurted, "This is outrageous! Where is the flat-screen television!!??"

"I know, what a bummer," replied Amnesty worker Meghann Ellis. "Prisoners would be in here 22 to 23 hours every single day—"

"Not even a magazine rack!!??" Unreal interrupted.

"Yeah, that would spice things up a little, wouldn't it?" said Ellis. "They are allowed to have a holy book."

Unreal: "Thank God!"

Ellis: "They do get light, heat and sound, none of which are under their control. So it could be hot, it could be cold, there could be loud noise coming in. Basically it's just chaos."

"Well, do you think it's surround-sound at least? I mean, I'd like to think my tax dollars are going for the very best our free market has to offer."

Ellis doubted it.

Hmm. Unreal began to think that this little "cell," with its platform "bed" and steel shitter, would be really perfect in the driveway for the significant other to, you know, retreat to.

NOT, LIKE, 23 HOURS A DAY!!

Just, you know, every now and again, like when the clicker gets hijacked. Like, "Buzz off and get in your cell already, will ya!!??"

"Oh yes, do a timeout," agreed Ellis.

Unreal: "So, do you think I can get a subprime mortgage for this thing?" 

Don't Flush That Pumpkin!
Did you carve a pumpkin into a sweet jack-o'-lantern this Halloween? Maybe one etched with Barack Obama's face? Or perhaps it was Unreal's favorite design, the timeless drunk-and-puking pumpkin?

If so, the folks at Roto-Rooter would like you to know that putting all those sticky orange innards down your drain is a mistake. "Millions of pounds of pulp is scraped from pumpkins throughout the Halloween season, resulting in yummy pies, creative jack-o-lanterns and" — cue the creepy horror-movie soundtrack — "plumbing nightmares," the company cautions in a recent newsletter.

Unreal quickly called Roto-Rooter mouthpiece Paul Abrams, to get the scoop on pumpkins and pipes.

Unreal: So a jack-o'-lantern can really come back to haunt you?

Paul Abrams: Pretty much. We get a burst of calls every year, usually five or so days before Halloween, during that time when people are carving pumpkins. The stuff, when it gets down there in disposals, it hardens in the pipes like resin or fiberglass. It has to be one of nature's strongest glues. When it gets on PVC pipe, you need a hammer and chisel to get that crap off.

How often do you guys have to perform pumpkin/toilet exorcisms?

I don't have specific numbers for Halloween, but there's always a few people who try to flush [pumpkin guts] down the toilet. We should give out an award to the people who do that.

To minimize waste and prevent clogged toilets, you suggest baking and eating the pumpkin seeds. That seems a little short-sighted, because if you ate enough of those things it's just going to lead to another backed-up toilet.

I suppose anything's possible. What goes in has to come out, after all. Like anything else that goes in, there's the potential for a clogged drain.

What's the best way to dispose of pumpkins?

Ideally you should compost it. Either throw them away or dump them into compost.

How about rolling them down a steep hill in the city?

[Laughs] When I was young, there was a kid named Bill Brown who busted everyone's pumpkins in the street. My mother made sure I didn't grow up like that.

Throwing them from a moving car?

[Laughs] Or you could be like David Letterman and throw 'em off of a tall building.

You know, to prevent drain cloggage on Halloween, some people go the extra mile and wrap their toilet paper on the trees in front of their neighbor's house.

[Still laughing] Well, hey, that's sort of a rite of passage for teens. Hopefully not with used toilet paper. We see it all, though, at Roto-Rooter, I'll tell you what. 

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