Cash Me if You Can


It's entirely possible, of course, that Michael Fay -- he with the Mark of Cane upon him -- will slide back into the anonymous life of the typical American teen. It's also possible that goats will do "Hamlet," but I wouldn't hold my breath.

To sell or not to sell -- that's not even the question anymore. The only issues are how soon, how often and for how much. Even before young Michael had returned from Singapore, the offers were piling up from the nets and the tabs and the glam cams. Tell us your story and, while you're at it, why not drop your pants and show us the cheeks that launched a thousand columns?

Not yet. He just wants a normal life, said Michael in his first days home: Finish high school, and then go on to college "like any other kid in America."

Wanna bet?

If he needs inspiration, meanwhile, he needn't look any further than scrappy little Tonya -- Harding, that is -- who figuratively at least, made her greatest impression at the other end of a long hard stick. Tonya's back in the news, too, like that smell in the basement you can't get rid of.

One day, she's agreeing to play a waitress in a low-budget movie, then she's serving as "celebrity manager" for a pro wrestler and negotiating for a spot on "American Gladiators." Then she's decked out in a Bob Mackie evening gown, posing for Esquire. ("She looks like Princess Grace in a truck," said one of Esquire's editors. Before Gracie died, presumably.)

"She's very upbeat and excited about her future," her new agent says. "She is just like anybody else in that she wishes she would have made some different decisions along the road." Words to Live By. Hey, if this is all it takes to get a shot at the big bucks, she could have covered up a clubbing years ago. . . .

Still, if you're looking for a sampler for the mantelpiece, try this one on for size: "I see this as an opportunity to take an unfortunate situation and turn it into a positive action."

Tonya? Mother Teresa?

Close: Paula Jones.

Mrs. Jones was at a press conference in New York not long ago, and the "positive action" she was taking was a check for $50,000. The instant loot came from the kindly folks at No Excuses sportswear, who'd previously slapped a pair of their jeans on the naughty-but-nice likes of Donna Rice, Gary Hart's nautical nookie-mate, and Marla Maples, the woman who enticed the Donald away from the Ivana.

In an inexplicable lapse of bad taste, the No Excuses people had actually turned down Tonya at the height of her depths a while ago; they weren't about to miss out on poor Paula.

So there she was, being named "the Most Alive and Uncensored Woman in America" and donating half the money to charity, while keeping the other half, she said, for legal fees.

One of the reporters kept pressing Paula to "take the pledge," to vow that she'd donate all future proceeds from her story to charity. Paula -- and this will surprise you -- declined. She's not even thinking of selling her story, she said.

Care to place another small wager on that one?

Then again, maybe she is just that innocent. After all, she also says she'd never heard of No Excuses' previous campaigns with Donna and Marla, or had the slightest inkling that No Excuses' reputation was built on the backs (well, lower backs) of women with a certain appeal. "I knew the company favors women's rights," Paula says.

And politics? Until recently, she insists, "I didn't even know what a conservative or a liberal was."

All of which suggests that, whatever she and Bill were doing up there in that hotel room, they were not discussing international monetary policy. There may have been a yen or two floating around, but that's another matter.

Details to follow, as they say, and we may never hear the final, undisputed word. But we're dead-cinch certain to hear the sound of somebody's money -- gobs of it, piles of it -- raining down on Paula.

Just like Tonya.

Just like Michael.

L Stick this over your fireplace: "Get it while you're hot."

8, Rick Horowitz is a syndicated columnist.

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