NOMINEES for this year's G.O.O.F. AWARD are: . . . Matthew McConaughey was touted ad nauseam as the next Paul Newman by everyone except Joanne Woodward -- before McConaughey had appeared as the primary star in even one major movie.
. . . Jenny McCarthy can't sing, act, dance or tell a joke, but she can go, "Wooooooo!" while making pig faces and sticking her tongue out. For this she was given at least seven cover stories in national magazines in 1996, while Hollywood stood underneath her balcony, courting her with all its might.
. . . The Idiot Formerly Known as Prince said his three-CD release was a bit lengthy -- but hey, "Citizen Kane" was a long movie and maybe this was his "Citizen Kane."
. . . Ellen DeGeneres wouldn't shut up about her sitcom character's sexuality. By the time Ellen finally does come out of the closet, we hope only Melissa Etheridge and Julie Cypher will be there to greet her.
. . . Sylvester Stallone made yet another movie in which he grunted and bulged while things went BOOM! behind him, and he shamelessly milked his infant's heart condition for all the press he could muster.
. . . Those twin royal nitwits, Fergie and Di, blabbed about their miserable marriages to anyone who would listen. Divorcees at the local Sugar Shack comport themselves with more dignity.
. . . O. J. Simpson played golf, hit on courtroom interns and dressed up as a clown, literally, for Halloween taking a few rare breaks from his relentless pursuit of the real killers of Nicole Brown and Ronald L. Goldman.
The world of popular culture would be much less annoying in 1997 if we could go the whole year without hearing a peep from all of the above. But golly, they're mere runners-up in the competition for the Greatly Overhyped and Overexposed Fool of 1996 the G. O. O. F., if you will.
And the winner?
That dubious distinction has to go to Chicago Bull DENNIS RODMAN.
Such is the level of adoration for Rodman, the heavily tattooed, multi-pierced, immature rebounding specialist.
Just consider one recent Rodman weekend in Chicago. Late Friday, fans began lining up outside Borders bookstore, on Michigan Avenue, where Rodman would be making a Saturday afternoon appearance to hype his book, "Bad As I Wanna Be." They shivered under blankets and sipped hot chocolate, waiting for hours.
Traffic was at a standstill on this busiest of all streets, so Rodman could stage his entrance. A dozen mounted police and another 20 officers on foot accompanied Rodman, who was perched on a Harley-Davidson in an outfit that transcended satire: hip-hugging leather pants, tank top, silver boots, pink feather boa, heavy drag-queen makeup, huge earrings, a silver coat of paint rimming his dyed-blond hairdo.
I talked to some of the fans in line, trying to understand why they so adored this man, but I could never get beyond, "He's the greatest" or "He's his own man and nobody can tell him what to do!"
On Sunday, game day, Rodmania continued as hundreds of fans outside the United Center were waving signs pleading with Rodman to throw his sweat-soaked game jersey to them.
One suburban kid wears a Rodman jersey, and sports a Rodman haircut, and his peach-fuzzed face is dotted with piercings. He looks as if he's been mutilated by a cult.
Another youngster wears a half-basketball on his head, like a carved pumpkin, and he's holding up a sign that says: "HEY DENNIS! MY MOM'S BRA FOR YOUR JERSEY."
In true G. O. O. F. tradition he's got a lacy, wine-colored brassiere in his grasp and he's waving it around like a rally towel.
But hey, we all know it's only normal for a pubescent youth with a carved basketball on his head to wave his mother's underwear around in a packed sports arena in hopes of exchanging it for a game jersey worn by a formerly suicidal, attention-starved, self-absorbed clown who has 11 tattoos on his body.
So why did we go so crazy over Dennis Rodman in 1996?
How could it be that traffic stopped so motorists could gawk at a Rodman billboard, that millions would tune in to watch Rodman cry about his daughter on "Oprah" (even as he made little effort to see the child), or that Rodman's junky so-called book could top the best-seller list?
Who were the people who paid nearly $2,000 for a signed, "limited edition" serigraph of Rodman with a rainbow shooting out of his head? What is it about this man that compels viewers to watch the embarrassing local TV appearances and the hackneyed escapades on MTV?
In all the madness almost unnoticed is one fact: Dennis Rodman really isn't very interesting.
The spectacle of a very tall basketball player wearing a dress lost its startle factor after the first 15 or 20 times, and the locker-room tirades and referee-baiting antics have grown tiresome as well.
As a quote machine, Rodman was never on a par with Charles Barkley.
With his costumes and piercings and tattoos, his manager lurking in the shadows, his contrived outbursts and over-the-top theatrics, Rodman is nothing but a pro wrestler -- the Randy "Macho Man" Savage of his time.
And so, it is an act that earned him the G. O. O. F. award for 1996.
Richard Roeper wrote this article for The Chicago Sun-Times, where it first appeared.
Pub Date: 12/29/96