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Tuesday, December 31, 1996

Macarena-ing down memory lane

Associated Press Writer

 (AP) - Let the truth be told: 1996 wasn't all gloom and doom, death and destruction, pathos and perdition.
 There was also the Macarena.
 Of course, some people might think that wasn't a good thing, either. Some people might be sick to death of the thumpa-thumpa-thumpa beat, the mind-numbing lyrics, the prospect of billions of hips swiveling worldwide.
 Those people should sharpen their appreciation of the absurd.
 Like all years, 1996 offered its quota of bizarre events -- a creepy superstar divorces the daughter of an allegedly dead superstar, then marries his pregnant friend-nurse; another superstar has a baby, exchanging her bullet bras (hey -- you could put a kid's eye out with one of those things!) for something more maternal.
 But there were four strange phenomena, inextricably linked, that will forever be associated with 1996. We speak, of course, of the Macarena, Bob Dole, soccer moms and Rules Girls.
 First ...


 They did the Macarena at Nationalist Party rallies in Malta. They did the Macarena at Oktoberfest in Munich. They did the Macarena at Yankee Stadium -- Chita Rivera leading 50,000 fun-lovin' fools in Latin line dancing.
 "I can't believe it," said Diana Patricia Cubillan, the Venezuelan flamenco dancer who inspired the song. "It's like a dream."
 A Spanish flamenco duo, Los del Rio, wrote and performed the tune; through the mysteries of multinational corporations, it became a worldwide rage.
 Suddenly, even kindergartners were being instructed in the Macarena, despite the saucy lyrics ("give your body joy, Macarena, that your body is to give joy and good things"). Only the courageous few refused to gyrate.
 Disc jockeys seized on the song. It had been 16 years since Kool & the Gang had come out with "Celebration," and they were sorely in need of a new standard to play at weddings, bar mitzvahs and supermarket openings.
 Hillary Rodham Clinton did the Macarena at the Democratic Convention. Al Gore parodied the Macarena -- the Wooden Man struck a pose and didn't move.
 Colin Powell did the Macarena! Disabled athletes at the Paralympics did the Macarena! Uncle Hesch did the Macarena!
 Everybody did the Macarena, except for ...


 Much as scientists discovered evidence of past life on Mars in 1996, political consultants discovered an entirely new species on Earth.
 There are 525,000 boys and girls enrolled in youth soccer programs in these United States. Someone has to drive the minivans to their appointed practices and games, carry the water bottles, scream uncontrollably.
 Enter the soccer moms -- middle-class suburban women. The conventional wisdom was that Dole and the Republicans were too harsh for these warm-and-fuzzy females; ultimately, Clinton took 49 percent of their votes and Dole 41 percent.
 One problem: Anyone who has witnessed soccer moms in action has got to wonder about the warm-and-fuzzy part.
 Watch sometime when a ref fails to call a foul after someone's little midfielder is tripped. Listen sometime when all the incipient Peles and Maradonas are sweeping upfield, and someone's little goalie is watching the clouds and doing the Macarena.
 But like Madonna, soccer moms are maternal, after a fashion. And they're the flip side of...


 If soccer moms are grimly determined to see that their children enjoy themselves and triumph on the field (although not necessarily in that order), Rules Girls are grimly determined to become soccer moms.
 So by the hundreds of thousands, they have adopted as their bible a $5.99 paperback -- "The Rules" -- in which two married New York area women have distilled the acquired wisdom of a friend's grandmother.
 The 35 Rules, quite simply, tell you how to catch a man.

Rule No. 7: Don't accept a Saturday night date after Wednesday. Rule No. 5: Don't call him and rarely return his calls.

Rule No. 13: Don't see him more than once or twice in a week.

 Rules Girls meet in support groups; they feed on rumors that Carolyn Bessette used "The Rules" to land John F. Kennedy Jr. They look forward to the movie version, and to the sequel, "Rules II."
 "The Rules" is a "whalebone corset with pages," wrote John Scalzi, a columnist at The Fresno Bee. But a corset seemed a popular accessory in 1996. It's the dawn of the 21st century, and suddenly the Edwardians are looking mighty fine.

Rule No. 15: Don't rush into sex. Rule No. 12: Stop dating him if he doesn't buy you a romantic gift for your birthday or Valentine's Day.

Rule No. 2:Don't talk to a man first and don't ask him to dance. Not even ...THE MACARENA.

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