Picks and Pans Main: Bytes
With computers I never have any luck," reads one gag on Rodney Dangerfield's Web site. "I bought an Apple. It had a worm in it." The comedian should give himself more respect. His homemade site (www.rodney.com) has grown into one of the Web's most endearing, thanks to such assets as a Joke of the Day, a downloadable Dangerfield telephone answering machine message and a knack for getting fans involved. Its contests draw thousands of entries. The latest, a complete-the-joke challenge ("From my wife I get no respect...") was won by an Oregon fan: "Last night she asked me if I wanted to hear her talk dirty to me. I said sure, so she gave me her 900 number."
While he judges the contests and dictates responses to fan e-mail, Dangerfield, 75, admits he doesn't know how to use a computer. "I'm not mechanically inclined," he says. "When it comes to computers, Joan is the genius." The 44-year-old Joan, Mrs. Dangerfield since 1993 and owner of an L.A. floral business, thought up rodney.com to help her husband connect with a new audience. Apparently he has. When he posted a letter rejecting him for membership in the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (Dangerfield hadn't "demonstrated the mastery" of the craft, wrote then-actors' chairman Roddy McDowell), fans sent Dangerfield bags of indignant mail. (The Academy reversed its decision, but Dangerfield declined the membership offer after consulting his online supporters.) Says Dangerfield: "It's nice to know you're being appreciated."
One of these days, Tori Spelling, Pow! Right in the kisser! For a chance to unload on any of a dozen love-to-hate-'em famous folk, including O.J. Simpson, Rush Limbaugh, Madonna, Bill Gates and even PBS's Mr. Rogers, step into the ring at Celebrity Slugfest (slugfest.kaizen.net). Crude but remarkably challenging, the online interactive boxing game has users punching letter keys to unleash right and left jabs and shuffle back and forth as their opponents, ranked as bullies, meanies or wusses, hammer back.
"I'm not a violent guy," explains Patrick Welsh, the Kaizen Works, Inc. vice president who created the game to showcase the Reston, Va., software company's programming brawn. "But it's cathartic as hell to beat the crap out of O.J." The Juice is now the second most popular opponent after Blarney, a modified version of a certain purple dinosaur. Fortunately, none of the human punching bags has (yet) threatened Kaizen with a legal thrashing. And at least one has taken a swing at beating his alter ego. Says romance-cover hunk Fabio (whose virtual version is a snap to KO): "I guess it's an honor to be included—except for being listed as a wuss."
Taking the human-in-a-toon-world notion of Who Framed Roger Rabbit? the CD-ROM game Toon-struck tosses Christopher Lloyd into a world of wacky cartoon characters voiced by the likes of Tim Curry, Dom DeLuise and Dan Castellaneta (TV's Homer Simpson). Lloyd plays Drew Blanc, a burned-out animator for the Fluffy Fluffy Bun Bun Show. A freak accident sends Drew to Cutopia, a land populated by his cuddly creations and under attack by the sinister denizens of Malevoland. To win, Drew (that's you) and toon pal Flux Wildly, a hyperactive blob with Castellaneta's voice, must foil the bizarre baddies and complete a scavenger hunt. (Caution: Watch out for the cow in the cone bra.)
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