Elvis Lives! And More!

What Now, Truth Seeker?

Those mourners at Graceland sure looked dumb for crying over Elvis Presley's death. Elvis lived! Weekly World News had pictures to prove it. For 28 years now, WWN has set us straight on issues of national importance. While other media outlets obsessed over Bill Clinton's affair with Monica Lewinsky, WWN caught Hillary canoodling with a space alien. The paper was the first to confirm that Dick Cheney is a robot, and, perhaps most famously, it broke the warm-hearted story of a certain pointy-eared youngster being found in a cave.

When WWN's parent company, American Media Inc., announced last month that it was folding the Boca Raton-based paper, Tailpipe was sad. The only bright side was that former employees were now free to tell how they got all those exclusives. Maybe now we'll even learn why columnist Ed Anger was always "madder than a porcupine in a thorn bush" and the true story of how the publication became "The World's Only Reliable Newspaper."

Malcolm Balfour worked at the National Enquirer when the Weekly World News was launched in 1979. Back then, both tabloids printed a mix of true and made-up stories. Balfour remembers writing about a bridge collapse in Tampa. "I had to get psychics to say they had predicted it, of course. But the Weekly World News did an excellent job covering that story — much better than the Enquirer." Without WWN on the scene, though, can we ever expect the true story of the collapse of the I-35W bridge in Minneapolis?

Bat Boy and Mara Giulianti's love child
Bat Boy and Mara Giulianti's love child

The tabloid thrived — or at least survived — until the rise of slick celebrity magazines and the explosion of the Internet. Jon Wilkins, who worked in various positions at AMI from 1993 until quitting this spring, says AMI's hiring of expensive, high-profile editors didn't help — they only kept changing their minds about whether to become more newsy or all-out wacky.

"They were slowly destroying the newspaper," Wilkins says. "It's sad, because it's such a recognizable brand."

Ultimately, only three people will be laid off, according to a company spokesperson. Wilkins will be fine — he's moving into music producing, and his band, the Postmarks, just played Lollapalooza. As his last title was "art director," we had to ask: Did they ever airbrush Bat Boy to make him look more buff than he is in real life?

"He goes up and down in weight," Wilkins explains. "When he was in Iraq" — chasing terrorists, natch — "he put on a couple of pounds."

How did WWN get those photos of Hillary Clinton with her alien lover, P'lod?

"Money. Lots of money. They really like Hubba Bubba bubblegum — apparently it's currency where he's from."

How about the pictures of "a scientist" and his fabulous discoveries — like the time he found cats on Mars? Was that just a WWN staffer in costume?

"If you see people in a photo, the story must be real!"

And where'd you get the scoop that Saddam Hussein and Osama Bin Laden were lovers?

"I can't say! It's not worth divulging!"

Wilkins is actually a tad misty-eyed. Although the paper operated like a real newsroom, "there used to be this amazing party atmosphere," he says. "It would be fun — you'd laugh all day long." In recent years, though, "the stories were just lame." The current headline on the website reads "The Most Irresistible Woman on Earth — to Mosquitoes." Clearly, the creative juices are drying up.

Sadly, many back issues are no longer available; they are still in storage following the anthrax attack at the AMI building in Boca Raton in 2001, a source says. The final edition of the Weekly World News should hit stands on August 27 — and after that, supermarket checkout lines will never be the same.

Wackenrangers

You run a county agency and your budget's getting squeezed. You have to do more with less or your neck goes on the block. Who you gonna call?

The Privatizers.

For a decade or so now, the last resort of beleaguered public administrators with security issues has been: Bring in Wackenhut. It's the ultimate rent-a-cop firm, a huge national company that has scored $1.3 billion in federal contracts just since 2004.

When officials of the Broward County Parks and Recreation Department were looking around for demonstrable cost-cutting, the reaction was almost knee-jerk. They hired Wackenhut to replace their seasoned corps of park rangers. For the past three years, whenever there was a job opening for a ranger, the county slotted in one of those beefy Wackenhutters. Now, just a dozen real rangers remain, down from 38 in 1999 — and they have until September 30 to find other employment.

Tailpipe, for one, laments the change. The rangers, who staff the county's campgrounds 'round the clock are more than just security guards. Most have decades of outdoor experience. They're those friendly, knowledgeable, on-site staffers who mediate the sometimes-bumpy relationship between nature and newbie urban campers.

Want to know something about the furry critter that hangs around the campsite looking for scraps of food, or those little plants flowering in a shady spot? Need reassurance about panther attacks? Talk to somebody like Christopher Brennan or Ray Truman. Brennan, 27, the youngest of the 12 remaining true rangers, is a longtime amateur herpetologist and a natural with kids; Truman, with 15 years of dealing with vandals and petty criminals, is a sharp-eyed campsite watchdog.

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