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A Blond, Big-Haired Cave Woman?

An amateur archeologist supposedly sent the Smithsonian an object he had found in his backyard, labeling it, “93211-D, layer seven, next to the clothesline post . . . Hominid skull.” The Smithsonian examined it and wrote back that what he had found was not a 2-million-year-old fossil but “the head of a Barbie doll, of the variety that one of our staff, who has small children, believes to be ‘Malibu Barbie.’ ”

The letter, spotted on the Internet by Sam Brunstein of Glendale, is a hoax, a Smithsonian spokeswoman said. The museum received no unearthed Barbie, meaning that the cloud of suspicion that hung over Ken has been removed. “We don’t know how or when it started,” the Smithsonian rep said, “but it’s false. It’s like the rumor that we have a part of [bank robber] John Dillinger’s anatomy.”

She was referring to the part that Ken does not possess.

THIS ONLY SOUNDS LIKE A JOKE: When readers of the Orange County Register were asked to pick “the most influential women of the 20th century,” they ranked Barbie No. 19. (Don’t know how she was buried by No. 1-ranked Mother Teresa.)

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FOX-CATALINA? Rupert Murdoch plans to buy Santa Catalina Island and make it off-limits to the general public. That was the stunning report that appeared in the Reef Seeker, the newsletter of a Beverly Hills dive shop of that name.

“We did hear from some people who were concerned--I’d say about 10 calls,” said Julien Foreman, public relations manager of Catalina’s Visitors Bureau. The callers hadn’t realized it was an April Fools’ gag.

Just like the report I heard elsewhere that Murdoch had bought the Dodgers but would not offer Mike Piazza a new contract when the slugger’s old one expires. That’s got to be a joke, right?

MARQUEE MAGIC: As part of Only in L.A.'s “Salute to the Movies"--delayed so it wouldn’t overshadow the Oscars--I’ve enclosed snapshots of three marquees taken over the years by Peter Schartz, Lee Lavallee and Michael Pardridge respectively (see photos). I’m not sure, but I believe that each of the combined titles has served as a talk show subject for either Geraldo Rivera or Jerry Springer.

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A SELF-MADE EL NINO: The canyons are full of landslide lore. Marilyn Stein of Pacific Palisades heard this tale in the 1980s when she inquired about a vacant lot. Stein was told a Palisades couple had gone on a long vacation and when they returned, they found to their shock that their house had tumbled into Las Pulgas Canyon. The reason? They had forgotten to turn off their sprinklers.

THE JURY’S TWO CENTS WORTH: Attorney A. Barry Cappello of Santa Barbara is known for the size of the settlements he has won--a $37-million judgment from one bank, a $7.5-million judgment from another bank and, well, you get the idea. His latest victory was also memorable for its size. This judgment came in a bad-faith lawsuit he filed against Allstate Insurance on behalf of his wife. She had been involved in a minor auto accident that caused less than $500 damage to her car, according to the L.A. Daily Journal. Cappello won a settlement of 17 1/2 cents. And that’s no April Fool’s joke.

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Ken Bannister, founder of the Altadena-based Banana Museum, says his favorite fruit helped him stop smoking. The secret, he told a Reuters reporter, is to put a banana in your mouth when you feel like lighting up and “simply close your eyes when you blow the smoke out.” This could be the cure that ultimately drives the tobacco companies out of business.

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Steve Harvey can be reached by phone at (213) 237-7083, by fax at (213) 237-4712, by e-mail at steve.harvey@latimes.com and by mail at Metro, L.A. Times, Times Mirror Square, L.A. 90053.


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