Mr. Ed Would Have Spotted This Hoax

On Tuesday, I discussed the painful news that Lassie was really a male.

Now comes an accusation that "Mr. Ed," the TV series about a talking horse, actually starred a zebra.

The story, which was picked up by the National Examiner tabloid, originated with the San Fernando Valley Folklore Society.

The secret casting switch was necessary, the folklore society's Web site said, because the horse chosen for the series "would not perform on cue." The show then turned to "a trained zebra" and viewers "couldn't tell the difference" because the early '60s series "was filmed in black and white."

It was all a gag, of course. But folklore society co-founder David Mikkelson said, "We've received all sorts of puzzled and indignant e-mail from readers who didn't get the obvious joke."

"Obvious" is putting it lightly. Everyone knows zebras can't talk.

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TO LIVE AND DRIVE IN SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA: In today's automotive section, I trot out:

* An auto shop that might make some motorists nervous, inasmuch as it includes a casket with its transmission service (submitted by Mike Bravo).

* A Datsun looking for a warm bed and a chew stick (Jim Bassett).

* And, a car that can go from zero to 6 mph in 6.9 seconds (George Kritzman). Doesn't sound like there's much zebrapower under that hood.

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THE DEMISE OF THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE (CONT.).: I heard a radio ad in which a financial advisor referred to himself as a "wealth architect."

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TOO MUCH RECOGNITION: "Getting Your 15 Minutes of Fame and More," by Edward Segal, also deals with ways of handling your 15 minutes of infamy.

Public relations fiascoes mentioned include the UCLA handicapped parking scandal and the overflow crowding problem that resulted after Knott's Berry Farm lowered its all-day admission price to 5 cents on Cinco de Mayo.

Then there was the attempt at humor by a 24 Hour Fitness Club in San Francisco, whose campaign included a billboard featuring a hungry space alien and the message, "When they come, they will eat the fat ones first."

The book notes that "dozens of overweight men and women protested in front of the health club, carrying picket signs with sayings such as 'Bite My Fat Alien Butt.' "

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UNCLEAR ON THE CONCEPT: Barbara Joan Grubman received a note from the Social Security Administration informing her that a check sent to her had been returned to the agency. It added: "We must stop your payments because we do not have a correct address." The letter, naturally, was sent to her correct address.

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FREEWAY OBSTACLE DE JOUR: A pig ran loose on the 210 Freeway for a while Tuesday afternoon. Before the critter escaped via an unofficial offramp, KFWB radio anchorman Ken Jeffries said it sounded as though things were really "bacon" on the roadways. Blame the heat.

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NOT GETTING ANY YOUNGER: Elliot Storey of Santa Monica received a letter offering him a "FREE 1-month supply of Arthritis-Ease--an 'all natural' homeopathic remedy to relieve pain." But his mother Isabel doesn't think he's going to buy any, though he occasionally skins his knee. Elliot is a spry 6-year-old.

miscelLAny:

You may have seen that freeway billboard that says the new Pontiac Bonneville has "more attitude." Just what the freeways need, more attitude.

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Steve Harvey can be reached at (800) LATIMES, Ext. 77083, by fax at (213) 237-4712, by mail at Metro, L.A. Times, 202 W. 1st St., L.A., 90012 and by e-mail at steve.harvey@latimes.com.

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