Saddam Hussein, the Chicago Cubs and Casper Van Dien made headlines this week


Blame it on residual jitters or early-1990s nostalgia, but these days pop culture’s got Saddam Hussein on the brain. First the beret-wearing Iraqi dictator got name-checked in ”Neighbourhood,” a single by the British pop group Space; then he appeared in two separate episodes of South Park. He’s on the big screen as well, menacing Jeff Bridges during a dream sequence in The Big Lebowski. So why is the mustachioed strongman suddenly so hot? ”He’s been in the news lately, and we Americans like to make fun of the things that scare us,” says Jerry Haleva, the Sacramento-based lobbyist who played Hussein in Lebowski as well as both Hot Shots! movies. ”And no one’s had more fun making fun of this guy than I have.” And Haleva’s set to reprise his signature role in this summer’s Jane Austen’s Mafia! He also thinks Iraq’s maximum leader ought to consider branching out: ”I’m convinced there’s a great commercial to be made starring Saddam. Can’t you see him selling running shoes?”


Michael Jordan’s a movie star; Magic Johnson’s launching a TV talk show. Isn’t it about time some entertainment-world celebs muscled in on the pro-sports action? Well, now they are, sort of. As a tribute to the late Chicago Cubs announcer Harry Caray, the team has rounded up actors and musicians to ”guest-conduct” the traditional seventh-inning-stretch sing-along of ”Take Me Out to the Ballgame.” Among those scheduled to appear this season: Dennis Franz, Chris O’Donnell, Smashing Pumpkin Billy Corgan, and even Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder. What’s drawn such A-list talent to Wrigley Field? In part, it’s the sentimental appeal. ”It’s like going to cousin Toby’s wedding,” says Jay Leno, who threw out the first pitch and then stepped up to the mike on May 3. ”You don’t know a lot of people, but they’re having fun.” And there’s another hook. Says Cubs marketing and broadcasting VP John McDonough, ”Harry would always say he had the worst voice in the world, so the bar is actually pretty low.”


By the time Casper Van Dien took to the trees to star in Tarzan and the Lost City, the actor truly felt like the Lord of the Jungle. To prepare for the role, Van Dien adopted a savage two-steaks-a-day diet, read all 24 original Tarzan titles by Edgar Rice Burroughs, learned some Zulu, and even moved to Tarzana, Calif. ”The natives in South Africa [where the movie was filmed] called me Sipho, a gift, because they were honored I had learned their language,” says Van Dien (Starship Troopers). ”I ran around in bare feet and a loincloth. Hey, I was Tarzan.”