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Enjoy a biweekly test of verbal tomfoolery. WWW fame is at stake! Confused? Read all about Word Games in this brief introduction. Brought to you by Emily Cox and Henry Rathvon, the creators of The Atlantic Puzzler.

Clerihews in T-town

This contest is now closed. But enjoy!
(Click here to go directly to the winning entries.)

Yes, it's clerihew time again at The Atlantic Monthly -- and this year we're going Hollywood! But first, a refresher course:

The clerihew is a bit of rhyming doggerel invented by Edmund Clerihew Bentley (1875-1956). Traditionally, it's a four-line verse made up of two rhyming couplets, with meter intentionally (often ridiculously) irregular. Its purpose is to offer a satiric or absurd biography of a famous person. Here are three of Bentley's own concoctions:

Sir Humphrey Davy
Detested gravy.
He lived in the odium
Of having discovered sodium.

George the Third
Ought never to have occurred.
One can only wonder
At so grotesque a blunder.

Sir Christopher Wren
Said, "I'm going to dine with some men.
If anyone calls,
Say I'm designing St. Paul's."

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Edmund Clerihew Bentley isn't around to poke fun at today's Hollywood stars, so we'd like you to step in and do your verse. Send us an original clerihew whose subject is a person from the movies or television (we'll include the TV screen along with the big silver one). For example:

Tom Hanks
Has accounts in fifty banks.
His earnings took a jump
When he said, "People call me Forrest Gump."

To warm you up a little more, here are some samples submitted by rhymesters in our 1995 Clerihews in the News contest on AOL:

(To compare)
Has more money
Than Sonny.

Hugh Grant's
Been caught with a downward vector to his pants.
Since then his wealth and fame have gotten bigger.
Go figger.

Warren Beatty
Loved to date, he
Fooled around with every girl he
Met except of course for Shirley.

Senator Jess Helms
Saw "Desire Under the Elms."
He turned red and ranted,
"Get this O'Neill guy de-granted!"

Okay, now it's your turn. Mail your clerihew to puzzles@theatlantic.com. Multiple entries are welcome, but for our convenience pack your verses into one piece of e-mail whenever possible (and please don't use attached files). Senders of our three favorite entries will each receive a golden pen, a guided tour of Edmund Clerihew Bentley's birthplace, and a guest appearance on Siskel and Ebert's syndicated TV show -- either that, or a free book from The Atlantic Monthly.

"Clerihews in Tinseltown" will remain open through Friday, April 18. Winners and full results will be posted on Friday, April 25.

--EC and HR

Results of Clerihews in T-town

Rathvon and Cox
Received virtual crocks
Of letters from people who quite evidently
Thought they were Bentley.

We're sure Edmund Clerihew Bentley would have been pleased to read the many jocular, rollicking rhymes submitted to us in his honor. Among the poems was this arch note from LionInOil@aol.com, a game-player fond (as his screen name attests) of palindromic creations:

I seem to recall that when Bentley's ancestor, Louis Chesterton Clerihew, was chosen to become general manager of The London Times, the occasion inspired the now-famous palindromic headline: "WE HIRE L.C. CLERIHEW."

Among the poems themselves, the most popular subjects seemed to be Madonna and Dennis Rodman (why doesn't this surprise us?). Of the verses dedicated to Ms. Ciccone, our favorite was:

Golden statuette,
But ain't got one yet.

And of the Dennis Rodman commentaries, our favorite was:

Dennis Rodman
Seems like an odd man.
But he has his agent's blessing
When he's cross dressing.

We should have made it clearer that in a pure, traditional clerihew the first line consists solely of the subject's name, forcing the second line to rhyme with that name. We did receive a number of Hollywood-oriented quatrains which, while not true clerihews, were nevertheless quite clever and mirth-inducing. Our favorite of these was from mie@bellcore.com (who also sent a number of true clerihews):

Hollywood millionaires
Were caught unawares:
There's not much headroom
In the Lincoln Bedroom.

Our three winners will each receive their choice of a free book from the Atlantic's online store or an Atlantic T-shirt with a surfing Poseidon pictured on the back. Our laughing congratulations to garycrew@talweb.com, guy@research.att.com, and rickp@ormutual.com for their wry and ridiculous rhyming!

The Winners

King Kong
Was very strong.
At least, he wasn't frail.
Some say his story is true, but I think it's just a Fay-Wray tale.

Sir John Gielgud
Said, "I don't feel good.
Who would have thought that eating a rancid smelt
Would cause this too, too solid flesh to melt?"

Elizabeth Taylor
Never married a sailor
Or anyone who'd been governor of Texas.
And that's about all the exclusions on the list of her exes.

And Our Other Top Favorites

Howard Stern
Would earn
Acclaim as an actor
If his lousy parts weren't such a negative factor.

Ginger and Fred
Never shared a bed.
Their love scenes, performed upright (except for dipping),
Were still gripping.

William Hurt
Removed his shirt.
T-shirt-wise, he was as stark
As Clark.

Would never bore us.
He thought shilling for 9-Lives was fun;
He, alas, had only one.

Fred Astaire,
With thinning hair,
"Good little dancer; can sing a bit"--
But what a hit!

Gwyneth Paltrow
Knew how to
Drive half the women in America mad:
Snag Brad.

Had a lovely doggy chassis.
But under all that fur,
She wasn't a her!

Rudolph Valentino--
E bello latino!
For the Lady in Black, sans the sheik,
Life was bleak.

Judy Garland
In the far land
Of Oz fought the Witch and won the strife,
But couldn't manage it in life.

Clark Gable
Was able
To live without sham.
He just didn't give a damn.

Kermit the Frog
Left the bog
To star in movies bikin', dancin' and fencin'.
And was the first to mourn Jim Henson.

Miss Piggy
Is really wiggy.
But moi thinks that hog
Ain't winnin' the frog!

Barr Arnold Thomas can
Shed husbands faster than pounds.
Is that as catty as it sounds?

Claudette Colbert
And a change in men's underwear:
Conditions were right
For "It Happened One Night."

Clark Gable
Is part of fame and fable;
Southern belles sign with regret,
"Theah will nevuh be anothuh Rhett."

Greta Garbo
Quit her carbo
Diet. Then she began to hiss and moan
"I want to be alone."

Tyrone Power,
Whenever he'd shower;
In order to thoroughly wash,
Had to unbuckle his swash.

The Barrymores
Have been shaken to their very cores.
From legends like John--dashing,
To Drew's "Late Night" appearance--flashing!

Peter O'Toole
(The prince of Cool)
Looked like Lawrence?
The very idea is an abhorrence.

Barbara Walters
Sometimes falters;
On interviewing Arafat,
She asked him what milliner designed his "hat."

Tom Cruise
Made big news;
With a nod to Freud,
He bared his soul in the latest supermarket tabloid.

Sam Peckinpah
Insists on raw
And realistic gore in every picture.
Though with his plots there's no such stricture.

Kenneth Branagh:
With Olivier he can now
Ask, "To be or not be?"
But there is no question of to see or not to see.

Oliver Stone:
To history he is prone.
But when it comes to the truth
He often plays it fast and looth.


Ted Turner,
Always a quick learner,
Sent out word he was fonda
Christiane Amanpour's news from Rwanda.

Michael Jackson
From the press got this reaction:
"The little guy's a Prince.
You're the Dad? We're hard to convince."

Sylvester Stallone
Should have a clone.
When his movies bomb
He could blame look-a-like Tom.

Courtney Love:
Her Oscar gown fit like a glove.
When nominated she said "Goody.
And give one to Woody."

Charlton Heston:
His reputation can rest on
The epic role of Moses
And NRA flack, one supposes.

Kevin Bacon
Should have a stake in
The Six Degrees game;
Without him, it's lame.

Joel and Ethan Cohen
For weird films are well known.
Why are they called so bizzaro?
It's simple: Blood brothers too far go

Michael Jordan
Thought a film would be rewardin'.
He really was quite a ham
Sharing the screen with a toon in Space Jam.

Danny DeVito
Can't go incognito.
He thinks it was terribly funny
To make a film with other people's money.

Elizabeth Taylor
Knew her looks would never fail her
But when she split with Larry
She vowed never again to marry.

Actor-director Rob Reiner
Gave Carroll O'Connor a shiner.
Dad Carl finished him off handily
Just to keep it all in the family.

David Helfgott
Talks an awful lot.
He might shine if he played Bach,
But he sticks with the 3rd Rach.

Macaulay Culkin
Felt like sulkin'.
His father blew his career
And he was home alone to cry in his beer.

Joe Pesci--
You'd never guess he
Stayed home alone like a ninny
Pining for my cousin Vinny.

Movie director Spike Lee
Is a talented guy, all agree.
He gets his greatest kicks
Cheering for the Knicks.

William Shatner's hair
Isn't really there.
Like the "True Cops" genre he's impacted
His youthful hair is re-enacted!

Geraldo Rivera
Got smacked by a chair a
Slimy troglodyte threw
For the titillation of me and you.

The King of Pop
Has got to stop
Living in Neverland
If he's to be a family man.

Zsa Zsa slapped a cop
During a minor traffic stop
And it got her far more ink
Than anytime since the dinosaurs went extinct.

Lauren Bacall
Wowed the Governor's Ball.
Her elegantly tailored Armani jacket artfully concealed the ladylike pistol she later used to coldcock Juliette Binoche.
How gauche.

Brooke Shields:
Her chastity yields,
Losing her virginity
Following Wimbledon in the back of a rented Infiniti.

Cary Grant
Whisper sweet nothings to turn a girl's head.
He's dead.

Elvis Presley
OD's at Nestle.
The truth needs gilding:
Covered in chocolate is how Elvis has left the building.

Donald Duck
Can't cluck.
But he doesn't lack
A quack.

Sylvester Stallone,
To insure that his film career will go on,
Made a sports movie--about boxing, not hockey.
Thus he got a piece of the Rocky.

Mickey Mouse
Had no spouse.
He hadn't any.
But he did have a girlfriend; and not just one, but Minnie!

Chet Huntley
Put things bluntly,
But David Brinkley
Put things more succinctly.

Tom Hanks
Among actors, as way above par.
He's a really "Big" star.

Arnold Ziffel
(No piffle!)
Reached a new high of thespianism and theatricality,
And became a widely known "porcine-ality".

James Earl Jones
In features
About creatures.

Rin Tin Tin
Has a favorite chair he's often been in when
He was needed on the set. Would it astound yer
To learn the chair was a Barker Lounger?

Ursula Andress
Can dress
In a sundress--
Or undress!

Who would pose for any photo,
Liked to harass any passing chariot.
This activity became known as the original "Ozian Harry-It"!

Is limn-ba

Has become a hermit,
Because he can't sell mo'
Toys than young Elmo.

Gladys and Doris
Tried to sing a chorus,
But found their voices weren't meant to be merged that way...
They discovered that the difference was like Knight and Day!


Barbara Stanwyck'd
Turn any man wicked,
And in a great hurry.
Just ask Fred MacMurray!

Errol Flynn
Was very embarassed when
He looked down and said, "Gosh!
I forgot to buckle my swash!"

Rodney Dangerfield
Decided he'd range afield
And make a movie where he's kissed by Della. He 'spec'd
That only by doing this would he get Reese-pecked!

Roddy MacDowell,
Trying to get fitted for his Ape character, threw in the towel.
The suit was too small (he'd apparently acquired a case of the chunkies),
And he finally said, "Anything's more fun than Apparel of Monkeys!"

Tyne Daly
Had lots of fun wielding her shillelagh;
Sharon Gless,

Sean Penn
Said, "I am going to punch out some men.
If anyone calls,
Say I'm inciting brawls."

Anne Parillaud
Played Nikita, although
Not the one who banged his shoe, yelling, "We will bury you"--
He's in a different clerihew.

Brad Pitt
Has the "It"
That long ago
Belonged to Clara Bow.

"Ralph," but it's safe
To call him "Rafe."

Was pretty classy,
But whoever thought a collie would
(Bow-wow) wow Hollywood?

Juliette Binoche
Has no lack of argent de poche.
Ever since "The English Patient" lined her coffers
She's had plenty of offers.

Just plain ol' "Liz"
Than Elizabeth Rosemond Taylor Hilton Wilding Todd Fisher Burton Warner etc.

Jessica Tandy
Thought it was dandy
To be thrown in
With Hume Cronyn.

Charles Nelson Riley
Ended his humorous e-mail with a :-)
And when he made a joke of which he was especially proud,
With LOL.

Blythe Danner
Knows all the lyrics to "The Star-Spangled Banner";
Tony Danza,
Only one stanza.

Jean-Claude Van Damme
Went "Wham!"
His entire approach to acting
Is impacting.

Bette Davis
Was a rara avis,
Especially in regard to the size
Of her eyes.

Mr. T
Isn't as rich or famous as he used to be.
But rather than laugh at his misfortune, which would be cruel,
I pity the fool.

If Delta Burke
Had a fight with Captain Kirk,
William Shatner
Would flatten 'er.

Teri Garr
Ought never to have become a star.
One can only laugh
At such a gaffe.

Bill Bixby
Lived in apartment 6B
Right across the hall
From Lauren Bacall.

Dolly Parton
Buys bras by the carton.
The remarkable thing here
Is that each carton holds just one brassiere.

When "Bones"
Is lost in a group of imposter robot clones
It takes Leonard Nimoy
To spot the real McCoy.

Mike Myers'
Body of work inspires
Critics to say
"What a shame 'So I Married an Ax Murderer' wasn't cinema verite."

Michael Ovitz
Said "By Jove, it's
Awful working for that other Mike."
So, despite hating exercise, he took a hike.

Sylvester Stallone
Bathes in cologne.
To his way of thinking
That's his only chance to keep his movies from stinking.

Juliette Binoche
Felt rather gauche
Winning the Oscar over Lauren Bacall...
Whose polite smile was perhaps the best performance of all.

Howard Stern
Has an attitude which many spurn,
Turning outrageous behavior into an art,
Proving nothing's private about his Private Parts.

Cleaned her closet out by tellin'
Blurring the line between fact and fiction,
Providing a Dan Quayle/Murphy Brown contradiction.

Has got it made
No diets, no health clubs, no gym:
His Rubenesque shape is what's in.

Bette Midler
Met a fid'ler.
They played like the Birds on sandy Beaches
Then on the lifting wind flew to higher reaches.

Lee Marvin
Was carvin'
His name, while riding his staggering horse
In the Oscar race, and won of course.

Tom Cruise
Took to booze.
Shook it high and shook it low
Drank his Cocktail very slow.

Rachel Green,
I have seen,
Dumped Ross Geller:
Lucky feller.

Frasier Crane
Analyzed my brain;
He was off by miles.
I'll go call Niles.

Could he
Be a
Worse guy for Mia?

CBS anchor Dan Rather
Got himself all in a lather;
When Brokaw "softened" his news,
Mr. Rather "hardened" his views.

ABC commentator George Will
Of liberals has had his fill.
His head is conservative on call,
But his heart likes to hear "Play Ball!"

O. J.
Had his day.
Got away,
But has to pay.

Lucille Ball
Was the best of them all.
She knew how to be funny,
And certainly how to make money.

George Burns
Knew how the world turns:
Make 'em laugh at antics odd,
Then top it off by playing God.

Bob Hope
Never said, "Nope,"
When asked to play
For the soldiers' day.

Lauren Bacall
Nearly had it all:
Bogart and fame,
But no Oscar to claim.

Sylvester Stallone
Made it on his own.
Rambo and Rocky,
Yet he's still not cocky.

Meryl Streep
May not be too deep,
But with all that loot,
Who gives a hoot!

Marilyn Monroe
Put on quite a show.
The "Mr. President" birthday song,
Of all her acts, will be remembered long.

Kevin Spacey:
When he won first place, he
Raised a rosé
To Keyser Soze.

Billy Crystal
Was sorely missed, 'til
His Oscar night oration
Earned him a standing ovation.

Tom Cruise
Has nothing to lose;
If his career hits a pole,
He'll still have Nicole.

Bruce Willis
Can always thrill us;
But here's the gem--he
Still thrills Demi!

Cary Grant
Would mope and rant
'Til it appeared
That Deborah Kerr-ed.

Jim Carrey
Said he'd marry
Someone jolly--
Yet he STILL wed Holly!

Helen Hunt
Pulled quite a stunt;
We'd thought we'd lost her
'Til we found Jodie Foster.

Ronald Reagan
With Nancy naggin'
Played his biggest role
As lead White House pol.

Tom Cruise
Gives verbal abuse
To sports owners until they flash
The cash.

Nora Dunn:
She's no fun.
Ratings took a dive
When she left "Saturday Night Live."

Rocket J. Squirrel
Found Bullwinkle a girl.
To do it he conned her
With double entendre.

Clint Eastwood,
Who really is no beast, would
Blow people away
Just to make his day.

Clark Gable,
According to fable,
Rehearsed his co-starlet
With "A Study in Scarlett."

Groucho Marx
Gave Henny Youngman sparks:
"Please, take my wife?"
"You Bet Your Life!"

Boxcar Willie,
Unlike Milli Vanilli,
Did his own vocals--
And can't sell tapes even to yokels.

Lloyd Bridges,
(An insider alleges),
Would have been a lot hotter
If he didn't keep his career underwater.

Tony Bennett
Sings "The Bluest Skies..." when at
A Seattle disco,
Because he left his heart in San Franciso.

John Belushi
Died eating sushi.
We all thought he'd OD'd
But it was just seaweed.

Demi Moore:
We experienced her fair vanity before.
Too much skin exposed again now has become
Ho hum.

Degeneres, Ellen,
Is finally tellin'
What we guessed long ago.
Okay, so?

Elizabeth Taylor,
Courageous prevailer,
Cut a hole in her brain,
She'll come right back again.

Was best in
His roles from the Bible.
Thank heaven the dead never sue for libel.

Woody would've
If he could've.
But Mia's tough
She said "enough."

When Cagney was "bad"
He was a cad.
But today "good" is "bad."

Marilyn Monroe
Had eyes like a doe.
She was hot to trot
In "Some Like It Hot."

Peter O'Toole,
Looked so cool,
Riding that mammal,
An Arabian camel.

Sandra Dee,
As cute as could be.
Her career was not farin'
So she married Bobby Darin.

Demi Moore
Shed the clothes she wore,
Then pranced with ease
In naughty "Strip Tease."

Annette Funicello
Lived in a bordello.
She sang surfer lingo
In "Beach Blanket Bingo."

Alan Ladd
Never did bad.
He never raised Cain
Except as Shane.

Ursula Andress
Was under some stress.
When Bond said go,
She fled Dr. No.

Dan Aykroyd,
Forever the android.
He gave lots of jive
On "Saturday Night Live."

Chevy Chase
Was running in place.
Going on location,
He found a vocation.

Donna Reed
Did a good deed
As Jimmy's wife
In "It's a Wonderful Life."

Anthony Michael Hall
Was having a ball,
Following the herd,
Looking the nerd.

Warren Beatty
The womanizing matey.
He took Goldie to his lair
And shampooed her hair.

Fred Astaire
Made half a pair
As a male prancer
And Hollywood dancer.

Robert Stack
Took us back,
To the Twenties no less,
As Elliot Ness.

Billy Bob Thornton:
Accolades he's warrantin'.
The critics, he slayed 'em
Now his future is made, mmm mmm.

Geoffrey Rush:
Oh critics did gush
For his portrayal of David Helfgott.
Now look what his shelf's got.

Frances MacDormand:
Not quite the norm; and
For her portrayal of a state trooper
The Academy said "Super!"

Lady Roberts, pretty Julia--
Don't let them continue to fool ya.
Do not play another part,
Unless they let you be a tart.

Howard Stern
Makes a turn.
Now he's a nice guy in a good movie.
When is he real and when is he hooey?

Sylvester Stallone:
The action that's shown!
Bombs and guns blaze up the set!
The plot is about... uh, I forget.

Copyright © 1997 by The Atlantic Monthly Company. All rights reserved.