FROM THE STOOL

WHAT ARE THEY REALLY THINKING?

Have you ever wondered what a Playboy centerfold is thinking surrounded by a crew of men dedicated to making her most private parts esthetically pleasing? How the fashion model holds her smile with the paparazzi frantically flashing the crossed ammo belts which punish her bare breasts as she strides boldly down the runway?

How do the Calvin Klein kids really feel about each other as they writhe in front of the cameras in their exotic underwear? Does the Marlboro Man sit his horse comfortably or secretly suffer from hemorrhoids?

Does the rock jock really enjoy Smashing Pumpkins, or take every opportunity to turn the sound off? Does John Madden enjoy football? Al Michaels baseball? Bud Collins tennis? Does Dan Rather really give a damn about the world news?

Media overkill dominates our lives with contrived images and manufactured personalities to convince us that we must have what the sponsor sells and to entertain us while they are selling. Rarely can you find a news story in a newsmagazine for the first forty pages, as the prime spaces are reserved for ads liquor, jewelry, cars, computers, cosmetics and coupons.

Is Jimmy Swaggart in a state of spiritual euphoria as he cries at will in support of another plea for funds or is he visualizing his last illicit tryst?

Does the winning Miss America contestant really believe that her life will now be devoted to the homeless or that her new profile will lead her to the home of her dreams?

We identify with beauty, speed and talent. We want to believe that the Sex in the City girls would be happier with us. That a Porsche is the only thing standing between us and Lucy Liu.

Does any cake taste as good as a Sara Lee banana cake looks in a high-gloss ad? There exists an industry specific group of image makers who charge enormous fees for the expertise required to photograph food, fashion, footwear, fast cars, female anatomy and the like. These are specialists whose profession is as segmented as medicine or architecture. Would you want your gynecologist to replace your hip or a landscape architect to design your restaurant?

These creative types are able to produce pictorial fantasies that convince the public that the Klein kids love each other because of their underwear. A bikini wax, pedicure and visit to Victoria's Secret can make an overweight suburban matron a courtesan? A packaged linguini and clam sauce moves you from a flat in Seacaucus to a villa in Florence?

What are they really thinking? Do they believe that we believe a Tag Heuer qualifies us for a diving bell? Or that we are unable to interpret the radiant centerfold's smile for what it is a premanufactured mask? Are their efforts so successful, our behavior so predicable, that when we drink Pepsi we really think young? These are questions for which I have struggled my entire adult life. I would be interested to know what YOU really think.