It was because of a story about a Civil War orphan or a child suddenly appearing on a battlefield, and I guess the FBI felt we had given them a villainous role by having them take the child into custody. Berger: Some lady in England had written a book claiming Elvis faked his own death and was still alive and hiding out somewhere. There was concern among child psychologists that Snuffleupagas being real but not seen to be real could have a detrimental impact on school-age children, who might not We would write the story [and] put in a splashy headline. We ran Hillary on the cover carrying a space alien baby. Neuschafer: We'd do something about the world’s heaviest cat, then another heavier cat would come along, which we’d spin off. Kulpa: Bundy came from the top. Berger: It became satirical. Berger: I won’t speak badly of Eddie. A short-lived 1996 USA Network television series hosted by broadcaster Edwin Newman failed to find an audience; the paper was moved a second time in 1999 when Evercore Capital Partners purchased American Media and named David Pecker as chairman. We’d get dozens of phone calls. Davis: You know, the first thing that comes to mind is that bimodal audience that they always talked about and writing something that would be appealing to adults as much as it would be to kids. Kupperberg: The Onion had a strong online presence even then and was starting to take hold. There was no looking back. Berger: Ed Anger was a column written every week and created by Rafe Klinger, who worked on staff. And Snuffleupagus just happened to be one of those little details that they kept missing year after year after year. Lind: Obviously space aliens were a great favorite for us. It was almost like a playbook. Like, “Hey, we’re getting all these calls, knock it off." But there were still lawyers who read it. What happened to iTunes? Here are some items the Millennials in your life will love. Even that historic episode teases the audience with several missed connections, however, until Big Bird recruits Elmo to help by holding on to Snuffy’s snuffle (trunk). Calder: We’d say Elvis was still alive and run a picture of what Elvis would have looked like at that time. There was a shot when they actually pinned Elmo onto the trunk, and I’m whipping him around in the air like a pinwheel. After the residents of Sesame Street realize he's gone missing, Maria confronts Oscar for upsetting Big Bird, who agrees to … Lind: We always featured him on the cover. We did a story that the creature set sail across the Atlantic on a mission to go toe-to-toe with Nessie. Greg D’Alessandro (CEO, Editor-in-Chief, 2018 to Present): It never really went away. Playing with that question was a lot of fun; kind of a healthy ambiguity. “This is true, this farmer in Idaho saying his wife ran away with Bigfoot.” It’s given a little bit of credibility, a platform to give people permission to believe it. Lang: Everybody loves Bat Boy. Calder: When Eddie died, the heart and soul went out of it. There was a duality to his personality. Lind: We wrote these things straight, for people who wanted to believe these things. It became the iconic image of Weekly World News. And the other half of the adults said, "What, are you crazy? Prior to that, photos were airbrushed. We didn’t fight it. Simplicity is key, particularly with kids. He would just make absurd claims, take absurd stances, and carry them to their logical end. We were baffled by it, but they always did ok. Forsyth: It was the most fun when you stuck to whatever reality we had established. I think it was an influence on creative people. The serialization of some stories were great. If you approached it in a serious manner, people would speak to you. We did Unabomber’s prophecy, the Donner party prophecy. Over the course of the next several years, however, it became clear that recycled weird news items held only limited appeal for readers. We were being rewarded by readers. Anything that smacked of bestiality was kept out of the paper, but we didn’t go into how he was conceived. Calder: What we had as an advantage was that we pretty much owned the front end of supermarkets. We were torn between two directions that took it off the essential formula, and the circulation really went down catastrophically. Some people pointed out that this wouldnt have been made post 9/11 and I kinda agree There’s an emotion in that face. Lind: Elvis would appear in all kinds of places. Some genuinely said, “I saw Elvis.”. People are all too eager, especially scientists, to tell you something they want the world to understand. A guy once asked me, “Where do you get those stories?” I pointed to my head and his jaw dropped. As performers, as Muppeteers, as artists, you can only carry a story so far before you have to do something else with it. Eventually he left the Marines to capture Saddam Hussein. Nothing like sex. I was in North Dakota making up these stories and sending them over the internet. Berger: Bat Boy was obviously a figment of someone’s imagination. I said, “I’m sick of alien stories. Like the idea he consumes 300 pounds of bugs a day. And once they got that from Bird, they said, "Okay, you know the difference. The paper wasn’t able to get fantastic stories from clippings, and so it slowly used less and less stuff from other newspapers and became more about things from the minds of the editors. The Snoopy Sno-Cone Machine was a hit when it debuted in 1979, and kids and nostalgic adults can still get their hands on one this December. Berger: When Peter Callahan and his crew took over, the owner after Pope and before Pecker, they told us, pound for pound, we were the most profitable publication in their history. Carol-Lynn Parente (Executive Producer, 2005-2016): There was a lot of humor to be mined from the issue. Every eyewitness account of Bat Boy was obscured. He said, “I don’t like the way things are going in the newsroom. It’s a lot funnier that way. Finally, he said, “Why don’t we do what Reader’s Digest did?” Reader’s Digest, when it started out, took the best stories from around the world and reprinted them. It probably ended with him still on the loose. Snuffleupagus Rules! Now, 30 years after that historical 1985 episode, Rossen and Wood interviewed producers and cast members on what made the reveal special. In the 1990s, in the Clinton years before 9/11, nothing was going on. You get a feel for things, parsing them out and not ruining them for readers. Boy, did we get jokes out of that. That made it compelling. Davis: I do think that the result from Sesame Street was a smart one because Big Bird, as a character, is a projection of a 6-year-old. Lind: It was interesting between him and Sal. Giant monsters. People who grew up in the 1980s may remember commercials promoting the “yum-yum fun” plastic appliance. Berger: Sometimes there was one big splashy headline, then some ticker heads. If he didn’t, you were in trouble and never got a minute’s peace. I never saw it. Iain Calder wanted to run it. Get one for yourself or a loved one from Amazon today for $30. Berger: I remember [co-worker] Jack Alexander used to complain to me that he would go home at night and had been laughing so hard during the day that his face hurt. Ivone: We didn’t really set out to be a news parody. There was one we did about a more obscure sea monster, the Lake Champlain monster up in one of the Great Lakes. Continue It didn’t change overnight. Maybe he’s half-human, half-bat.”. Then my wife nudged me and I said, “We make it all up." Ideas weren’t solely a result of imagination. In experimenting with different stories, from alien abductions to prophecies, Weekly World News quickly learned which types of tales on the cover would move copies. Just creatively, this has run its course. It was written with credibility and so it puts chills up your spine, but it’s also darkly funny. Parente: It’s rare a children’s show is grounded in the real world. McGinness: My vision in 2008 was to create The Huffington Post for otherworldly news, and continue what we could do with American Media. We wrote it like a news story. We did some publishing, book compilations, the creation of a whole online site, and made digital archives available to the public. A real journalist couldn’t do that. Eddie Clontz, who was then assistant editor, became editor-in-chief. We did Elvis Is Alive T-shirts, too. Lind: I don’t know that the story ever ended. Kulpa: We put it in a double-page spread and ran it on the cover, but we split the edition. A lot of people wanted to believe those stories. That caused us to rethink the storyline: Is something we’ve been doing for 14 years—that seemed innocent enough—now something that’s become harmful? The retro product is available practically unchanged from how it appeared in the 1980s. He was representative of a different civilization. “We don’t sit around and make [stories] up,” Clontz said, "but if we get a story about a guy who thinks he is a vampire, we will take him at his word.". You don’t offer candy to Bat Boy. Nothing that led to any harm. I couldn’t tell you. The word in question was "snuffleupagus." The two became close friends, but Snuffy’s existence stayed ambiguous—he would shuffle off screen or just miss everyone. Ivone: Eddie had a great voice. John Philp writes that the Rudy we see, with his showstopping mix of conviction and incoherence as Trump's personal lawyer -- defending the indefensible -- is … From 1979 to 2007, Weekly World News captured the attention of supermarket customers with its bombastic headlines about a world that seemed to mirror, but not quite reflect, our own. Some of what he trafficked in became very real. Calder: Eddie was still the genius behind it, and when the new people came over, around 1999, 2000, he was retired by then. It worked so well they brought in freelancers, and then the paper began to depend more on freelancers. He’s bigger than life. We were having the time of our lives, making good money, and enjoying ourselves. No, I don’t think so. Parente: He’s one of the tougher puppets to operate. Generoso Pope Jr. could be considered the father of the modern supermarket tabloid newspaper. Maybe Bat Boy is real. He’s strangely vicious yet lovable. There just wasn’t any way to adhere to the truth and give him what he wanted. People were profiting. We had other columnists, but Ed Anger was the prize, the column that got the most responses. Ivone: In 1981 and 1982, before Google, you’d go into the newsroom and piles of mailer containers full of newspapers would be there. The banner on that was “Cock-A-Doodle-Doom.”. No one else, however, could be absolutely certain that Mr. Snuffleupagus actually existed. It wasn’t just that Elvis was spotted in a Burger King, but that the person at the counter was surprised he ordered a Double Whopper, or two Double Whoppers. There were no meetings, just pitching. Robinson: Those scripts just got so old. After Pope died, the paper got sold, got sold again, and with each sale, the emphasis on making money became paramount. A lot of them were true stories. Aloysius "Snuffy" Snuffleupagus (born August 19, 1971; age 49) is a full brown shaggy mammoth who is confidently Big Bird's so called "imagery" friend. The National Enquirer was one of the first to get into supermarkets, after TV Guide and a couple of [food] magazines. Then some people would start to believe him about Snuffy, trusting Big Bird’s perception, building up to Snuffy’s reveal in its 17th season. Big Bird insisted Snuffy was real but no one really believed him, Rossen and Wood write. Later that year, they depicted the characters of Gordon (Roscoe Orman) and Susan (Loretta Long) adopting a child. We were a pretty animated bunch of people having a lot of fun and some occasional disagreements. The show then drives home the point they wanted to make with cast member Bob McGrath telling Big Bird: "From now on, we’ll believe you whenever you tell us something. McGinness: I think the core appeal of Bat Boy is the notion that someday, somewhere, someone is going to find something. We’d make up names. It was not as much fun. Aliens in the Senate. It was unlike any office in the country. If they wanted to believe a space alien ate someone’s lawn mower, let them believe it. The column had sort of the same template. And unlike the King, he was birthed inside of the company’s offices. There were no wars, no controversy. The editor saw it and put it away, saving it. Weekly World News ran at least 57 “Elvis Is Alive” stories between 1988 and 1992. We could make it episodic. Looking for more nostalgic gift ideas? Space aliens really didn’t take anyone’s laundry. An undertaker arrested for selling body parts became “My Brain Is Missing!” A mild story from The Wall Street Journal about a small Australian town boasting of large earthworms became a histrionic, breathless tale of giant worms burrowing underground and creating ruptures in the ground that swallowed cattle whole. Like, "See, I told you he was real! He had a big squirt gun. Lind: When I think of Weekly World News, I don’t think of it as having any lasting impact on culture. We thought if we were fascinated, readers would be fascinated, and it proved to be correct. Sesame Street star Mr. Snuffleupagus reads and reacts to mind-blowing facts about the universe. Parente: We knew enough to put it through the rigors of testing before it would air. We were playing to two different readers. Executive Producer Carol-Lynn Parente says: The fear was that if we represented adults not believing what kids said, they might not be motivated to tell the truth. I think a lot of people have that emotion. Neuschafer: We sold a lot of papers and were always scratching our heads. Having Phil Donahue being the protagonist kind of making fun of himself and his show was hilarious. For 14 years, the show kept up the question unanswered. If a story sold, we tried to find a way to revive it in a few weeks. Forsyth: We would report those stories like any other reporter would. Davis: It is interesting that they choose to have Snuffy’s parents get divorced because that character, he’s a little bit of a downer. It was anti-establishment. The two became fast friends. When rival tabloid The Star went to a color format, Pope was forced to follow suit. Norman Stiles (Writer/Head Writer, 1971-1995): The character was kind of a collaboration between [executive producer] Jon Stone and Jim Henson. He was very mercurial. “Well, we got Senator [Orrin] Hatch, Senator Nunn, Senator [J. Bennett] Johnston, they already confessed, would Senator so-and-so like to fess up?” It’s not nearly as hard as we expected to get written statements admitting they were aliens. Being from West Virginia, he’s one of ours, like Bigfoot. Grover: Pope was a tough, no-nonsense guy, but he would do anything he could for people he liked. It’s very physical, and very warm inside his belly. People would throw out headlines for a story. He really was the prototypical blueprint for the narrow-minded, right-wing, bigoted commentator. It was a good bellwether. Berger was a White House correspondent. One day we wrote a story about Albuquerque and Pope insisted we spelled it wrong. He is a woolly mammoth without ears and tusks. Daddy Snuffle Father. I would’ve laughed at it. What would yield the most compelling headline?” That’s how we got into thinking about this imaginary world with recurring characters, like Bat Boy, Bigfoot, aliens, and all the rest. He was so ahead of his time, before Rush Limbaugh in terms of being an out-there, over-the-top right-wing firebrand. Bob Lind (Writer, 1990-1998): We had brilliant journalists like Joe Berger and Jack Alexander. Ed Anger was more like an internet rant, but he was highly popular. Forsyth: There were only a couple of times the paper got into legal trouble but it was mostly avoided. I was never Elvis, but I was used for a couple of other stories. One came from The Washington Post, one was from The New York Times. Davis: I think it was a really smart thing for them to eliminate that as a possibility for the viewer and to say that even as outrageous as the claim sounded at first, here was this real-life big woolly mammoth of a friend that they just had not yet met. There has to be a reason behind it. or Forsyth: In World War II, different fictional characters like Superman and Donald Duck were recruited for the war effort, so we did one where Bat Boy was recruited for the Marines. “Elvis Dead at 58” was printed not long after. …1971 his best friend was Snuffleupagus, a large four-legged puppet who resembles a woolly mammoth. It was a demand from the boss for more exciting stuff. I looked at it, though it was a bit rough, and I was not that impressed. 17th Annual Photo Contest Finalists Announced. I was laid off in 2005, and they shut down in 2007. Although we'll always have mainstays like Big Bird, Elmo, Bert and Ernie, … The conversation did not diminish Big Bird, it wasn’t dismissive or pandering. Neil McGinness (Editor-in-Chief, 2008-2018): I grew up with it, in college. The actors’ desire to play off a new dynamic was soon joined by a more pressing, potentially catastrophic issue. Snuffleupagus, nicknamed Snuffy, was first performed by Jerry Nelson, then Michael Earl, and finally Marty Robinson. Mr. Snuffleupagus is a full-bodied Muppet character who lives with his family in a cave just off of Sesame Street. It was just desk after desk, one gigantic open space. I posted it, and lo and behold, someone paid a $10,000 license fee for Bat Boy Beer. Revealing Snuffleupagus required a concentrated effort to make certain Sesame Street’s writers and producers were communicating the idea effectively. Sal was very educated, cared about arts, knew literature, knew art, knew classical music. Without Clontz around, circulation went down dramatically. Cosmopolitan could afford to give them more than Weekly World News could. The whole paper was ridiculous, and it went from a circulation of 1 million to below 100,000. Derek came up with the story of Bat Boy being found in a cave in West Virginia. It would start with how mad he was, madder than Daniel Boone with a musket, madder than a computer nerd with a busted mouse. That caused us to rethink the storyline: Is something we’ve been doing for 14 years—that seemed innocent enough—now something that’s become harmful? Berger: I remember we had a story about Hillary adopting a space alien baby. For some reason, it was difficult for people to grasp the tone of what we were doing. Big Bird is a six-year-old walking, talking yellow bird with long orange legs, standing 8 feet 2 inches (2.49 metres) tall, who resides in a nest at 123 1 / 2 Sesame Street. Some slammed down the phone, but we called enough of them, and pretty soon we had some aides laughing. Three covers went into a focus group area. Kids were able to see him, but adults couldn’t. “Elvis is Alive” was an all-time bestseller. Kulpa: One thing that did well for the Enquirer and for us were predictions. Maybe his back was bothering him. Then Eddie was promoted to something else, and from that point on, there was a series of editors. In 2018, McGinness exited the editor-in-chief role; Weekly World News writer Greg D'Alessandro stepped in. Ivone: It had nothing to do with interspecies comingling. If fact happened to stumble its way inside, it would be adjusted to fit the paper’s mission statement. Bat Boy running for president. In the early 1980s, news programs like 60 Minutes were reporting on troubling statistics involving child abuse both at home and in daycare centers. We even got Janet Reno to cooperate. The success of Bat Boy eventually led to merchandising, a 1997 off-Broadway musical, and even talk of a feature film. A jury found in the paper’s favor in 1994.). Kulpa: Stan Lee and Steve Ditko created Spider-Man, but you didn’t see that Dick Kulpa created Bat Boy because he was supposed to be a real character. He vanished, and another reporter escaped, went missing, was somehow rescued. Berger: An FBI agent called the paper and asked us to retract it. Calder: Eddie decided that we wanted to say several senators were aliens from outer space. It was fitting that it was turned into an off-Broadway musical. But revealing that Snuffy was real, and not a resident of Big Bird’s imagination, would require some careful planning to make sure the message was clear. Unfortunately, Snuffy is too nervous to remain idle, and Big Bird has a few false alarms that make the adults even more dubious. Berger: We knew Bat Boy attracted readers, and we kept using him over and over again. The audience would see this gigantic, lumbering, wooly mammoth come talk to Big Bird - but every time Big Bird would try to go get others to meet Snuffleupagus (so they would believe he existed), Snuffleupagus had decided to leave. Stiles: Big Bird [said] "Well, now what do you have to say?" A, the show’s executive producer at the time: "[W]e felt it important for children to feel they could talk to adults and be believed. Kulpa: We had an America Online site in the mid-1990s that I would create images for. But the website didn’t do well. He’s getting thousands of get-well cards. Kulpa: Bat Boy was created by accident. They were just not familiar with what divorce was. Ivone: We always had covers with miracle cures of garlic, apple cider vinegar, but we also wanted alien abduction stories. While Weekly World News earned a place in popular culture in the late 1980s with fictional headlines—there was even a 1986 movie directed by singer David Byrne, True Stories, loosely inspired by the paper—there were some very real forays into controversy. McGinness: In many instances, the stories contained journalistic sleights of hands or twists that really drove home the thematic element to the story. When he learned I worked at Weekly World News, he was very excited because he and his wife went to 7-Eleven and picked up all the publications. In a somewhat bizarre non-sequitur, talk show host Phil Donahue appears to pick up his broken toaster from Luis’s Fix-It Shop and begins to engage characters on the merits of Big Bird’s preferred code word. I’m not sure why. Eddie’s most memorable night in the theater was seeing Rodney Dangerfield in Back to School. We were walking a fine line. Martin P. Robinson (via Still Gaming: Lee & Zee Show Podcast, 2009): He was never imaginary. The product was very successful. At one point, nationally syndicated humor columnist Dave Barry suggested to Clontz that the paper should report that Elvis had just died. Time and again, “Snuffy” would shuffle into the frame, just missing the adult residents of Sesame Street. He could be smiling and laughing one minute and flying off the handle about something the next minute, like Pope. It was something that could happen in their lives, and the [Children’s Television] Workshop was very attuned to things like that. It gave it plausibility. In the 1980s, it was World War III. Add a photo to this gallery. emotion, not an emotion of terror or horror. When adults came around, he would be talking about Snuffy this, and Snuffy that. The Bundy story wasn’t the only major milestone of 1989 for the paper. I think Eddie took the call. Kulpa: I posted a Bat Boy musical theme I composed. It connects. It was what kids wanted to read in school and couldn’t. Derrik Lang (Writer, 2004): I think they were really looking for things to grab people’s attention that had a humorous element to them. And maybe have them be a little bit shocking. Neuschafer: We used stand-ins for Elvis with a little bit of airbrushing. Ivone: We kept a careful running tally on sales and noticed when we drifted away from celebrity stories and differentiated ourselves—went to bigger headlines and bolder stories—it worked. Berger: Pope was like the Godfather to the staff. He was very happy people believed him. We were just trying to hang on at this point. We’d exaggerate now and then, and then exaggerate more, as we went through newspapers and magazines. Now there's an app for every media type. Ivone: Something like “Baby Born with Angel Wings,” in one sense that’s funny, but a baby born with angel wings, that’s also maybe inspiring. I was glad when it became a musical, but I don’t think Kulpa got money for it. Bush were photographed reading the paper. Pope gave his family $85,000 in cash to help out. It’s only so long the performers can go through takes before they stop and need to be fanned off before they can start again. Ivone: The biggest seller was anything with Elvis. We just said he was found in a cave and built on the image. 2) For more than 14 years, Big Bird was the only character on “Sesame Street” who could see Snuffy…he was BB’s imaginary friend. We would rewrite the stories. That makes no sense. Eddie was a terrible organizer, but he came up with front page ideas. Washington wasn’t like it is now, not quite as exciting. Ivone: Dick Kulpa did a drawing with big ears, big eyes, and wanted to do it as an alien baby. Snuffleupagus looks like a mammoth or an elephant with no ears. Stay there! We had affection for the paper and for what we were doing. “Marty” is Martin P. Robinson, a puppeteer who assumed the front end and voice of Mr. Snuffleupagus in 1981. Kulpa: By 1995, 1996, we were starting to get into some wilder stories, like “Woman Gives Birth to Human Eyeball.”. Some things were bizarre enough in life to report straight. Ed Anger was a satire of conservative right-wing thinking. Though he is usually called Mr. Snuffleupagus or simply Snuffy, his real name is Aloysius Snuffleupagus. Kulpa: People think Weekly World News was funny. That’s not a good formula, either. In 2008, the brand was acquired by investors including Neil McGinness, a former National Lampoon executive who kept Bat Boy busy online and maintained a sense of mischief. Ivone: Eddie was a certifiable genius. Kulpa: Everything was grounded. Emilio Delgado (“Luis,” 1971-2017): It was going with the whole thing of a child’s imaginary playmate, which a lot of kids have. It did not get to my level. He’s more of an antihero. You can draw parallels to Don Quixote in that you have a protagonist who isn’t a hero but fallible and subject to lapses in judgment. 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