WEBMASTER'S NOTE: Last September 24, most Americans reacted in dismay and bafflement when they heard Neil Diamond singing to his female companion, with characteristic fervor and passion, about the joys of recreational cartilage removal.  (Click HERE to hear a Real Audio file of an excerpt of that song.)  Needless to say, people would have been less confused and shocked by these admittedly disturbing developments if they had subscribed to our online newsletter.  Here we reprint again, with the kind permission of the Huntington Beach Observer, Mary Anne Kemp's fine article from last summer:

by Mary Anne Kemp, special to the Huntington Beach Observer

You've seen it by now, if not on the street corner or in your own home, at least on TV---the ghastly teenage craze of "drooping" or "flopping".  Forget tattoos, body piercing, green mohawks---these days it's de rigueur for a kid with an attitude to spend the evening "droopin' on the corner" with friends, or "floppin' in the wind" in a convertible.

Beginning last November with Teen Beat's unfortunate (and deeply regretted) publication of an interview with droop icons the Floppy Skulls, in which now-deceased lead singer Kurt Refusal explained in detail how easy it is to remove the cartilage and bone from one's nose and ears, what was once an obscure practice among a small group of ex-grunge rockers in Eugene, Oregon, took teen America by storm.

And one year later, "juvenile deliquescence," as William Safire so memorably dubbed it, shows no signs of abating.  Sales of cartilage pouches, unheard-of till last year, have gone through the ceiling, and the few towns that attempted to ban their sale rescinded when the results became clear---simply more and more kids losing their "chunks" and requiring expensive prosthetic replacements.

One public figure who has spoken out vehemently against this practice is former Federal Judge Robert Bork, who told Nightline, "If young people are going to do this, this is exactly what I mean by 'slouching towards Gomorrah'......If young people are going to do this, voluntarily remove parts of their bodies that God put there, I think, and I say this advisedly, as a former judge, that the only appropriate punishment for them is the forcible removal of other parts of their bodies, and of course I'm thinking nipples and genitals."

Most authorities are not quite that extreme about it, but disapproval of drooping reaches across the political spectrum.  President Clinton, loath to leave "moral" issues to the Republicans, even worked it into the final sentence of his last State of the Union address.  "And so, my brothers and sisters, I ask you to join me in creating a world where we can all come together in a healing embrace, a world with no teen pregnancy, trade deficits, or base closures, a world where our children no longer feel the need to part with their cartilage in a desperate plea for our attention and affection."  And this speech caused the President's approval rating to jump to a record 80%.

If there is a spokesman in favor of drooping, it would have to be the not-very-articulate remaining members of the Floppy Skulls, who, since Kurt Refusal's mysterious demise, have soldiered on as a trio, sounding remarkably the same.  This weekend they are performing a sold-out concert at the Orange County Amphitheater, so I took the opportunity to interview these "sultans of droop" at the Irvine Hilton.

All three of them were reclining on sofas, "heavily flopping" as they say, pouches slung round their necks keeping the "chunks" moist and warm.  (Though the Skulls claim to "flop nonstop"---as in their hit song of that name---it is a fact that cartilage will begin to decay if it is not returned to the body for at least an hour each day.)

They tend to answer most questions with a sharp nod or shake of the head, apparently enjoying this interviewer's discomfort with wagging noses and flapping ears.  Only the mention of the picketers who show up at their every performance animates guitarist Dave to utter his first-words:

"It's great, man---we're the first band ever to get picketed by both the American Family Association and the American Medical Association!"

Encouraged, I ask them, "So what exactly happened to Kurt?  I'm still in the dark about that."

For some reason this makes them all laugh, a creepy deep-pitched "huh-huh-huh" that sends chills down my spine.  It is very hard to believe that this band is, as they claim, drug-free.  Finally they respond:

DAVE: "Yeah, it's ironic that he was in a band called the Skulls---well, Floppy Skulls but
              we usually just call ourselves Skulls, but it's funny that he proved definitively that
              you can't live without a skull."
TIM:  "Or at least it's not safe to sleep without a skull."
ZEKE: "Not if you have a girlfriend and an alarm clock."

They pause, as if waiting for my curiosity to overtake my squeamishness.

TIM:  "Yeah, his girlfriend Clara, man, she reached over to turn off the alarm clock, and
             like totally squished his brain with her elbow."
ZEKE: "It was comin' out his nostrils, his mouth, his ears..."
DAVE: "It was gnarly, man."

Feeling that I've heard enough, I rise to leave, but Dave calls after me, "Look, lady, you can write whatever you want about us, but we're the poster boys for free speech here---"
TIM:  "Just ask Rush! First it was Alice Cooper, then Salman Rushdie..."
DAVE: "They come for our pouches today, it's your printing presses tomorrow!"
TIM:  "We just want to be left alone to flop as we choose."
DAVE: "This is what freedom of expression is about!"
TIM:  "It's our bodies, our cartilage, our choice!"
DAVE: "This is what the Founding Fathers had in mind!"

"Miss Kemp," interjects Zeke, who has been leaning over in silence fumbling with something, "I would like you to have this ashtray to remember us by."

He hands me a beautiful off-white shell-shaped ashtray.  I begin to say, "I don't smoke," but he has such a sweet look of sincerity in his eyes that I just say "Thank you," and turn to leave.

"Gimme back my kneecap!"  The huh-huh-huh laughter resumes, and in shock and disgust I accidentally drop the object, which shatters on the floor.  A sudden silence follows, they look at each other.....and start laughing louder than ever.  "She busted your kneecap, dude!"  All three of them find this so hilarious that they start dancing around the room cackling like hyenas.  Somehow they have de-boned their arms, and in their hysteria they wave them around like the tentacles of sea-creatures.  "The chick journalist busted Zeke's kneecap!"

Fine, I think, as I slam the door and hurry down the hall.  Let these morons make fun of me.  Me, a single mother eking out a living writing so-called cultural journalism for a third-rate paper in a hick beach town.  And these idiots who can't even keep their bones in their bodies.  Let them go their own way, floppin' toward Gomorrah.

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