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Worshiping False Idols

Florence Foster Jenkins — The prototype for Hung, beloved of opera fans for generations. Despite an obvious inability to sing the standard repertoire, this wealthy widow performed recitals in fabulous costumes at toney New York venues – including, in 1944, a sold-out Carnegie Hall. Her swoopy soprano may be heard on the RCA CD “The Glory (????) of the Human Voice,” featuring fractured takes on arias by Mozart and Delibes. Jenkins’ charmingly cavalier attitude may be summed up in something she once told a friend: “Some may say that I couldn’t sing, but no one can say that I didn’t sing.”

William McGonagall — Staggeringly bad 19th-century Scottish poet with, ironically, a taste for human and natural calamity. His most famous poem, “The Tay Bridge Disaster,” ends thusly:

It must have been an awful sight,
To witness in the dusky moonlight,
While the Storm Fiend did laugh, and angry did bray,
Along the Railway Bridge of the Silv’ry Tay,
Oh! ill-fated Bridge of the Silv’ry Tay,
I must now conclude my lay
By telling the world fearlessly without the least dismay,
That your central girders would not have given way,
At least many sensible men do say,
Had they been supported on each side with buttresses,
At least many sensible men confesses,
For the stronger we our houses do build,
The less chance we have of being killed.

Eddie “The Eagle” Edwards M— Bottle-spectacled last-place English entrant in the 70-meter and 90-meter ski-jump competitions at the 1988 Winter Olympics. Charted in the UK with his single “Fly Eddie Fly.” Has also been immortalized in “Eddie” by English folksinger Elaine Samuels:

As he raced to needless death the crowd all held its breath,
And when he took the jump into the sky,
No longer tied to earthly things this hero soared on shining wings,
And the crowd all shouted, “Fly, Eddie. Fly.”

Ed Wood — Angora-sweater-loving screenwriter and director with an ear for twisted dialogue, best known for his science-fiction epic “Plan 9 from Outer Space.” Also created such gems as the tranny classic “Glen or Glenda?” (“Pull ze string!”) and the stripper flick “Orgy of the Dead” (“Torture! Torture! It pleasures me!”). Immortalized in Tim Burton’s brilliant “Ed Wood,” featuring vivid performances by Johnny Depp, Martin Landau and Bill Murray.

William Shatner — Actor-writer-wighat enthusiast who talks like a teenager learning to drive stick shift. (If. He. Played. KingLear ... You’d. Be. There. All night.) Has also made ridiculous spoken-word covers of pop hits.

Ralph Nader — Heroic American consumer activist. Inexplicably persistent presidential candidate. — Mark Mobley

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