This article by John Linnell appeared in the op-ed section of the New York Times shortly after the People Magazine poll was closed.
I'm a middle-aged accordion player, and inspecting myself just now I see that I look tired and badly need a haircut. So you can imagine my confusion when I got a call last week from the manager of my band telling me that my name had turned up in People magazine's on-line poll of the most beautiful people of 1998.
I had already gotten wind of the existence of the poll a few days earlier when I read that Leonardo DiCaprio had been knocked out of the No. 1 spot by a dark horse named Hank the Angry, Drunken Dwarf. The on-line voters, it seemed, had a new, more evolved definition of beauty that gave low marks to standard celebrity good looks. What they really valued was a person's inner beauty. Anyway, that's what I told myself as I went on line to see the results firsthand.
By the time I found the site my name had risen to No. 9, putting me a few E-votes behind Madonna and Kate Winslet and just above Sarah Michelle Gellar, star of the television program "Buffy the Vampire Slayer." Hank the Dwarf was still No. 1, sailing far above Leonardo, and another surprise candidate named Ric Flair was ascending fast. Ric turned out to be a professional wrestler with a large and zealous on-line fan base. For his part, Hank had developed his constituency after appearing on the Howard Stern show.
What was I doing in such company? I still don't know who was voting for me, although it seems possible that one computer hacker on a mission could stuff the ballot box electronically. The band I sing and perform with, They Might Be Giants, enjoys an audience that probably includes a few loose cannons of this type.
Once the cannonball got rolling, though, it seemed to gain momentum among our on-line fans. My position in the pantheon of beautiful people was thus assured. When the final results were posted Monday, I was still ninth, with 4,189 votes, 8 ahead of Buffy and 1,038 behind Madonna. Hank finished with 230,169, more than 200,000 ahead of Ric, his nearest competitor.
It has been suggested that the Internet might be a good way to vote for our elected officials. If my experience is any guide, though, it appears there are still a few bugs to be worked out before you'll be able to elect the next President while sitting at home in your underwear, unless you want Shecky Greene running the country.
If I had had the choice I might have put myself in a different race -- the "most interestingly mismatched socks" poll, perhaps. Maybe then I would have beaten Hank.
John Linnell is a member of They Might Be Giants, whose albums include the forthcoming "Severe Tire Damage."