– Knight Ridder Newspapers

WALNUT CREEK, Calif. – A golden marketing opportunity knows no political boundaries.

A San Francisco-based entrepreneur in the Democrats’ camp and eager GOP college students are hawking T-shirts featuring Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s now famous “girlie men” insult.

A handful of state senators bought them. An entire Sacramento, Calif., bowling league ordered shirts. Folks from all over the country, and even some in Paris and Ireland, have opened their wallets.

“It’s been crazy,” said fashion designer Sarah Lefton, who owns Jewish Fashion Conspiracy. “I have shirts stacked everywhere and we’re shipping as fast as we can.”

College Republicans Chairman Michael Davidson of Los Angeles says hundreds of people from 15 states have ordered the GOP shirt.

“A lot of young people really appreciate straight talk, even if it’s a bit politically incorrect,” said Davidson, a UC-Berkeley graduate.

The College Republicans debuted a T-shirt and buttons on-line at www.collegegop.org. Student chapters will sell the items on campus starting in mid-August. Later, the club will offer sweatshirts, banners and bottle openers.

For $15, a GOP fan may buy a T-shirt with a drawing of a donkey in a dress and wording that says, “Don’t be a girlie man: Join The College Republicans” or “Don’t be a girlie man: Vote Republican.” Buttons sell for $1.50. The proceeds go into the organization’s recruiting fund.

In the Democrats’ corner, political faddists can visit www.sacramentogirliemen.com where a young man models a shirt labeled, “Sacramento Girlie Men.”

Buy it for $24 and Lefton will donate a fifth of the proceeds to the Democratic Party, which, “as you may have noticed, could use the help,” her company site reads.

Lefton says the lightbulb flashed after she heard Schwarzenegger tag as “girlie men” those Democratic lawmakers who refused to pass his budget.

The term originated with a Schwarzenegger-inspired, 1980s “Saturday Night Live” parody about fitness gurus Hans and Franz.

The governor’s zinger generated everything from delighted chortles to outright disgust. Critics assailed the remark as insensitive to women, gays and lesbians.

Lefton said the governor’s remark didn’t offend her because she is a woman.

“I was offended as a human being,” Lefton said. “It really brought back to me the things that aggravate me about California politics, that feeling that we can’t have an intelligent conversation but that we have to resort to insulting people who don’t agree with us.”

Lighten up, responds Davidson.

So what if he was in elementary school when the “girlie man” “Saturday Night Live” skit originally aired? Thanks to reruns and DVDs, the quirky show transcends generations and exemplifies the merger of politics and popular culture

“This is a humorous way for us to get out our message,” Davidson said.

No word on whether Schwarzenegger is laughing.

He has been a little busy with the state budget this week and his press office didn’t have a comment.

(c) 2004, Contra Costa Times (Walnut Creek, Calif.).

Visit the Contra Costa Times on the Web at http://www.contracostatimes.com.

Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.


ARCHIVE PHOTOS on KRT Direct (from KRT Photo Service, 202-383-6099): SCHWARZENEGGER

AP-NY-07-30-04 0620EDT

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