Ben Stein

Ben Stein

A weeklong electronic journal.
April 5 2000 9:00 PM

Ben Stein

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I think we know the answer now about the tech stocks, don't we?

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It's just making me insane, that's all. I started the year insane because I didn't have enough tech and it had done so great last year. So I sold a lot of the blue chips and bought tech. For a couple of months, it rocketed straight into the heavens. I was in a fog of bliss. Then, wham. For days now, every morning I have been like Atlanta under the bombardment by Sherman's forces. Reeling, bloody, too upset to even move. Just lying in bed wishing I had never heard the word "tech."

However, I got myself up and wandered over to meet some people from NBC who are doing a profile of me for the Today show. They had a whole camera crew. The gig was to follow little me as I strolled down Rodeo Drive and film the throngs asking for my autograph. You know, it may sound silly, but it pays for my son's electric scooter, so don't laugh.

For some reason we ran into a jillion people from Australia. They knew me for reasons I do not know, and they were great as fans.

Then, off to another doctor, this time a real cardiologist, to have him check my heart. Hey, it's my heart, man, not my toe. Can't be too careful.

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The doctor, a Hungarian by birth, talked to me endlessly about the market, then took my blood pressure, listened to my heart, and said I sounded great. Then he had his lovely nurse, Galina, from Tashkent, give me an EKG. "There's no problem at all," he said. "But if you want a noninvasive exam, I can send you to a place where they do it in 3-D with computer imaging. The company's stock symbol is IMAT. It's a screaming buy. I got in at 2, and now it's about 4 and it's got a lot to go."

Oh, great.

Then, off to my shrink to discuss my craziness. I told him, as I tell you, I think it has to do with my empire getting too big. I cannot even start to recall all of the stocks I have. I often forget all of the acting gigs I'm supposed to do. I have 400 messages on my e-mail that I haven't even gotten to. I'm frantic.

Yes, calls from Wlady Pleszczynski, the editor of the American Spectator, for whom I have written since 1974, keep me centered. He's a reassuring, smart pal. Today I thought he was going to cry with sympathy about the stock market. But where are my Mom and Pop? Mom was big on stocks. She used to say, "We do the best we can and if we lose money we don't cry about it." But I do cry about it. My Pop used to say that it would all work out and everybody made mistakes and even if the market crashed, I still would have money—and I thought I could always sleep on their couch. It was fantasy, sure, but it calmed me down. But where is my Pop now? In a place where maybe there is no stock market at all. God, I hope so.

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My shrink listened attentively and then asked if I thought it was a good time to buy techs.

I came home and saw that Mike Dunnigan, our hard-working contractor, was still at work on a little shed for the pool heater—which has not worked since they installed it. My son was lying on a chaise next to the pool.

"Tommy, my boy, you could learn a lot from Mike about the virtues of hard work. And discipline." That's what I told him.

"He's labor." That's what Tommy told me.

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"And what are you?"

I was praying he did not say "capital," since our capital is in such a state of flux … not to say going down the drain.

"I'm management," he said, "and Dilbert says management doesn't have to work as hard as labor."

"Really? Well, Dilbert is wrong. Good management works incredibly hard."

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You know what? I'm sick of fighting with him. I'm sick of being a good example. I'm running away to a locked room where I can just breathe air-conditioned air, read my Pop's essays, and then sleep.

But not tonight. Off to a party for a departing Comedy Central executive. It was at a restaurant where there was a mechanical bull. The women watching the men on the mechanical bull were a lusty lot. "Harder," they shouted. "Ride it harder."

The Koran says that of all the sexual desire in the world, women have 90 percent. I would add "at least 90 percent." How do I know? I have a good memory.

Then to dinner with Billy Kimball, producer of the Late Show, and Debbie Drimmer, a high official of Comedy Central. Nobody was out. Maybe everyone is in shock about the Nasdaq. Up down, down up.

I'm too delicate for all of this. My whole life is on that mechanical bull. And I'm slipping off.