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Law that protects everyone _ warts, hairpieces and all

Let's hear it for Ugh-o power.

In a nation where it is already illegal to discriminate against anyone because of race, creed and sometimes gender (the ERA bought it, remember?) and where the battle against other types of discrimination is constantly being joined, a new group has claimed its identity.

Santa Cruz, Calif., _ a city so liberal that presidential candidate Pat Buchanan would immediately begin screaming, "I'm melting," and turn into a little pin-striped puddle in his own wing tips if he simply crossed the city limits _ is preparing to outlaw "looks-ism," according to a story carried by Scripps Howard News Service last week.

Obesity, spiked hair, warts, beards on men (or women) and pierced ears (or anything else) would no longer be an excuse for denying housing or employment to men or women under an ordinance that has passed its first hurdle before the City Council.

City officials say the law is not necessarily connected to a case in which a man claimed he was fired from his job as a psychiatric aide because of "his purple hair, five earrings and the small post in his pierced tongue," the news service explained.

Since my picture accompanying this column makes it abundantly clear that the St. Petersburg Times voluntarily adopted such a policy some time ago, I feel comfortable commenting on the issue and on whether such a law would be a good idea for everyone.

It sure would be fun.

Joe Redner would have to hire 400-pound nude dancers, male or female, I would have a shot with the Chippendales and a certain politician we all know well could stop wearing that ridiculous hairpiece.

(Actually I don't know any politicians who wear hairpieces; I just thought it would be fun to see who calls up to deny it.)

Pee-wee Herman could demand to play Rambo, Roseanne Arnold could get a modeling job in the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue and kids with zits could get jobs at Disney World.

Western movies would never be the same. The marshal who swaggers through the swinging doors of the saloon and announces, "Stranger, I don't like your looks," would have to add, "Of course, I meant that in an entirely non-discriminatory fashion and would like to advise you that you have the right to be ugly, that your ugliness can't be used against you, and that you have the right to a cosmetologist and tailor, and that if you desire those services and cannot afford them they will be provided to you free of cost."

I (for obvious reasons) think the law is a good idea. The only hurdle left to attack then would be the competency barrier. Passage of the "looks-ism" law would clear the way to make it illegal for employers to discriminate against applicants who have no idea what they are doing and aren't particularly enthusiastic about it anyhow.

A few fast-food franchise operations and department store chains already have proved themselves pioneers in that area and county commissions throughout the state (who were also the first to crash the ugliness barrier) have given indications that they, too, are willing to admit the intellectually and motivationally challenged to their ranks.

Like any revolution, it won't be accomplished without a few bumps and some hurt feelings.

There already are a few appearance-disabled people who have accepted token positions within the good-looking establishment. They have slicked down their spikes, whitened their teeth, lost weight, put on elevator shoes and removed their nose rings in a pathetic attempt to suck up to the tall, thin and Brooks-Brothers clad.

But we know who you are . . . and after the revolution . . .

Jan Glidewell is a columnist for the Times' North Suncoast regionals.