Hunter Thompson, who should know, once said that when the going gets weird, the weird turn pro. The man, alas, was a prophet.
Things don't get any weirder than "Hunting for Bambi," the new "adult" paint ball game in which men pay large sums of money to hunt naked women who dash about trying to capture flags without getting zapped by a 200 mile-per-hour paint ball pellet.
On the one hand, this feels a little like a summer rerun. They're digging up Hoffa (again) and men are objectifying women (still). Haven't we done this already? Men angry; women stupid. Or vice versa. So what's new?
On the other, it's hard to avert one's eyes. What have we here? What we have is ... the next thing - an extreme response to an extreme culture that seems each day to pose a challenge: 'Oh yeah, top that!'
Unfailingly, we do. Jerry Springer, who brought human trash into America's living rooms, is seriously considered for public office; Larry King interviews and feels the pain of porn stars, who are, after all, just like the rest of us; the ubiquity and thus banality of pornography, meanwhile, makes gravel seem mysterious and alluring.
This exhaustive display of humanity's basest instincts, combined with the anatomical focus on the mechanics of intimacy, may simply have reached its inevitable evolutionary climax in the Xtreme sport of hunting naked women. Live sex and violence go real time, protected so far by the barely legal technicality of adult consent.
For those who've missed newscasts in recent days, this new game is the brain issue of Michael Burdick who, let me guess, couldn't get a date in high school? Kidding, kidding. I'm sure he's charming.
Burdick acknowledges, however, that his clients tend to be of the quiet variety. "For the individual who's used to saying, 'I can't go out with the boys tonight' ... it's a chance for him to come out and vent his aggression and really take charge."
For up to $10,000, fellow social failures can travel to Las Vegas, hit the desert and shoot at naked women. What could be more fun than that? The women, with names like Bridget and Nicole, are paid $2,500 if they don't get hit, $1,000 if they do.
Photographs on the Web site (HuntingForBambi.com) show nude women smeared with blood-red paint and displayed as one might any slain trophy. A hunting lodge wall features female "racks" - sculpted heads and busts displayed for the rapture of those whose solitary evenings are little mystery.
Just innocent fun, as Burdick and satisfied customers plea? Or something more ominous, as psychologists and women's groups are pondering. One psychologist quoted in a Las Vegas television report declared the Bambi hunt every man's fantasy come true.