Try These Monica-Free Zones

Tired of the Clinton-Lewinsky drone? Tune to a Seattle radio station that has declared itself a Clinton-free zone. Read a news release stamped "100 Percent Monica-Free." Pick up a newspaper from Portugal, where news organizations are voluntarily censoring coverage of the president's private life.

Even Monica Free, a homemaker from Waterloo Iowa, hopes the news will soon reflect her name.

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"It's a mess. People are weary of it all," Mrs. Free says. "I don't like it at all."

At isolated spots around the country and the world, the plea is being heard.

In Seattle, KJR 95.7 FM, a classic hits station, has banned the word "Clinton" from the air. When a caller or disc jockey slips, a game-show buzzer sounds, a cash register clanks "cha-ching," and the radio station drops $10 into a children's charity fund. The balance so far is $370.

"We're going to do it until he's out of office," said program director Gary Bryan.

Sometimes, though, it's hard to go cold turkey.

At the Country Music Association awards recently in Nashville, host Vince Gill got a laugh when he reassured the crowd at the Grand Ole Opry that they could escape the Lewinsky story for the next three hours.

But later in the show, he slipped and nominated the much-profiled Lewinsky for the annual Horizon Award, recognizing progress in one's career.

Sometimes, the Monica-free zone is unintentional.

Bob Brewin, a writer for Federal Computer Week, didn't mention the affair for six months. But then, in June, he wrote that the Lewinsky hoopla had delayed the nomination and confirmation of a senior Pentagon official.

"Ahh, I finally managed to get her name into this newspaper, which has, until now, been one of the few Monica-free zones on the planet," he wrote.

Lewinsky's notoriety may even be leading new parents to establish Monica-Free zones at home.

Last year, 103 baby girls born in New Jersey were named Monica, compared with 49 during the first seven months of this year, a statewide count of birth certificates showed. That would be a drop of 18 percent if the same pace held up through the end of the year.

"Obviously, you can draw an inference," said state registrar Don Lipira.

America's preoccupation with the Lewinsky-Clinton affair so frustrated the Washington-based Alliance for Better Campaigns that it stamped "100 Percent Monica-Free" in red ink on the front of envelopes in which it sent out a recent news release.

Sympathetic to Monica-weary readers, The State Journal-Register in pringfield, Ill., gave readers a Monica-free day. That was back in February when the story was just a month old. The paper didn't even run a Doonesbury comic that would have violated the one-day blackout.

Newspapers overseas are going a step further.

A German newspaper, Hamburg Morgenpost, expressed its disgust with coverage of the president's private life by recently running two pages that were blank except for headlines that said "Clinton's porno hearing" and "Not with us!"

A group of Portuguese news organizations has agreed to carry no more in-depth coverage of Mr. Clinton's personal life, White House spokesman Mike McCurry was happy to announce.

"They have voluntarily taken a pledge to refrain on further coverage of this item," he said.

"Do you have copies of this pledge?" a U.S. reporter joked.

"I have copies duly translated by Karina in my office - our very bright intern," McCurry replied.