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It isn't surprising that Dilbert's fans respond in equally subversive ways. The strip is photocopied, pinned up, downloaded and faxed thousands of times daily. Adams receives a constant stream of e-mail suggestions from real life. "Throughout history, there have always been times when it's very clear that the managers have all the power and the workers have none," Adams says. "Through Dilbert, I would think the balance of power has slightly changed."
Rosie O'Donnell, cheerleader
Yes, there are loftier, more laudable show-business goals than becoming the Merv Griffin of one's generation, but thankfully Rosie O'Donnell, 35, was not consumed by more grandiose dreams. As a TV addict growing up in Commack, New York, she fell in love with the ingratiating style of talk-show hosts like Griffin and Mike Douglas. Rather than focus on her film career, the comedian last year decided to return daytime TV, then the unseemliest segment of popular culture, to a more civil time, when talk-show guests were appealing and unscarred, identified on air by name rather than transgression ("Slept with boyfriend's mechanic").
"I tried to make a show that an 8-year-old kid could watch with his mother and grandma that would entertain everyone," says O'Donnell, who is a single mom with an adopted son Parker, 18 months. And that she has done. Since its debut last summer, the Rosie O'Donnell Show, broadcast all over the country and contracted to run at least until the year 2001, has become the second-highest-rated daytime talk show on TV behind Oprah's. In Los Angeles, Rosie has even been known to beat the grande dame. But has Oprah ever managed to get Hillary Clinton to belt out a tune from Bye Bye Birdie? If Rosie has a formula, it is "Love thy neighbor to the right." And unlike Jay Leno, who also works overtime at being nice, Rosie has an unmatched gift for conveying reverence without ever seeming awkward.
She also has a gift for marketing. In October she handed out 200 Tickle Me Elmo dolls to members of her studio audience; the toy became the hottest commodity last Christmas. When Scope jokingly named her America's least kissable celebrity, she endorsed Listerine. Since March, Listerine has donated $1,000 to charity every time Rosie is bussed on air. Her children's foundation has chalked up more than $350,000.
Rosie hasn't killed off all the smutty talk shows just yet. But when was the last time anyone uttered the name Ricki Lake?
Andrew Weil, alternative-medicine guru
In the war-torn world of modern medicine, one of the most heated but overlooked battles has raged between advocates of traditional science and of alternative healing. Into the breach comes Andrew Weil, 55, a physician and author who is fast emerging as a family doctor to America. Only a physician who trained in medicine's mainstream could credibly question its methods. And Weil studied in the most mainstream place possible: Harvard Medical School.
While there, Weil conducted some of the earliest lab studies of marijuana and concluded that there are no bad plants, just inexperienced users. Later he traveled to South America to study medicinal flora. "Local healers were using these marvelous plants," he says, "and established medicine had never even heard of many of them."
Weil began preaching the word of alternative medicine (though downplaying his pot position of old). Now that word has been heard. Spontaneous Healing, published in 1995, has sold more than a million copies, and his latest book, 8 Weeks to Optimum Health, has become a best seller as well. Two PBS programs featuring Weil drew record audiences.
The extraordinary thing about Weil's medical gospel a liturgy of nutrition and lifestyle tips is its ordinariness. That has not stopped some doctors from arguing that woefully little science documents the value of much that he prescribes. Weil responds with an olive branch. "Mainstream medicine handles some things quite well particularly emergencies," he says. "But when it comes to helping the body stay healthy, alternative methods are the way I go." For better or worse, many Americans are going with him.