Potato in the Jungle

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In the few places he stopped to look, President Clinton found what he sought for in Africa this week: proud people, ascendant economies and even a young Ugandan named Bill Clinton.

That Africa, and a great deal else, is resplendent in When We Were Kings (1996). The story of 1974's "Rumble in the Jungle" in then-Zaire is punctuated with the near-lyrical musings of George Plimpton and Norman Mailer (who covered the fight as sportswriters) and fleshed out with the black faces of a nation brought to life by the event and by Ali himself. It's a battle hymn and a history lesson in one.

But when Clinton looked out into the crowd he saw the same White House Press Corps, asking the same old questions. He was the same ladies' man in a jam, just a different setting. Which of course happened to another cat some years ago: Shaft in Africa (1973). Ass-whoopin', crime solvin' and woman gettin' brought to you by the "black private dick who's a sex machine with all the chicks" -- or so the song says. Can you dig it? OK, so it's no original Shaft, but it's still the man vs. The Man -- so check it out.

As for the man in the White House, remember Isaac Hayes' Oscar winning theme: He's a complicated man, and no one understands him but his woman. But Shaft? He don't ever make apologies.