Rhymes with Seltzer

The month is wrong, so it's probably not an April fool joke . . .

"Dear Tastemaker: Here, for your files, is an up-to-date publicity photo of Billy Joel for use in your publication. Regards, Your Friends at the Columbia Records Media Department." Holy phucking GOD!

To say the dude has "not aged well," or that "time has not been kind to him," would be a grievous understatement. (Ditto: "death warmed over.")

Does he have undiagnosed cancers of the spleen, gallbladder AND collarbone? Is he skaty-eight weeks into pitiless by-the-numbers chemo?

Geez. How many contact sheets did they shoot to score ONE PIC where he's only this presentable?

Makes one wonder: could we be seeing the first in a series of "reality press kits"? Is "populism" the shtick? "What goes up must come down"? The way of ALL flesh? "Everyman," anyone?

And yet . . . ha . . . there is supreme VANITY apparent in the dude's manner, pose, and above all mode of dress. Loafers, no socks (ain't he kool, folks?) . . . the cuffs of un-broke-in jeans rolled up just so . . . silk (or izzit polyester?) "dress" shirt with a 1969 doofus collar, buttoned up one notch too high . . . haw! . . . is he the dowdiest bozo ever?

But hey, wait. For Columbia to stroke the ego of so worn out (if still exploitable) a piece of roster meat—there is something touching in that . . . AT LEAST as touching as it is transparently despicable. The respect, or even the kowtow, of your corporation: nothing to sneeze at.

When Avril Lavigne is as used up as the '02 model Billy Joel, will Arista Records still be sending us HER pic?

Avril Lavigne plays the KISS 106.1 Jingle Bell Bash at the Tacoma Dome. 4 p.m. Sat., Dec. 21. $35-$45.

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