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Cryptologists' message to nattering nabobs: Shut your pie hole!

The National Security Agency finally unleashed its long-awaited campaign against blabbermouths. Inspired by the ageless adage, "Loose lips sink ships," a motto used during World War II, the NSA's ad shop, Trahan, Burden & Charles, Baltimore, created a modern variation of the old saw, "Information security begins with you," and purchased ad pages in the Gannett-owned Military Times Media Group to showcase it. The ads ask Americans to stop prattling in public about sensitive security matters because terrorists may be listening in. For the first leg of its anti-babble effort, the NSA is targeting members of our armed forces with four distinct ad executions, each one tailor-made for the four titles in the publishing group: the Army Times, Navy Times, Air Force Times and Marine Corps Times. (See all four ads: QwikFIND aan57s)

This is the first time the ultra-secret NSA has ever commissioned an outside ad campaign, according to Marti Mercer, an NSA spokeswoman. The ad budget? Well, in the ad world, many a CEO has been heard to utter the inflated claim that clients' budgets are "classified." The ad execs at Trahan, Burden & Charles, on the other hand, can make this assertion literally and accurately. The NSA ad budget is truly top secret, known only by the Office of Management and Budget, by both the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, and by the Defense Subcommittees of the Appropriations Committees in both houses of Congress and by Trahan, Burden & Charles.

In keeping with the spirit of the campaign, Parks Rogers, a VP of advertising at the Army Times, kept himself well zipped up. "I will not talk to the press," he muttered. And while Tom Burden, agency president, wouldn't comment on the budget, he did issue this statement: "This is more than advertising. This is service to our country, and we are honored to have the opportunity to contribute during this unique and challenging time in our country's history."

Marketers, pull up a chair. A new contact point: The Iron Lap

A unique product placement opportunity is now available: lap-sitting. John Gardner, the Anaheim-based oddball who holds Ripley's Believe it or Not's record for most lap sittings, is now calling on marketers to partner with him. Since 1975, John, aka The Iron Lap, has sat beautiful women in his lap. He registers each "sitter," photographs them and hands out certificates authenticating the event and recording the sitting number. So far, The Iron Lap has logged 9,678 sittings.

"No lap dancing, just lap sitting," John says. "This is PG rated, no nudity. I practice safe sitting. I believe what Confucious once said: `Girl in mind more dangerous than girl in lap."

After 26 years of playing Barcalounger to willing women, sometimes sponsored by local radio stations and Ripley's, John, who is 65 years old, 6 feet tall and 170 pounds, is ready to take his act to Madison Ave. He's pitched marketers with print ad mock ups. Adages viewed a few samples, including a photo of a sitter wearing an "Enjoy Coca-Cola" T shirt, with the caption: "Lapsitting goes better with Coke."

"Soft drinks are a natural," John says. "So are stay-press pants, couches, chairs. I've had furniture stores call and ask me to sit in their stores. Because of the intimacy of sitting, after-shave and underarm deodorant could work too."

The idea for sittings came to John in a dream in 1974. "The dream was so vivid. There were women lining up, sitting in my lap, signing my lap register-which they do today-and somebody was taking pictures. I went back to sleep and tried to put it out of my mind." But the dream kept nagging him. His wife Jean suggested that he "get it out of his system." She was his first sitter. "And then some friends at church," John says. "Then I went to swap meets, and the beaches and the numbers started piling up."

What's it like to have over 9,000 women sit in your lap? "It's better than some of those shows where they have people eat worms," John says, referring to NBC's "Fear Factor." "The people at Ripley's said to me, most of the people going for records suffer for them, they're in pain, they get hurt. But not you." John likens sitting to fishing. "I set up my lap board and my chair, and gals come around nibbling, asking about it. Sometimes I get lucky and land 30 sitters in less than an hour. "

The Iron Lap's record was only challenged once, in 1999, by a Canadian. "But he ended up having a nervous breakdown," says John.

To reach the Lap, e-mail [email protected]

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