LAST CALL: Syphilis awareness campaign proves LA-SF rivalry remainsvery healthy

You nervous types, look away now. Unless you live in California, that is, and have already been exposed to macabre cartoons featuring a syphilis sore in sneakers and a grinning penis.

You nervous types, look away now. Unless you live in California, that is, and have already been exposed to macabre cartoons featuring a syphilis sore in sneakers and a grinning penis.

California health officials are concerned that syphilis rates have been increasing dramatically in LA and San Francisco, and so are addressing the problem with large-scale campaigns.

But in a long-standing cultural battle, San Franciscans often think of Angelinos as uncouth, and LA denizens feel Northern Californians are a bit kooky.

The respective campaigns (each by Better World Advertising) chosen by each venue lend credence to those stereotypes. SF is launching the "Healthy Penis 2002, campaign, a $50,000 effort spearheaded by a smiling cartoon penis. LA, spending $394,000, was offended by the toothy testicle, and instead opted to headline their campaign with Phil, a red syphilis sore wearing silver shoes and an earring. Ah, yes, that's far more tasteful.

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