News & Politics » Year In Review

A Timeline: Say What?

'95 Newsmakers and the Strange Things They Said



Every day the world is bombarded with natural disasters, civil war, terrorism, Newt Gingrich. Out of this vast mess of news, how do we distinguish highlights from the past year? History books are obligated to weigh each event's effect on the world, but we are bound by no such restrictions. So our 1995 Timeline has one requirement: great quotes.

For instance, it's no longer unusual for parents to shoot and kill people who have sexually assaulted their children, rather than letting the offenders go to trial. But it was Idaho resident Kenneth Arrasmith who shot Ronald Bingham 23 times and his wife Luella six times for allegedly drugging and raping his teenage daughter, and then surrendered to police last May with this universal greeting: "I'm having a very bad day, and I'd love a cold beer."

Similarly, while congressman are constantly in the news for their bad habits, it was our own Michael Patrick Flanagan who admitted to the Washington Post, "Just give me my coffee and Ding Dongs and my smokes and I'm a happy boy."

Self-righteous social causes irritate us continually, often using celebrities with too much free time and too little education. But not even Rikki Lake can match Dan Mathews, head of international campaigns for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), who gave this advice to people dying from diseases that might have been cured via animal research that PETA opposes: "Don't get [diseases] in the first place, schmo."

There's a reason that journalists secretly rejoice when a source lets loose with a juicy quote: it makes any story a whole lot better. Some newsmakers make a point of supplying reporters with quotes, now known as "sound bites." More often, the truly great quote is a product of unfortunate spontaneity, obvious lying, hypocrisy, or an utter lack of human introspection. And in the case of Newt Gingrich, all of the above.

January 1

On December 30, 22-year-old John Salvi walked into two Brookline, Massachusetts abortion clinics and opened fire, killing two receptionists and wounding five other people. His next-door neighbor John Christo told reporters that Salvi was a "nice guy" and added, "There's nothing wrong with John whatsoever other than he killed a couple people."

January 10

Brazil's government banned cigarette ads from sports and cultural events and from TV every day until 11 p.m. Gilberto Leifert, acting president of the Brazilian advertising industry's council, whined about the restrictions: "Pretty soon, the Government will ban television interviews with people who are poorly dressed."

January 12

News broke that House Speaker Newt Gingrich met with media baron Rupert Murdoch one week before his talks with Murdoch's publishing company, HarperCollins, which led to a $4.5 million book advance. Gingrich denied that they discussed Murdoch's problems with the Fox Network--NBC had charged Fox was owned by an Australian-based Murdoch corporation and violated Federal rules against foreign ownership of broadcast licenses. Gingrich spokesman Tony Blankley described what the two busy power brokers did talk about: "They passed the time of day."

January 14

Days later, Murdoch spokesman Howard J. Rubenstein disclosed that Murdoch's lobbyist attended his meeting with Gingrich, and that they DID discuss Fox's problems with Federal regulations. As Rubenstein put it: "In passing, there was mention of the NBC challenge."

February 3

Colin Ferguson's trial for the 1993 Long Island Railroad shootings was, sadly, only shown in exerpts on Court TV due to O.J. Simpson coverage. Ferguson shot 25 people, killing six, and then decided to defend himself. Ferguson's cross-examination of his own victims was much more interesting than Dream Team bickering. Victim Maryanne Phillips testified that she played dead after being shot once, and Ferguson asked her if that meant her eyes were closed. Said Phillips: "Yes, so you wouldn't come back and shoot me again."

February 7

The normally placid Dutch hate Germans so much that Chancellor Helmut Kohl and Dutch leaders talked it over in a top-secret meeting before the scheduled lifting of border controls between the two countries. Dutch teenager Arjan Bijl summed up Dutch feelings about German tourists: "They're fat, ugly and eat too much. They're just so full of themselves."

February 11

For 20 years Sweden has insisted that Soviet submarines are stalking its coast. This year, Prime Minister Ingvar Carlsson had an embarrassing admission: "It's a sad fact that what was originally stated to be intrusions into our waters has proved to be minks."

February 28

House speaker Newt Gingrich's spokesman, Tony Blankley, compared his boss to Winston Churchill, Charles de Gaulle, Anwar Sadat, and even Mohandas Gandhi: "Newt is a tad like Gandhi, a combination of visionary and practical tactician not often seen in politics. But obviously, Gandhi dressed better."

March 8

Former clown Ray Wardingley unexpectedly won the Republican mayoral nomination, but he didn't win much respect. During a taping of The Reporters on WMAQ Wardingley warned fellow Republicans to support him, or they'd be sorry after he won: "If I'm lucky enough to be mayor of the City of Chicago--an act of God again--right now they better come forward....Don't they realize that this is their chance?....Maybe they don't have my phone number."

March 15

Remember Helmut Hofer, the attractive young German accused of murdering Wilmette socialite Suzanne Olds for her husband, Dean Olds? Hofer was eventually aquitted. Testifying at his trial, Hofer seemed most worried that people might believe the prosecution's contention that he and Olds had a homosexual relationship: "Mr. Olds was a 64-year-old man. I wouldn't want anyone to say I have taste like that."

March 29

Republican mayoral candidate Ray Wardingley was touchingly optimistic throughout the mayoral campaign: "I'm the people's candidate. I actually believe I'm going to be the mayor. I believe it truly."

April 4

And on election night, Wardingley had the best concession speech: "I lost because God said no, no deal. I uh, so fine. But I wanna thank the people, reporters, and everyone else who helped me, and I wanna thank God for the opportunity to be an American."

April 22, 1995

After the bombing of the Alfred C. Murrah federal building in Oklahoma City, anyone who shared a crowded elevator with suspect Timothy McVeigh was invited to comment. Coleen M. Conner, McVeigh's tenth grade English teacher, had a particularly chilling observation: "He was the quiet one. A lot of the quiet ones are the ones who have ended up doing scary things. You never know what you have sitting in the classroom."

April 26

The Unabomber exploded, as it were, out of obscurity with a letter to the New York Times. He offered to stop killing people if either the Times or the Washington Post would print his personal manifesto. The letter offered a few clues to the Unabomber's social life, if not his identity: "Anyhow we are getting tired of making bombs. It's no fun having to spend all your evenings and weekends preparing dangerous mixtures, filing trigger mechanisms out of scraps of metal or searching the sierras for a place isolated enough to test a bomb. So we offer a bargain."

April 27

State senator Rickey Hendon continued his opposition to projects that would benefit his constituents. Here Hendon explained why he favored letting downstate Republicans take over Chicago airports rather than endorsing Mayor Daley's surprise Chicago-Gary Regional Airport Authority: "If we face the Indiana Pacers in the (NBA) playoffs, will Michael Jordan give two of those points to Indiana? Of course not."

May 3

Edwin Keith Wane stabbed his ex-mother-in-law to death, dumped her body in a field, and then went to read magazines at the Barrington Public Library. There Wane allegedly continued his crime spree by lifting the coat of another library patron, Donald Grahn. Grahn must be especially grateful to ring in a new year after challenging Wane in the parking lot: "I followed him out to his car and told him, 'Hey, that looks a lot like my jacket, so give it back.'"

May 8

Before U.S. Representative Mel Reynolds went on trial for having sex with an underage Beverly Heard, Chicago public figures happily told the Sun-Times that Reynolds shouldn't run again, whether he beat the rap or not. Alderman Robert Shaw was most quotable, as usual: "He would have a hard time going into a house where there is a teenage daughter and talking to voters. People would be answering their doors with the chains on."

May 17

Alderman Thomas Allen saw real voter unrest when a constituent allegedly made a $100 downpayment to have him killed--either shot or axed. Former Chicago schoolteacher Delores Arnold, 64, was unhappy that Allen had taken her to Housing Court over the garbage, roaches and rats in three buildings she owned. Assistant State's Attorney Ginger Buchmiller explained Arnold's reasoning: "She said she looked upon the transaction as playing the lottery. If the alderman wasn't killed, she was only out $100."

May 17

Cook County Associate Judge Robert Bastone set Delores Arnold's bail at $250,000, although assistant public defender Eileen Frazier argued that Arnold should be released because she had "ties to the community." Bastone wasn't buying it: "She may have ties to the community, Eileen, but playing the lottery with somebody's life? I have to take that into consideration."

May 29

Mayor Daley accepted a free ride to England from American Airlines--taking with his wife and daughters and about 20 city officials and their families. Upon their return, Daley distracted reporters with a press conference while everyone else snuck out. Daley press secretary Jim Williams advised reporters how to avoid a repeat: "Next time, bring more cameras."

June 3

Ku Klux Klan members made nuisances of themselves, rallying in both Wheaton and Rolling Meadows on the same Saturday. Hundreds of protestors demonstrated against them, but 20-year-old David Fragale of Bensenville defended the Klan to reporters: "I might join the Klan when I get too old to be a skinhead."

June 22

Former Loop lawyer James Kelly finally went on trial for soliciting the 1991 murder of his ex-wife, and was convicted. Kelly arranged to meet his cousin, Billy Kelly, who he hadn't seen in 28 years, at the Goose Island Brewery. Testifying at his trial, James Kelly explained how he and Billy happened to discuss the possibility of somebody murdering his ex-wife: "It just came up in conversation."

June 27

A Skydiver car broke loose at an Evergreen Park church carnival, swinging into another car. Jim Cacciatore, 14, hung upside down in his compartment for two hours before being rescued. His take on the adventure: "It was kind of neat watching the ambulances coming down the street, but mostly it was boring."

June 29

Who can forget Sari Mintz and Cabo, her jungle cat, who mauled Mintz's two-year-old niece so badly she needed 200 stitches? Mintz took Cabo to Iowa to avoid a court order to have Cabo destroyed and tested for rabies, to spare her tiny niece a painful round of rabies shots. Mintz's fiance (who later committed suicide) postponed Cabo's death still longer by claiming HE was Cabo's owner. Kot Flora, the Johnson County, Iowa Public Health Department disease prevention manager, explained why Cabo was still alive: "If [Mintz] were the only one claiming ownership we would be taking the cat's head to the lab right now."

July 5

Mel Reynolds defense attorney Sam Adam claimed that airing tapes of his client talking dirty with Beverly Heard was good for his client: "I'm not defending his re-election chances."

July 8

Scientists won permission to dig up the alleged corpse of Jesse James and use DNA testing to determine if it's really him. Distant relative Robert Jackson was pleased, since so many people claim to be James' descendants. Jackson wasn't sure why anyone would actually want to be related to James, but had a good theory: "I guess infamy is better than nothing."

July 26

The City Council Aviation Committee approved a sublease at O'Hare Airport taking away the aldermen's authority to approve individual retail spaces. Alderman William Beavers warned that Mayor Daley would appropriate that power by choosing one developer all by himself, adding with characteristic candor: "All I want is, just give me some. I'm not asking nobody to be fair because I wouldn't be fair if I was the mayor."

August 4

Congress recessed for the summer, but not from sniping. After some nasty comments from House Speaker Newt Gingrich, Representative David Bonior, the Democratic whip, responded: "We've heard a lot of talk about revolution the past eight months. If Newt Gingrich says the Republicans are revolting, who are we to disagree?"

August 31

Louis Trench, athletic director of the Palos Stars football team, admitted giving the prescription diuretic Lasix to young athletes in danger of missing the 85-pound weight limit. Trench was curiously unapologetic: "I personally see nothing wrong. I do not condone more than one (Lasix), and only three hours before weigh-in, which is a lot safer than putting a finger down his throat or taking an enema or sitting in a sauna for three or four days or (wrapping up) in plastic or not eating at all."

August 31

Trench proved a talkative interview subject for reporters: "I think you guys are barking up the wrong tree. Parents do a lot worse to their kids than make them lose weight to play sports, trust me."

August 31

In fact, Trench didn't know when to shut up: "I know what I'm doing is right, and I know I'm keeping 210 boys off the streets and stuff like that. We get a lot of kids that get chased down by Catholic schools. They're playing football and it's funny, they're still healthy."

September 24

State senator Stanley Weaver sponsored an Illinois General Assembly bill requiring the University of Illinois to keep Chief Illiniwek as its controversial mascot, despite protests by offended Native Americans. Weaver explained his careful reasoning: "If they don't feel comfortable, that's too bad."

October 5

Mel Reynolds was led away to jail amid the same crush of reporters and photographers that followed his trial. Reynolds had a specific request that day for the press: "Don't step on me, asshole."

October 10

Three suburbs brought a lawsuit against Chicago, claiming the city has repeatedly violated a state law requiring approval for airport alterations. Chicago Aviation Commissioner David Mosena scoffed at the suburbs' charges: "I'm surprised they didn't sue us for adding Starbucks coffee shops to the airport."

October 11

A medical malpractice suit against Lutheran General Hospital turned into a referendum on whether Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf is a liar. He lost. Reinsdorf's assistant, Sheri Berto, died from massive internal bleeding after routine surgery at Lutheran General. Berto's family sued for $4 million, claiming that Reinsdorf had verbally promised Berto five percent of his future profit in selling the Bulls and White Sox. Barry Goldberg, the Berto's lawyer, explained the crux of the case: "Either [Reinsdorf] is the greatest liar in the world or he isn't."

October 15

Chicago Tribune reporter David Jackson attended a Nation of Islam conference in Washington on "The Black Holocaust." Before he was bodily thrown out, Jackson jotted down this quote from Nation of Islam minister Khallid Muhamad, referring to President Clinton's upcoming trip to Texas on the day of the Million Man March: "It seems opportunistic for the cracker to go now when God's man is in town."

October 31

Newspapers reported that retired Cubs superstar Ryne Sandberg would soon announce his comeback. Cubs first baseman Mark Grace credited Sandberg's return on the exit of Larry Himes as Cubs general manager: "Satan is no longer our general manager."

November 13

The F.B.I. arrested three of four people wanted for trying to build fertilizer bombs to use on such targets as the Southern Poverty Law Center. The F.B.I. complaint quotes suspect Larry Wayne Crow discussing the plot with fellow suspect and self-proclaimed prophet Ray Willie Lampley: "God won't be mad at us if we drop four or five buildings. He will probably reward us."

November 16

The delusional Planet Park stadium proposal to lure the Chicago Bears to Gary, Indiana depends on several government bodies agreeing to impose a 0.5 percent income tax on Lake County residents. Peter Katic, president of the Lake County Board of Commissioners, said he didn't know when that board would consider the question: "No one's talked to me about anything. How do I know when the decision to raise any taxes is supposed to take place? It's like asking a lady when the baby's due when she hasn't had any sex. I haven't had any sex."

November 17

The Sun-Times editorial page criticized the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) for pursuing complaints against Hooters and ruling that the restaurant chain discriminates by not hiring men as waiters. The paper used a third of its editorial column to make this point: "There ought to be room in our society for a Hooters."

November 27

Temperatures in the 20s were forecast for the November 28 primary to fill Mel Reynold's vacant congressional seat. Conventional wisdom said that favored Senate Minority Leader Emil Jones Jr. over Jesse Jackson Jr.--Democratic precinct captains working for Jones would supposedly outstrip Jackson's green volunteers. Chicago Alderman William Beavers put it best, though he was wrong: "This is going to be Democratic weather, good Democratic weather."

December 1

American Online recanted its week-old decision to ban the word "breast." AOL had determined that "breast" was an obscene word, but breast-cancer patients pelted the on-line service with protests, like this one from Mary Marvin: "Give us a break! Must we have hooter cancer survivors?'"

December 9

The saga of Dean Olds continued, as he defended himself in a lawsuit brought by his three children to keep him from inheriting his murdered wife's estate. Olds, who'd previously testified to being an alcoholic, was pleased that the judge ruled he could testify at the trial. As he put it: "I'm very happy. I'm going to go home and have a drink."

December 15

Last March west-side resident Russell Nash, 24, who owed $6,000 in student loans, chose not to follow the traditional route of defaulting and instead robbed an Oak Park bank. He was sentenced to four years and four months in prison, and U.S. district court judge James B. Zagel had a bit of advice for the young man: "You would have been much better off seeing a bankruptcy lawyer."

December 15

The Dean Olds drama drew to an apparent legal close as Olds was barred from inheriting anything from his murdered wife's estate. The judge decided that Olds, who admitted that he repeatedly told people he wanted his wife dead, was responsible for his wife getting her skull bashed in by Olds's alleged lover, Helmut Hofer (though Hofer was acquitted of the crime last March). Afterward Olds complained that the judge had never considered him credible: "I was nailed to the wall and told to get into a sword fight. That's not fair."

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