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News of the Weird

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Kevin Barry, 42, filed a lawsuit in federal court in New York City in October to recover $885 in panhandling income the government had subtracted from his disability benefits. The government said the money constituted "gifts," requiring a dollar-for-dollar reduction in his benefits. Barry said the money was "earnings," which legally should not be deducted from his benefits. Barry claimed panhandling is an "art form" and "hard work," requiring him to stand in heavy traffic and to commute to the most desirable locations early in the morning and in adverse weather conditions.

People With Too Much Time on Their Hands

A TV Guide poll taken in June revealed that one American in four would not give up television for $1 million.

A Navy Department employee newsletter reported in July that Bea Perry, a secretary with a Navy unit in Washington, D.C., commutes to work daily from her home in Trenton, New Jersey--171 miles away. She hits the road at 2:30 AM to make it to her desk by 6:30. She has been making the same commute for 25 years.

In a performance art presentation at the University of Maryland in September student Jessica True, 23, placed a "hex" on the fraternity system, as a bastion of race and gender privilege, by dressing as what she called "The 100 Percent Domesticated Vagina." As fraternity men gawked and mooned her, True screamed and danced and dragged a sheet through the opening in her vagina costume.

To honor Sheikh Fahad al-Ahmed al-Sabah, the only member of Kuwait's royal family to die in the 1990 Iraqi invasion, the Kuwaiti Olympic Association painted his Lincoln Town Car gold, mounted it on a marble stand, outfitted it with a sculpture of a fist bursting through its roof, then illuminated it with floodlights.

In October a cleaning crew accidentally tossed out an exhibit at the Museum of Discovery and Science in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. The exhibit consisted of coffee cans crammed with 14,000 cigarette butts, about as many as one smoker produces in a lifetime. In defense of the cleaning crew the artist said, "[The butts] didn't smell very good, I have to admit."

Feuds

Before sending the Greenwood, Indiana, high school yearbook to the printer over the summer, editor Heidi Gerdts defaced photos of three girls she didn't like by drawing in mustaches and underarm hair and blackening their teeth. Said one of the girls, "It all has to do with boyfriends. Heidi has a big problem when guys go out with other girls after they've gone out with her." The school was forced to recall all 500 copies.

Constance and Peter O'Shaughnessy, who divorced in 1982 and have fought for ten years for custody of their son, Ryan, refused to give it a rest even after Ryan was killed at age 15 in an auto accident in July. Peter accused Constance of making a unilateral decision in having Ryan cremated, which upset him. She denied it, but Ryan's ashes were then divided between them. The two are still battling over whether the ashes will be combined in the O'Shaughnessy family plot, whether Constance will have visitation rights, and what message will be on his gravestone.

Singer Jimmy Buffett's Save the Manatee Committee, formed to save Florida sea cows from impending extinction, filed a lawsuit in May against the Florida Audubon Society over which organization can do more for manatees.

In September Natalie Pollock, candidate for mayor of Winnipeg, Manitoba, brawled with a professional stripper on the set of a Jenny Jones TV show devoted to "women with big breasts." Pollock claimed the stripper became angry when Pollock accused her of having received artificial implants. "She sexually assaulted me with her breasts," said Pollock. "She banged me with them in my eyes."

The Weirdo-American Community

David S. Bethune was charged in Greenville, South Carolina, in August with threatening the president after he disclosed to a hospital employee that he was going to "ambush Bush" and "remove [him] from office." Bethune referred to himself in court as "the world's number one man," a title he said he has held for the last 20 years. He also proclaimed that he "topped the world" in academics, athletics, business, military issues, and social matters, and added that he had solved the mystery of the Bermuda Triangle.

Least Competent Person

Michael J. Schmidt, 29, set up a hidden video camera at his home near Superior, Wisconsin, in October because he had been burglarized several times and wanted to catch the culprits in the act. The burglars came back and were captured on tape, which Schmidt then turned over to the sheriff. Among the items the burglars were seen taking from Schmidt's house was a box containing eight marijuana plants. Schmidt was charged with misdemeanor drug possession.

Suicide Mishaps

In November motorist Jesse Peglar, 20, despondent over marital troubles, closed his eyes and aimed for a big elm tree in Lakewood, Colorado, but instead hit another motorist, killing him. Peglar suffered minor injuries.

Joseph R. Shatley, 22, committed suicide in Lexington, North Carolina, in November by shooting himself in the head, but the bullet passed through him and also killed a friend who had been trying to talk him out of it.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): illustration/Shawn Belschwender.

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