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News of the Weird



Lead Story

Denver postal clerk John Pitney, 50, arrived at work one day in December wearing a dress and exhibiting "some bizarre behavior," according to a coworker. He was ordered out of the building. When he attempted to come back in two more times--wearing a gorilla mask and a strap-on sexual device--he was arrested. Police found several guns in his truck.

Seeds of Our Destruction

Laina Baumann, 17, was crowned queen of the Charles County fair in LaPlata, Maryland, in September. Because the county historically has been a leading tobacco producer, the pageant winner has long been officially called Queen Nicotina.

Early in 1995 billionaire foam-cup manufacturer Kenneth Dart moved from Michigan to Belize, reportedly to avoid U.S. income taxes, and moved his company and his family to Sarasota, Florida. Belize then asked the U.S. State Department if it could establish a consulate in Sarasota, probably to be run by Dart, who would thus be permitted to live in Florida with his family without paying U.S. taxes. In September the Washington Post reported that the State Department would probably deny the request.

The Beijing Youth Daily reported in October that a 20-year-old student who'd received one of the highest grades in his province had been turned down by two universities solely because he had a deformed face. One university official said the man's ugliness "could influence the studies of other students."

In 1983 a Denver trucking company, American Shippers, was hired to transport nine cartons of smoke-detector parts--which contain tiny amounts of the radioactive element americium 241. After the truck was loaded, however, the sale was canceled, and the seller went bankrupt. Because of Colorado and federal nuclear regulations, American Shippers couldn't get a permit to dispose of the parts, and the company has been negotiating with state and federal agencies ever since. Last November a state agency said it would cost the company at least $40,000 to unload the truck.

In New York City in September three men pleaded guilty and five others were indicted in separate swindles reminiscent of the plot of Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls. The schemes involved incredibly rich deposits of bird droppings on the island Nauru, north of Australia.

South Korea's supreme court ruled in September that men and women who have the same last name can marry each other provided they marry first outside the country. The ban on same-name marriages had severely limited marital choice; for example, 43 percent of citizens are named either Kim, Lee, or Park.

In September three mediums lured 1,500 people to an airfield near Sofia, Bulgaria, in a welcoming party for eight spaceships that were expected to land and help the country pay its foreign debt (about $13 billion). A half hour after the scheduled time for the landing, the mediums announced that warplanes in the adjacent area, the former Yugoslavia, had scared off the spaceships.

The Democratic Process

In September the city council in Sunnyvale, California, barred council member Frances Rowe from city hall--except for attending council meetings. In 1994 the council had fired her from her post as mayor because of her allegedly abusive behavior toward city employees. According to the council, which also barred her from calling city employees, her behavior hadn't changed.

Among the unsuccessful candidates for mayor of Augusta, Georgia, in November were a man who claimed that coating on utility poles causes brain cancer in children; a man who spent a total of $5 on the campaign but blasted the Coca-Cola company, which he said had promised him $50,000; and a man who said he used to be in the broadcasting business until he was shot in the head and fell into a coma for three months.

The $300,000 north Florida home of former state representative James Kerrigan was sold for $100 at auction in January 1995 because Kerrigan had refused to pay $2,500 of a $4,000 bill for carpeting that had a small blemish. He'd signed a lien on his house before the job had gotten under way. Kerrigan said he was given bad advice from his lawyer, Joe Scarborough, who's now a member of the U.S. House of Representatives. (The highlight of Kerrigan's one term as a state representative was his opposing a gun-control law--a position he says he took after John Wayne visited him in a dream.)

Geographic Centers of Weird

Russia: In October the Russian Space Agency announced that the three men aboard the space station Mir, scheduled to return to earth January 13, wouldn't come home until February 21, because Russia can't afford to finish building the rocket to replace them. The month before, the Moscow electricity company cut off power for four hours to the central command for the country's strategic nuclear missiles because of overdue bills. And among the unsuccessful parties in the December elections was the Subtropical Russia Movement, whose platform included demands for a year-round temperature of 20 degrees Celsius and a plan to import heat from central Asia.

Thinning the Herd

In October Alfred C. Amoury allegedly shot and killed 29-year-old Thebese Rankin in Providence, Rhode Island. According to a witness, Amoury and Rankin had had an argument about "who was a punk and who wasn't."

Send your weird news to Chuck Shepherd, Chicago Reader, 11 E. Illinois, Chicago 60611.

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

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