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News of the Weird

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Lead Story

In Columbia. South Carolina, in December Reverend Noel Vande Grift revealed plans to expand his 20-member Nixon Memorial Church, a congregation blending Baptist and Quaker preachings. Vande Grift said the inspiration to name the church after former president Richard Nixon came during a prayer. He told reporters the church would be the largest in the south by the year 2010.

The Democratic Process

In Eureka Springs, Arkansas, aldermanic candidate Louise Berry died on October 6, but her supporters continued to run ads against her opponent. On November 8 Berry won by a narrow margin. Also in Arkansas, attorney general candidate Dan Ivy won his fight to stay on the ballot despite having been recently convicted of beating his wife. Mrs. Ivy had made an audio recording of the July beating; on the tape, Ivy appeared mainly concerned about recovering valuable coins his wife had put in a safe-deposit box. After Ivy told her he wanted his coins, she reminded him it was Sunday and that the box was not accessible; during the remainder of the 30-minute tape, Ivy said "I want my coins" 76 more times. Ivy lost the election.

Ohio gubernatorial candidate Billy Inmon collapsed and had to be hospitalized in August after a 27-day hunger strike outside the capitol in Columbus. He was trying to get incumbent George Voinovich to debate him, but Voinovich never did. However, 18 days into the strike a man protesting Inmon's antigay positions urinated on Inmon's tent, provoking Inmon to point a gun at him.

In May Richard Finney, 34, flunked his driver's license exam in Topeka, Kansas. The next day he returned to the exam office accompanied by his mother, Governor Joan Finney. According to a licensing employee, the governor "was mad . . . real mad." After she scolded the examiners Richard Finney was escorted to the front of the line and again given the exam, this time by the supervisor of the office. He passed.

In Rice, Minnesota, Virgil Nelson and Mitch Fiedler, who tied 90-90 in the November election for a city council seat, settled the race by drawing cards. On the first try, both drew eights, and on the second, both drew aces. Then Nelson drew a seven and Fiedler drew an eight for the victory.

In August in Mascotte, Florida, Mayor Josh Thomas was arrested and charged with stealing nearly $7,000 worth of dirt, over a period of several days, from a construction site.

Marion Barry, reelected as mayor of Washington, D.C., after serving six months in prison on a 1991 cocaine possession charge, was assisted by the 75-member Coalition of Ex-Offenders, who went door-to-door campaigning for him. According to organizer "Roach" Brown, the coalition members were especially helpful because they went into the toughest neighborhoods to register D.C.'s substantial criminal population, most of whom were unaware that a 1976 law gave ex-cons the right to vote without petitioning.

Cliches Come to Life

In April in Grand Junction, Colorado, Ed Tucker bought his son a toy airplane made in Taiwan. When he unpacked it, he found a note in English written by a man who said he was being held prisoner and subjected to human rights abuses and begging someone to help him.

Two inmates escaped from Pittsburgh's Allegheny County Jail in December by tying bed sheets together and making a 200-foot rope, which they hung out a window and climbed down.

In June Damian Michael Toya, 22, pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter in Albuquerque for shooting his father to death. Toya claimed his father had long ridiculed him for being gay and unmanly. According to Toya, his father's last words, when Toya pointed the gun at him, were, "You don't have the guts to do it."

Federal law permits plaintiffs' lawyers who win civil rights cases to have their fees and expenses paid by the losing party. Among the expenses that Rodney King's lawyers submitted to the city of Los Angeles for compensation were these: accompanying King to see the film Malcolm X ($1,300), reading a newspaper article about the trial (20 minutes at $81.25), and attending King's 1991 birthday party ($650). The total requested was $4.4 million, more than King himself won in the lawsuit ($3.8 million).

A month after Susan Smith said a carjacker made off with her two boys in Union, South Carolina, a man in Lubbock, Texas, jumped into Donna Robles's Dodge and sped off, probably unaware that her three-year-old son Ethan was strapped in the back seat. The car was found crashed two blocks away, driverless and with Ethan unhurt. Police speculate that Ethan's crying startled the thief and he lost control of the car.

Miscellaneous Eloquence

Annette Green, president of an association of perfume and cologne manufacturers, on why some products named after celebrities sell well but others don't: "As it turns out, people didn't necessarily want to smell like Cher."

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/Shawn Belschwender.

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