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News of the Weird

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Lead Stories

The Reebok shoe company finally realized in February that its new line of Incubus athletic shoes for women, which had had a lengthy development period and spent a year on the market, was named for a mythological demon who raped slumbering females. And Walgreens drugstores distributed coupon books nationwide in February to honor Black History Month; among the product specials was skin-bleaching cream.

Former Gotti crime-family hit man Sammy "the Bull" Gravano cooperated with his biographer Peter Maas on Underboss, which will be published in April. Despite the fact that Gravano's testimony helped send 37 people to the slammer--including John Gotti, who received a life sentence without the possibility of parole--and that he admits making 19 hits for the Gotti family, Gravano reportedly quit the witness protection program, saying he'd take his chances on the street. Though he's had plastic surgery, he also agreed to show off his new face in the book--perhaps, said Maas, because the recently divorced Gravano would like to hear from interested ladies.

Unclear on the concept: In March schools in Multnomah County, Oregon, were to begin testing the idea of paying parents of chronic truants to help their kids get to school ($3 if the kid stays the whole day, $1 for a half day). And in February the University of Maryland's student honor council, crusading against academic dishonesty, offered local-merchant discount cards to students who pledged in writing not to cheat. (Said a critic, "By the time you get to bribing, you're already pretty far gone.")

Family Values

In Woodbridge, Virginia, in January, a 35-year-old woman was charged with sexually abusing her nine-year-old son. Police said she'd also arranged at least one sex session between herself, the son, her 15-year-old daughter, and her 34-year-old boyfriend. The daughter has had a baby as a result of the liaison. According to the boyfriend, the woman was motivated by a desire to spare her kids from having to learn about sex on the street.

Raymond Taylor was sentenced to 40 years in prison in El Paso, Texas, in March after being convicted of attempting to murder his ex-wife. According to trial testimony, Taylor had ordered his two kids, ages 10 and 12, to set his ex-wife's house on fire and had taught them how to disable smoke detectors.

Parenting license revocations: According to police in Cairo, Egypt, Ibrahim Mohei Eddin, 40, pushed his seven-year-old son under a moving train and left him for dead at the behest of his 23-year-old second wife. (The boy survived but lost both legs.) And in January in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, David W. Crist, 38, was convicted of pushing his deaf nine-year-old daughter into an oncoming truck. Prosecutors said he'd wanted to collect on an insurance policy. (He is also charged with trying to electrocute another daughter in 1990 and with hiring a hit man to kill his brother in 1982, also allegedly for insurance money. Both kids survived; the brother didn't.)

Ironies

In October Richard E. Clear Jr., 32, was arrested in Tampa, Florida, for shooting his gun toward a neighbor who had complained about Clear's barking dog. Clear runs a martial arts studio and advertises his experience in "stress management."

Also in October the Des Moines Register reported that Daniel Long, 35, had been fired from his job as a greeter at a local Wal-Mart. According to records at the state unemployment appeals agency, Long had called one customer a "snob," told another she had to be "smarter than the cart" to get two carts unstuck, and called another a "fat elephant."

In November in Manhattan, Kansas, retired police department custodian Jay Pfaff, 73, was fired from his job as a school crossing guard. A police spokesman said "a number of parents" had complained that Pfaff was too nice to their children.

People in the Wrong Place at the Wrong Time

In October sewage truck driver Ricky Walter, 19, crashed into a vehicle in Waukesha, Wisconsin, pinning Walter inside his truck and dumping the load directly into its cab. Walter marinated for one half hour before rescue workers could free him.

In Lincoln, Nebraska, in February, two men attempted to shoplift shoes from an Athlete's Foot store but were chased and caught by two employees. One of the employees, Dave Olson, is captain of the University of Nebraska men's track team, and the other, Robb Finegan, is an Olympic-class marathoner. And two weeks earlier near Warsaw, Poland, highway robbers stopped a car in which the coaches of the Belarussian and Russian biathlon (skiing and shooting) teams were riding. Following right behind the car was the teams' bus, and as the athletes grabbed their rifles, the robbers scurried away.

On September 29 in rural northeast Vermont, the car in which Michael O'Keefe, 44, was riding hit a 700-pound moose. After O'Keefe was treated at a hospital for cuts, he returned to the road and hit another moose.

Thinning the Herd

Sylvester Briddell Jr., 26, was killed in February in Selbyville, Delaware, winning a bet with friends who said he wouldn't fire a revolver loaded with four bullets into his mouth. And in February, according to police in Windsor, Ontario, Daniel Kolta, 27, and Randy Taylor, 33, both died in a head-on snowmobile collision, ending their game of chicken in a tie.

Update

In 1995, News of the Weird reported that the European Court of Human Rights had agreed to examine whether Britain's assault convictions against three men who'd engaged in consensual S-M orgies (in which severe pain was inflicted on the genitals of grateful recipients) were oppressive. In February 1997 the court decided not to intervene, saying Britain had a right to protect its citizens from themselves, analogous to its right to require motorcyclists to wear helmets.

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 Belshwender.

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