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News of the Weird

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The notorious Japanese TV game show Super Jockey (which features stunts like contestants eating repulsively flavored ice cream) recently began giving away commercial time by inviting potential sponsors to bring in bikini-clad women to be dunked in scalding water. The companies would then be rewarded with commercial time equal to the number of seconds the women were able to endure the pain.

An unnamed man checked in to a Howard Johnson's motel in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, for two days in July and left behind 12 jars' worth of Vaseline smeared on the carpet, furniture, curtains, walls, bedspreads, sheets, and towels, resulting in a $1,300 cleanup job. No motive was apparent, and police have been unable to find the man.

In August Ukrainian prime minister Valery Pustovoitenko began a crackdown on tax delinquents to collect the $3.5 billion owed to the government. The campaign calls for the top 1,500 tax scofflaws, mostly business executives, to be brought to a military base near Kiev to live in tents and listen to lectures on civil defense preparedness for natural disasters until they decide to pay up.

Freddy Krueger, DDS

In July the Tennessee Supreme Court reinstated patient Frances Blanchard's lawsuit against Memphis dentist Arlene Kellum for allegedly committing battery by attempting to pull out all 32 of Blanchard's teeth in one sitting. Blanchard, who has a gum disease, said she thought it would be done over several visits. Kellum was half done when Blanchard fainted and had to be hospitalized for six days. And in June a jury in Oklahoma City awarded $1.3 million to Mark Macsenti for brain damage he suffered when dentist Jon D. Becker fell asleep during an appointment and left Macsenti under anesthesia for about ten hours.

Addressing the Babe Shortage

In July Canada's human resources development office announced it was creating a special legal category for strippers entering the country, addressing what a leading immigration lawyer called "a shortage of exotic dancers." And according to a Times of London report in April, a glut of British fashion models used up most of the available work permits in California this summer, to the chagrin of Apple, Texas Instruments, and other technical firms, since the law puts models in the same category as workers with college degrees.

The Career-Ending Bounced Check

Georgia state senator Ralph David Abernathy III, son of the late civil rights leader, announced his retirement from politics in July after his $400 reelection filing fee check bounced. During his legislative career he was accused of following a woman into a state capitol ladies' room and was once caught with marijuana in his underwear at the Atlanta airport. He said he plans to enter the seminary.

More Recent Rages

Chewing gum rage: In July a five-foot, 380-pound man who accidentally sat on some gum in a movie theater in Bellevue, Nebraska, took off his sticky pants, walked around yelling and seething, and punched out a glass case. Spelling rage: Dennis Coleman, a member of the Bronx school board, disrupted a July meeting by haranguing the staff and refusing to be quieted when he discovered that the word "rescind" was misspelled on a resolution to be voted on. Barber rage: In Providence, Rhode Island, in July barber Sam Johnson, 53, upset that a 21-month-old customer wouldn't be still, allegedly whacked the kid in the head with his electric clipper and then sprayed alcohol on the cut to make it sting.

Courtroom Follies

Convicted killer Robert Hunt lost his appeal to the Nebraska Supreme Court in June. In his closing argument at the original trial, Hunt's lawyer, trying to gain the jury's sympathy for Hunt, had called him a "creepy, slimy sexual degenerate." Hunt complained that the strategy obviously backfired because he got a life sentence. The supreme court said Hunt would probably have been convicted anyway.

In July Diane Parker accompanied her husband, Richard W. Parker (who had been accused of drug trafficking), to federal court in Los Angeles. According to friends, Diane had come prepared to put up her investment property and her mother's town house to make Richard's bail. However, when the prosecutor began talking about details of Richard's double life, including a mistress and a safe house, Diane's expression changed dramatically. She removed her wedding ring with a flourish, walked out of court, drove to the Orange County office where the mistress worked, and punched her several times before being restrained.

In March students from a middle school in Torrance, California, visiting a superior court to learn about the legal system, were ushered into a trial in session despite a warning to their teacher that the subject matter was "sensitive." In the courtroom, where a child-molestation case was being argued, the prosecutor had propped up two ten-inch dildos on the railing of the witness stand to illustrate her line of questioning for the jury.

In Long Beach, California, Judge Joan Comparet-Cassani, tired of petty-theft defendant Ronnie Hawkins's back talk, ordered a bailiff to send an eight-second blast of 50,000 volts through the remote-controlled "stun belt" Hawkins was wearing. Five days later in Oakland, California, Brian Tracey Hill suffered the same fate during jury selection on an assault charge; a sheriff's deputy had leaned over in his chair and accidentally nudged the stun belt's trigger.

Juror Gillian Guess, 43, was convicted in June of obstruction of justice when a court in Vancouver, British Columbia, found that she was having an affair with the defendant, Peter Gill, who was eventually acquitted of murder largely because of Guess's advocacy. Witnesses said Guess appeared to be attracted to Gill early in the 1995 trial and frequently sat facing him instead of the witness box, sometimes with her legs uncrossed.

Least Competent Person

Michael H. Egli was found in contempt of court in Daytona Beach, Florida, in August. He had tried to get out of jury duty by sending the court clerk two messages announcing that he hated "[epithet for blacks], cops and judges." Egli has a kidney condition that requires him to undergo dialysis and would automatically have been excluded from jury duty anyway.

Recurring Themes

News of the Weird has occasionally reported on the fluctuating value of the late Italian artist Piero Manzoni's feces, which he canned in 1961 in 90 tins of 30 grams each. The Baltimore Sun reported in 1993 that one tin sold for $75,000. The latest sale, in July at Sotheby's in London, was for about $28,800. However, even with the drop in price, Forbes magazine calculated that Manzoni's feces is still worth about $1,000 per gram, over 100 times the price of gold ($9.50 per gram).

Thinning the Herd

A 17-year-old boy was killed in Navarino, Wisconsin, in July when shrapnel from a mailbox he blew up with a firecracker severed his carotid artery. And in July a 28-year-old man drowned in a pool in Mount Clemens, Michigan, while playing a game with his friends to see who could hold his breath underwater the longest.

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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