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News of the Weird

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Sweden's Social Democrat party and England's Vegetarian Society both released controversial erotic commercials in August. The party's was shot by its youth wing and featured a young couple in bed discussing how cool their "first time" was, meaning their first time voting. In the latter, suggestive images of chilies, asparagus, and melons were used to try to overcome the widespread opinion that a vegetarian diet is boring.

At this year's Edinburgh Festival Fringe, the acts included John Kamakaze, who hangs for 15 minutes by ten meat hooks in his back; Pityu, a 30-inch-tall Hungarian motorcyclist who stands on his head while eating worms and drinking blood; and Amazing Wasp Boy, who swallows tiny strips of neon lights that illuminate his body.

In July Jonathan Balester sued Hottle's Restaurant in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, where he used to dine four times a week until he was banned because of messes he had made in the men's room. Balester claims protection under the Americans With Disabilities Act because he has achalasia, a muscle disorder that prevents food from getting from the esophagus to the stomach. To relax his esophagus, Balester would drink cocktails before dinner but occasionally still had to regurgitate his food. Sometimes, he admitted, he did not make it to the toilet in time.

His Last Car Was a '52 Studebaker

Charles Askew, 63, who spent most of his life in prison, escaped from a jail in Sparta, North Carolina, in August, but was killed several hours later when he lost control of a stolen car and crashed. A U.S. marshal said that Askew probably hadn't driven a car in 45 years and was unfamiliar with its workings, including the seat belt.

Lift Those Voices in Song

Buddhist monk Kong Bunchhoeun, 22, was expelled from his temple in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, in August after he was charged with stabbing a student at a karaoke bar who had complained about his singing. The student fared better than Ely Dignadice, 29, who sang a popular love song so badly at a Manila karaoke bar in July that a group of men stabbed him to death after the show. And in Cologne, Germany, Charles Shaw, one of the two real voices of dubbed pop duo Milli Vanilli, protested his arrest as part of an embezzlement investigation in August by loudly singing virtually nonstop for days in his jail cell.

Tenants' Rage in Minneapolis

In June incidents only two days apart in Minneapolis, a 41-year-old apartment-house resident known as "Caveman," angry about the landlord's attempt to evict him, shoved a painter at a second-floor window off of his ladder, sending him to the hospital with neck and arm injuries. In another part of town, Souk Sourihamath, 36, was jailed for making threats against his landlady after police found seven booby-trap explosives in his apartment. Another tenant said Sourihamath had told him he had recently had a party with extraterrestrials in his room.

Passive-Aggressive Cheats

In August the Scottish tribunal that regulates lawyers disciplined Kenneth Anderson because he was so "anxious to please his clients" that he routinely told them he had won their cases when he had not, and in several instances dipped into his own wallet to pay divorcees alimony he said they had won. Also in August former organ salesman Jeffrey Snyder, who had pleaded guilty to defrauding customers of the Fletcher Music Company in Clearwater, Florida, was revealed to have been making $63,000 in monthly payments out of his own pocket for some of his victims. Said Snyder, "I was just looking for a way to keep the sales going and keep everybody...happy."

The Litigious Society

In July Frank Sytner and his wife lost their lawsuit to stop a neighbor's cows from making noise early in the morning at their new country home near Ridlington, England. Sytner also complained about mud on the road. And the month before, authorities in West Yorkshire dismissed a complaint by a retired policeman that farmer Brian Hibbert, 56, should be fined for "allowing" his cows to deposit patties on the road that runs between their properties. The ex-policeman had slipped and fallen on a patty, hurting himself.

A pretrial hearing was held in June in Lincoln, Nebraska, in a lawsuit filed by Doug and Sharon Detmer against Dawn Bixler, seeking $11,000 in medical expenses plus damages for pain and suffering. The Detmers' 16-year-old daughter got pregnant while dating Bixler's 16-year-old son, and the Detmers say that Bixler should have known the couple was having sex and put a stop to it.

In August a court in British Columbia ruled against Maria Tomczyk, who sued the government after she broke her wrist by tripping over a rock in a park near Victoria in 1995. The court found that Tomczyk had seen the large rock earlier in the day, had tried to move it, couldn't, and had then later tripped over it in the dark while carrying a flashlight that wasn't turned on.

USA Today reported that a North Carolina appeals court dismissed Susan McNeally's lawsuit against the Campbell's Soup Company in January. McNeally claimed she became sick after eating a can of condensed chicken noodle soup because she didn't know she had to add water.

Least Competent Criminal

In July Jose Ramirez, 24, who had just been arrested, escaped from custody in Bridgeport, Connecticut, after he convinced police to take him to a hospital because of chest pains. About two hours later Ramirez's father showed up at the police station to ask for his son's personal effects. Officers declined to return them and then tailed the father after he left. Father and son rendezvoused a few blocks from the station, and Jose was apprehended.

Recurring Themes

The bride wore Kevlar: News of the Weird has occasionally reported on accidental fatalities arising from celebratory gunfire at weddings in Egypt and Pakistan. In one week in July in southern Egypt, Gamal Abdel-Gawad, the brother of the groom, was taken into custody after an errant shot killed a 22-year-old man singing at the wedding, and at another ceremony, a guest accidentally shot and killed the bride and groom and wounded the bride's mother.

Tough Week in Texas for People With Animal Nicknames

Obituaries from the Tyler Morning Telegraph: August 2, Mr. Charles E. "Catfish" Loving, 69. August 4, Mr. W.S. "Bull" Barber, 79. August 6, Mrs. Ada L. "Turtle" Jowell, 83.

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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