News of the Weird

Week of August 11, 1996

-- Abdala ("El Loco") Bucaram was elected president of Ecuador in July, six years after he briefly fled to Panama to avoid corruption charges. In the campaign, Bucaram sang in his own ads and reminded voters of his tenure as a moralistic police commissioner of the city of Guayaquil in the 1980s, during which he sometimes jumped off his motor scooter to rip the skirt hems loose on women who were showing too much leg. He downplays his Hitler-like moustache, blaming it on his incompetence at shaving.

-- In June, radio station WWAX-FM in the Duluth, Minn., suburb of Hermantown began an all-commercials format. Said general manager J. Thomas Lijewski, commercials are an "art form that deserves to be respected." The station will air vintage ads, odd local and national ads, and bloopers, in addition to revenue-producing commercials.

-- In July in Dadeville, Ala., Mr. Gabel Taylor, 38, who had just prevailed in an informal Bible-quoting contest, was shot to death by the loser. �

THE ENTREPRENEURIAL SPIRIT

-- In an April Associated Press story, Levent Yueksel's and wife Sherri Kane's 32-seat Dardanelles restaurant in Philadelphia was profiled, not for its food but for its attitude: According to a sign in the window, the restaurant refuses to serve "negative people" (who are also referred to in the sign as "assholes"). Say Yueksel and Kane, that includes people who smoke, who are rude, who demand their food in a hurry, or who want the music turned down. The owners say they insist on respect "for the people who feed you."

-- The magazine Tokyo Weekender, reporting in late 1995 on the specialty-bra rage in Japan, cited The Triumph Co.'s "Body-Warmth Bra Two-Cup Ozeki." As padding, the bra contains a waterproof pocket sealed with a cork stopper and which comes with about 40 cc's of sake, which will warm to body temperature in about an hour.

-- Malaysian Gurcharan Singh announced in April that he was marketing a breakthrough, $40 "disposable circumcision device" approved by Muslim religious authorities. It is described as resembling a corkscrew and is called the Tara Klamp.

-- Recently, Budapest, Hungary, novelty shopkeeper Ferenc Kovacs, 45, introduced condoms that, when unrolled, play one of two tunes ("Arise, Ye Worker" or "You Sweet Little Dumbbell").� And Marc Snyder of Oakland, Calif., has marketed a $3.95 talking condom using similar technology but with message options ("You turn me on" or "I love you" or "Thank you for your business"). And a food company executive in Poland, Dariusz Napierala, announced in May that he will soon offer a "tourist survival kit" of canned meat, plastic utensils, tea and a condom.

-- Frank Fradella of Boynton Beach, Fla., charges $50 for custom-made, two-page love letters and poetry ("My words ... on your lips"). In February, a Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel reporter found several male customers who praised Fradella's work even though their women had left them.

INEXPLICABLE

-- In June, federal inmate Arthur Morrison, who had served 46 months of his 51-month sentence for threatening former girlfriends, finally got his wish to withdraw his guilty plea to those charges, to go to trial, and to be his own lawyer. New York City prosecutors said their evidence (including audiotapes) is still overwhelming and that they would seek a sentence of at least 15 years. Morrison acknowledged that his chances of prevailing at trial were slim.

-- Earlier this year, Michael J. Lewis Sr., serving time in Missouri for a gas station robbery, called the county attorney's office just out of curiosity, to find out why he had never been prosecuted for a 1993 bank robbery with which he had been charged. The prosecutor discovered that the file had been misplaced and that only a few months remained to bring Lewis to trial before the statute of limitations would run out. In June, Lewis, already serving 10 years, plea-bargained to another 10.

-- Last year, at a reception for the African/African-American Summit Inc. conference in Senegal (a conference attended by Jesse Jackson and the late Ron Brown), the Club Med Senegal resort staged a skit in which two white staff members appeared in blackface, with white lips, garish clothes and white gloves to perform a musical number, and a riot nearly ensued. (In May 1996, offended organizations and individuals filed a $5 million lawsuit against Club Med in New York City.)

-- In March in North Adams, Mass., on a public-access cable TV program about papier-mache masks, Ms. Royce Patton, 28, abruptly changed the subject and accused a former neighbor of allowing two of her kids to have sex. Patton named the family, ran a video of all of the woman's seven children, and used obscenities in describing them. The former neighbor said the dispute with Patton was really over loans of money and a bottle of suntan lotion.

-- In April, a 17-year-old boy drowned in the indoor pool at the Henry VIII Hotel in a suburb of St. Louis, Mo. The boy had jumped in with several others, but no one noticed that he had gone under because the pool's water was so murky that visibility was only three to four feet.

WELL-PUT

A senior aide to Liberian factional leader Charles Taylor, explaining to The New York Times in April why this year's civil war is more civil than earlier ones: "In the past, fighters would rip out people's intestines and use them to string up roadblocks. This time there has been none of that."

UPDATE

When News of the Weird first mentioned Corky Ra's Summum Inc. in 1988, the Salt Lake City company had just begun the business of mummifying dead pets and had only the dream of someday mummifying dead people, which Ra figured he could do for $7,000 ($18,000 for a mummified bronzed statue). According to a June 1996 story in the San Jose Mercury News, Ra has so far serviced three dozen dogs, cats and birds, and has a customer list of 137 humans (the oldest of which is 54) who want someday to be mummified. His chief associate supposedly has practiced on more than 2,000 roadkill animals and on 30 cadavers purchased from a medical school. The price for humans now starts at $30,000, and bronzing could run into six figures.

(Send your Weird News to Chuck Shepherd, P.O. Box 8306, St. Petersburg, Fla. 33738, or 74777.3206@compuserve.com.)

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