News of the Weird by the Editors at Andrews McMeel Syndication

Week of June 15, 1997

-- The Federal Emergency Management Agency reported in May that only 946 households out of more than 10,000 in Grand Forks, N.D., were covered by flood insurance when the recent floods hit. Four months earlier, FEMA had begun issuing numerous advisories about imminent flood danger and spent $300,000 on a media campaign about ominous snow-melting conditions. However, the FEMA campaign convinced only 73 Grand Forks homeowners to buy policies.

-- The first copies of the European Union's 24-page user's manual for boots recently hit the market in England, reported The Daily Telegraph in May. The booklet comes with the shoes and advises the consumer how to choose footwear, how to use and care for the boots, and how to wear them safely. It also explains how to read the EU-mandated boot comfort ratings, though it also advises, "Each boot should be tried for fitting before use."

-- Dueling Misjudgments: In April, expecting a $3 million gift destined for Children's Zoo in Central Park from philanthropists Edith and Henry Everett, the New York City Art Commission nonetheless approved only a small donor-name plaque on one entrance marker to the zoo, rather than the slightly larger plaque requested by the Everetts. Consequently, the Everetts snatched back their gift, jeopardizing the zoo's long-overdue renovation.

COMPELLING EXPLANATIONS

-- One of the members of the Mug House Players pub darts team in Worcester, England, commenting in February on his team's 50-match losing streak: "I think we all drink too much (during the matches). One regular feature (of our games) is to miss the board completely."

-- Fernando Magana-Rodriguez, 24, pleading not guilty to bigamy in Kelowna, British Columbia, in January: "I'm Mexican. I never knew you could go to jail for marrying two women, or I never would have done it."

-- John H. Bergantini, a candidate for tax assessor in Exeter, R.I., commenting in March on his being sued by the town for $2,678 in back property taxes: "My ability to write a check for a certain amount of money has nothing to do with (my ability to judge) how much a piece of property is worth."

-- Rochester, N.Y., Assemblywoman Susan John, who is the chair of the Assembly's Alcohol and Drug Abuse committee, upon her guilty plea in March for driving while impaired: "This will give me additional insights into the problem of drinking and driving, and I believe, will allow me to do my job even more effectively."

-- Owatonna, Minn., elementary school principal Kevin A. Thompson, 37, was charged in January with peeping into the window of a home and was apprehended hiding under the deck of another house. According to police, Thompson said he was merely checking street addresses in connection with the redrawing of school bus pickup boundaries.

-- Public television's "Frugal Gourmet," Jeff Smith, has denied that he sexually molested any of the five men who have since January filed complaints against him for having fondled them as boys. One of the men, Keith Thomas, who had worked for Smith in the 1970s as part of a high school work-study program, said that at the time he had shrugged off Smith's hugs and kisses as "weird, but (I thought) maybe that's the way it is with people in the food business."

LEAST COMPETENT PEOPLE

-- According to the Berlingske Tidende newspaper of Copenhagen, Denmark, in January, an unidentified man drove his car onto the ice at the Augustenborg Fjord 120 miles to the south, but it broke through. The man managed to escape in the shallow water, though, and then minutes later attempted the crossing with a four-wheel drive vehicle, with the same result. He next tried it with a tractor (same result), then with another tractor (same). It took rescuers seven hours to pull the four vehicles out.

-- Daniel Sutherland of Indiana, Pa., accidentally shot himself in the mouth in February while he was blowing down the barrel of a gun to see whether it was loaded. Said Sutherland, haltingly, to a reporter, "You know that hanging-down thing in the back of your mouth (the uvula)? I lost mine."

-- According to a police report in the Providence (R.I.) Journal-Bulletin in February, a man wearing a flowered dress, swearing and making obscene gestures, was subdued by police officers but only after he had softened himself up by accidentally running smack into a car and then a brick wall. At the police station, he tried to escape but wound up colliding with the wall in a stairwell.

-- In Bozeman, Mont., in March, according to Gary Gerhardt, the owner of County Lanes bowling alley, a man walked in, told the cashier he had just gotten out of prison for having robbed County Lanes several years before, and said he would like to look around on top of the ceiling to see if he could find the wallet he had dropped during that job. When Gerhardt ordered him to leave, the man just shrugged and walked away.

-- Brothers Patrick and Daniel Worthing were charged in December with attempted corporate espionage. Patrick was a supervisor for a cleaning contractor working for PPG Industries in a suburb of Pittsburgh, and in a letter full of misspellings and grammatical errors allegedly offered to sell many PPG corporate secrets to competitor Owens Corning. According to the prosecutor, Patrick had sent PPG's financial statements (actually "finacial" statements, providing "intimant details" that would be "of intrest"), asked only $1,000 for all the information Owens Corning could use, and had given PPG's fax number for any return calls. At his first court appearance, Patrick asked the magistrate, "If we, like, fully cooperate with all the details, is there, like, a lesser sentence?"

EXTREMELY FORGETFUL PEOPLE

Cleveland county clerk Gordana Giovinale was suspended for three days in April as punishment for leaving $65,000 in taxes and fee receipts in a bag in the restroom stall he was using. After finishing his business, he apparently just forgot that he had been headed to another office to drop off the money. And Mike Shreckengost appeared in court in Somerset, Pa., in April to reclaim the $20,000 that he had tossed onto the side of a road in February 1996 as a trooper approached his stopped car. He drove off without the money and made no inquiries about what happened to it until he heard in August 1996 that the trooper was claiming the money under a "finders-keepers" law.

CAPITAL OF BAD RELATIONSHIPS

Carrollton, Ga.: In March, a sheriff's investigator learned that Jodi Denman Cecconi had elaborately faked the leukemia death of her 2-year-old daughter (hospital vigils, funeral arrangements, grave-site selection, obituary in the newspaper, etc.) to win back her estranged boyfriend, Neal Casey, who bought onto the story for a while before learning that the child was in good health. And the next month, Carrollton country-music radio station manager Amy Bullington, 23, who was charged with shooting her boyfriend to death, surrendered to police only after having aired her favorite song, "Has Anybody Seen Amy?"

(Send your Weird News to Chuck Shepherd, P.O. Box 8306, St. Petersburg, Fla. 33738, or Weird@compuserve.com. Chuck Shepherd's latest paperback, "The Concrete Enema and Other News of the Weird Classics," is now available at bookstores everywhere. To order it direct, call 1-800-642-6480 and mention this newspaper. The price is $6.95 plus $2 shipping.)

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