News of the Weird

Week of June 7, 1998

-- While Joe Camel-type ads lose favor in cigarette promotions in the U.S., ads in other countries are stepping up their use of sensitive sales images, according to an April San Francisco Examiner report. A Marlboro ad in Cambodia features girls around 8 years of age; in Poland, the backdrop of a Camel ad is a school; and in the Philippines, the tobacco industry association used (along with packs of Winston and Camel) the Virgin Mary on its 1998 promotional calendar.

-- Clive Winter, 45, third-highest-ranking official at the Lothian, Scotland, provincial health board, was convicted in February of several assaults as part of a secret gang he had formed in order to violently attack people at random. Winter, said his boss, was "extremely intelligent, quiet and a placid man in the office," but according to testimony at his trial, he roamed streets at night purely, said a police detective, "to gratify his own lust for violence."

-- An April Associated Press story from Decatur, Ala., reported on the severely reclusive mother and daughter, Evelyn and Marilyn Arnold, who died of natural causes within a week of each other in December. According to neighbors and relatives, Evelyn, 85, controlled every aspect of Marilyn's life, which may have deprived the daughter of the ability to survive after Evelyn's death. Among the pair's idiosyncrasies: Marilyn's abject fear of the telephone; Evelyn's need to record in a notebook every wrong-number telephone call she ever got; their disregarding the bathtub because they feared the previous owner's germs; and their use of a bucket instead of the toilet, even though the plumbing worked fine.

Maybe Saddam Hussein Will Fall for Roseanne

The London Daily Telegraph reported in January that Syrian Gen. Mustafa Tlass told his men not to attack Italian peacekeeping soldiers during the 1983 chaos in Beirut only because he had a lifelong obsession with the Italian actress Gina Lollabrigida. Gen. Tlass said his men could "do whatever you want with the U.S., British and other forces, but ... I do not want a single tear falling from the eyes of Gina Lollabrigida."

Puzzling Joyrides

Shirley Jean Shay, 41, was arrested near Salt Lake City in April after commandeering a 25-ton fire truck and leading police on a 50-mile chase at speeds up to 70 mph, including the last 20 miles after all six tires had been punctured by road spikes. No motive was given. And a man led police on a brief vehicle chase on Interstate 215 in Perris, Calif., in March before being subdued. The chase had ended several blocks earlier when the man's car ran out of gas, but then he got out and pushed it in a futile attempt to stay ahead of the police.

Never Give Up

In March, after four hours of questioning and waiting, police in Springfield, Ill., gave up and got a search warrant for the mouth of Mr. Eunice Husband, 27. Husband had stuffed three marble-sized bags of crack cocaine in his mouth and refused to open up, though he continued to talk to officers through his clenched teeth. After getting the warrant, police took Husband to a hospital, where he was sedated and the bags removed.

Maybe India and Pakistan Could Have Done This, Instead

In April, Malaysian skydivers guided the national car, a Proton Wira, on a parachute to a landing at the North Pole, where the engine started right away. Prime Minister Mahathir Mahamad said the drop "bolsters our spirits," but critics said it was a stunt by the government to get people's minds off the dismal economy.

Recent Protests

-- As the U.S.-Iraqi conflict heated up in February, two members of the Sons of Freedom Doukhobors attempted to revive the pacifist sect's tradition of protest in Burnaby, British Columbia. They went on a 25-day hunger strike in jail, where they are serving two-year sentences for setting fires to their own homes, which they said Doukhobors frequently do to demonstrate sacrifice against long-standing evils, including taxation and public education. The other hallmark of Doukhobor protests is frequent public nudity, which it says shows a rejection of wealth and status.

-- Charles Collins III was indicted in Albany, N.Y., in April for his January protest at the state Court of Appeals building over a child custody case. Shortly before dawn, according to the indictment, he hooked a spray gun to a 55-gallon drum of chicken manure and covered the front of the building. And in April in nearby Guilderland, N.Y., a critic of newly elected Town Supervisor Jerry Yerbury broke into his office and left a stack of color photographs of excrement.

-- In April, Jose Albeiro Forero and two other municipal employees in the town of Cartago, Colombia, nailed themselves to wooden crosses with 5-inch nails to fortify their demands for a salary increase and other benefits.

-- Last year, the six-member city council of Glendale, Colo., passed tough restrictions on strip clubs that so angered many citizens that they joined strip-club owner Debbie Matthews in forming the Glendale Tea Party, whose candidates in the April 1998 council election won all three contested seats, giving the party a chance now to repeal or weaken the ordinance. Said Matthews, "I don't think (the old council) realized (how many) people like the club."

-- According to a Chronicle of Higher Education roundup in May, students in at least six colleges in recent months have engaged in violent protests "not seen since the Vietnam war," involving attacks on local police over their "right" to drink in violation of local laws, including drinking even though underage. In all, more than 3,000 students participated at Michigan State, Washington State, University of Connecticut, University of Tennessee at Martin, Ohio University and Plymouth State (N.H.).

Least Competent Criminals

In April, indictments were returned against New York City inmates Hector Muniz, Carlos Martinez and Troy Jennings for their alleged get-rich scheme at Rikers Island prison. Authorities said Muniz, who had a day job on the outside, smuggled a gun inside so that, at Jennings' direction, Martinez could shoot Jennings in the leg, which he did. The plan was that Jennings would sue the city for "millions" for negligence in allowing the gun inside and insist on the release of all three men as a condition of settlement.

Recurring Themes

The latest British company to hire a poet-in-residence is the London Zoo. According to director-general Richard Burge, the poet's jobs will include writing guides in rhyme for visitors and "helping to interpret the lives of the animals." News of the Weird reported earlier this year that the large department store Marks & Spencer had hired a poet two days a week, and since then, the British Broadcasting Corp. and a professional soccer team have hired poets (although the soccer team is still in last place in the Premier League).

No Longer Weird

Adding to the list of stories that were formerly weird but which now occur with such frequency that they must be retired from circulation: (23) An older female schoolteacher's creating a sexual relationship with a much-younger male student, for which Mary Kay LeTourneau of Seattle received massive press coverage last year and for which Julie A. Feil, 31, of Hastings, Minn., received very little in February 1998 when she was arrested for seducing a 16-year-old boy (after allegedly failing with a 13-year-old). And (24) the firefighter who sets fires to create work for himself, as allegedly was the case with at least two members of the Centreville, Ill., fire department in April and with prominent firefighter-arson expert John Orr, who at press time is on trial in Los Angeles in a death caused by one of the estimated 30 fires he has set since 1984.

(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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