News of the Weird

Week of August 23, 1998

-- Six women filed a lawsuit in Birmingham in July against Alabama's new ban on the sale of sex toys ("any device designed or marketed as useful primarily for the stimulation of human genital organs"). According to four of the women, the law is a special violation of their privacy, in that they are described in the lawsuit (according to an Associated Press report) as "needing" sexual aids to achieve orgasm.

-- In Bridgeport, Conn., in July, a 37-year-old man was put on probation and ordered to counseling for breaking into a Fairfield, Conn., home on April 17. According to police, the man's motive was that he knew white people lived there because the house was painted white and that he wanted to kill some white people because he was tired of what he called "honkies" not respecting him. The man is white, too, but according to police, he believes he is black.

-- Least Competent Magician: According to an Australian Broadcasting Commission report in June, Luke Dow was recuperating in a hospital in Mount Isa, Australia, and was considering a lawsuit against an unnamed magician as a result of a recent performance. Dow said he had volunteered from the audience to assist in two stunts. First, the magician was to snatch a piece of paper out of Dow's hand with a whip, but he missed, snapping Dow hard in the head. Dow nonetheless decided to do the second stunt, in which he would hold a balloon in his hand while the magician shot at it with his back turned, looking at a mirror. The first shot hit Dow in the hand.

Doesn't Anyone Drive Sober Anymore?

In Colonial Beach, Va., in May, Michael L. Long, 46, was charged with DUI as he pulled up in a limo at Colonial Beach High School to pick up his passengers: students who had procured his services for the evening as a graduation night designated driver. Two weeks later, in Minneapolis, Curtiss Clarin, 56, was charged with DUI and failure to take a breathalyzer test; for the last 15 years, Clarin has been employed by the Minneapolis Police Department to testify in jury trials about how Breathalyzers work.

News From the Disrespect Community

In May, Professor John H. Lammers was fired by the University of Central Arkansas for making a snorting noise as he passed school administrators with whom he had been feuding. And in April, Li Sanhua was sentenced to 20 years in prison in China's Hubei province for shooting a hole in the flag of China on a sports field. And in February, Jermaine Brown and his cousin Jonas Brown, both 21, were sentenced in Durham, N.C., to six months in jail for riddling a man's car with bullets because, said the prosecutor, he "looked at them funny."

No Stress Picking Up the Paycheck

In March 1997, Algie Toomer won a $100,000 settlement against the state of North Carolina for harassment during a power struggle in his office at the Department of Motor Vehicles. A legislative committee investigating the power struggle called him once as a witness, and in June 1998 Toomer announced that the hearing was so stressful that he had been advised by doctors to take the next year off. And two employees of the Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs have not been to work since April because, they maintain, harassment by their supervisors would cause them to lapse into clinical depression.

Mixed News on Smoking

A study released in July by a London Institute of Psychiatry researcher concluded that, in the 13 years of once-a-year, no-smoke workdays in England, the accident rate on those days always goes up. On the other hand, preliminary findings in July of a Boston University medical school study revealed that smoking could reduce the size of a man's erection in the same way that it shrinks the heart.

Government in Action

-- France's Employment and Solidarity Ministry reported in June that already it had logged "several thousand" violations against companies for working too hard. (The legal maximum is now 39 hours a week and drops to 35 in the year 2000.) Among the Ministry's recent busts were a crucial early-evening labor-management bargaining session at the communications firm Alcatel and one at the defense contractor Thomson-CSF, after which the company agreed to lock its buildings at 7 p.m.

-- Puerto Rican legislator Augusto Sanchez Fuentes proposed in April that the government sponsor "fairs" to which mothers could bring their newborns and put them on sale (for instant adoption) to people from the mainland. He said such fairs would at once reduce abortions, improve tourism, streamline the adoption process, and ease poverty in Puerto Rico as mothers begin to look on the fairs as a way to make procreation profitable.

-- Purdy, Mo., banker Glen Garrett, 66, said in March that he has spent about $1 million in legal fees in six years to fight federal regulators who fined him $25,000 for doing business as his father had taught him, by handshake, rather than by required paperwork. In one paperless deal, Garrett hired himself to construct a bank building, but that upset the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. because there were no competitive bids, even though an independent appraiser later said Garrett charged about $300,000 less than market price.

-- In June, as international sanctions sank in for Pakistanis as a result of the nuclear face-off with India, Pakistan's prime minister Nawaz Sharif said it is the patriotic duty of his countrymen to "eat grass" so that money continues to be available for defense spending. (The Washington Post reported the Sharif paid $58 in income tax in the last year for which figures are available, despite the fact that his family's business, the Ittefaq Group, is the country's fourth largest industrial company, worth $217 million.)

-- In June, Ontario Health Minister Elizabeth Witmer ordered a stop to her office's requiring photographs of the breasts of women who want reduction surgery (though apparently it was only a staff preference to demand the photos, not a department policy). She pointed out that photos of breasts are irrelevant in determining medical necessity and that few other surgeries require evidence beyond the physician's certification. (In 1992, a similar problem arose at the Alabama Medicaid office in Birmingham.)

Least Competent Criminal

Karl Ray Johnson, 23, was charged with disorderly conduct at Mervyn's department store on Sereno Drive in Vallejo, Calif., in June. He fell through a ceiling from a crawl-space ledge on which he was perched, just above four dressing rooms in which females were trying on swimsuits.

Recurring Themes

Among the most astonishing cases of paraphilia that News of the Weird gets to report are the outhouse peepers, who lurk in raincoats in the pits of outdoor toilets. The last widely reported sighting was of a 26-year-old man just outside Peterborough, Ontario, in 1995, but another alert went out in June 1998 in Horsetooth Mountain Park near Fort Collins, Colo., when a 28-year-old woman using an outhouse noticed a red light in the pit and looked down to find a man standing in hip-high waders videotaping her. He escaped.

The Curse of Stevie Nicks

Last week, News of the Weird reported that singer Stevie Nicks had obtained a court stayaway order against a man who had a ticket to her July 21 concert in Denver and who believed she was a witch who could "cure" his homosexuality. That man stayed away, but at a Concord, Calif., Stevie Nicks concert two weeks later, a 38-year-old man lost control of himself upon running into his estranged wife (who had a court stayaway order against him) in the parking lot. He climbed a utility pole and hanged himself with battery jumper cables as hundreds of people watched.

(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.)

4520 Main St., Kansas City, Mo. 64111; (816) 932-6600

More like News of the Weird