News of the Weird by the Editors at Andrews McMeel Syndication


-- A man whose name was not released checked in to a Howard Johnson's motel in Murfreesboro, Tenn., on July 15 for two days and left behind 12 jars' worth of Vaseline smeared on the carpet, furniture, curtains, walls, bedspreads, sheets and towels, resulting in a $1,300 cleanup job. No motive was apparent, and police have been unable to find him.

-- In August, Ukrainian Prime Minister Valery Pustovoitenko began a crackdown on tax delinquents to collect the $3.5 billion the government is owed. The centerpiece of the campaign is to call the top 1,500 tax scofflaws, mostly business executives, to a military base near Kiev to live for an undetermined time in tents, to listen to lectures on civil defense preparedness for natural disasters until apparently out of sheer boredom they decide to pay up.

-- The notorious Japanese TV game show "Super Jockey" (which features stunts such as contestants competing to eat repulsive-flavored ice cream) began selling commercial time on the show recently by inviting potential sponsors to present bikini-clad women who would endure dunkings in scalding-hot water and then be rewarded with commercial time equivalent to the number of seconds they endured the pain.

Freddy Krueger, D.D.S.

In July, the Tennessee Supreme Court reinstated patient Frances Blanchard's lawsuit against Memphis dentist Arlene Kellum for allegedly committing battery by attempting to pull out all 32 of her teeth in one sitting. (Blanchard, who has a gum disease, said she thought it would be done over several visits.) Kellum was half done when Blanchard fainted and had to be hospitalized for six days. And a jury in Oklahoma City awarded $1.3 million to Mark Macsenti in June for brain damage he suffered when dentist Jon D. Becker went to sleep during an appointment and left Macsenti hooked up to nitrous oxide for about 10 hours.

Addressing the Babe Shortage

In July, Canada's Human Resources Development office announced it was creating a special legal category for strippers entering the country to address what a leading immigration lawyer called "a shortage of exotic dancers." And according to a Times of London report in April, a glut of British fashion models was crowding out British computer tech people in the fight for valuable work permits in California this summer, to the chagrin of Apple, Texas Instruments and other firms, since the law that authorizes work permits explicitly puts models on even footing with anyone who has a college degree.

The Career-Ending Bounced Check

Georgia state Sen. Ralph David Abernathy III, son of the late civil rights leader, announced his retirement from politics in July after his $400 re-election filing fee check bounced. His legislative career included an incident of following a female into a state Capitol ladies' room and of being caught with marijuana in his underwear at the Atlanta airport. He said he plans to enter the seminary.

More Recent Rages

(1) Chewing Gum Rage: A 5-foot, 380-pound man who accidentally sat on chewing gum in a Bellevue, Neb., movie theater in July took off his sticky pants, walked around, yelled and seethed, and punched out a glass case. (2) Spelling Rage: Bronx, N.Y., school board member Dennis Coleman disrupted a July meeting by haranguing the staff and refusing to be quieted by the chancellor when he discovered that the word "rescind" was misspelled on a resolution to be voted on. (3) Barber Rage: In July, Providence, R.I., barber Sam Johnson, 53, upset that a 21-month-old customer wouldn't be still, allegedly whacked the kid in the head with his electric clipper and then sprayed alcohol to make the cut sting.

Courtroom Follies

-- Convicted killer Robert Hunt lost his appeal to the Nebraska Supreme Court in June. In his closing argument at trial, Hunt's lawyer, in an effort to gain the jury's sympathy for Hunt, had called him a "creepy, slimy, sexual degenerate," and Hunt complained that the strategy obviously backfired, in that he got a life sentence. The Supreme Court said Hunt would probably have been convicted anyway (but took no position on whether the lawyer's statement was accurate).

-- In July, Diane Parker accompanied her husband, Richard W. Parker, (who had been accused of drug trafficking) to federal court in Los Angeles. According to friends, Diane was so supportive that she had come prepared to put up her investment property and her mother's townhouse to make Richard's bail. However, the prosecutor began reciting to the judge facts about Richard's double life that included a mistress and a safe house, and Diane's expression changed dramatically. She removed her wedding ring with a flourish, walked out of court, immediately drove to an Orange County office where the mistress worked, and punched her several times before being restrained.

-- In March, students from Madrona Middle School, visiting Torrance (Calif.) Superior Court to learn about the legal system, were ushered by their teacher into a trial in session despite a warning to the teacher that the subject matter was "sensitive." Virtually the first thing the kids saw was, in a child molestation case, the prosecutor's propping up two 10-inch dildos on the railing of the witness stand so as to make her line of questioning more vivid for the jury.

-- Petty-theft defendant Ronnie Hawkins, acting as his own lawyer in a Long Beach, Calif., courtroom in July, thought incessantly talking back to Judge Joan Comparet-Cassani was a good strategy, but Hawkins had been fitted with a remote-controlled "stun belt" under his clothing, and the judge ordered a bailiff to send Hawkins a bone-rattling 50,000 volts of electricity, causing him to grimace and his body to turn as taut as a board for the 8-second blast. Five days later in Oakland, Calif., Brian Tracey Hill suffered the same fate during jury selection on an assault charge. However, Hill was behaving perfectly; a sheriff's deputy had leaned over in his chair and accidentally nudged the stun belt's trigger.

-- Murder-trial juror Gillian Guess, 43, was convicted in June of obstruction of justice when a court in Vancouver, British Columbia, found that she was having a torrid sexual affair with the defendant, who was eventually acquitted in large part through jury-room advocacy by Guess. Witnesses said Guess appeared to be attracted to defendant Peter Gill early in the 1995 trial and frequently sat facing him instead of the witness box, sometimes with her legs wantonly uncrossed.

Least Competent Person

-- Michael H. Egli was found in contempt of court in Daytona Beach, Fla., in August. He had tried to get out of jury duty by sending the court clerk two messages announcing that he "hate(s)" "(epithet for blacks), cops and judges." Egli has a kidney condition that requires regularly scheduled dialysis and was surprised when the judge told him he would automatically have been excluded from jury duty, anyway.

Recurring Themes

From time to time News of the Weird has reported on the fluctuating value of the late Italian artist Piero Manzoni's personal feces, which he canned in 1961 as art objects in 90 tins, 30 grams at a time. The Baltimore Sun reported in 1993 that one tin sold for $75,000 at the top of the market. The latest sale, in July 1998 at Sotheby's in London, was for about $28,800. However, even with the drop in price, as Forbes magazine pointed out, Manzoni's feces is still about $1,000 per gram, almost 100 times the price of gold ($9.50 per gram).

Thinning the Herd

A 17-year-old boy was killed in Navarino, Wis., in July when shrapnel from a mailbox he was playfully blowing up with a firecracker severed his carotid artery. And a 28-year-old man drowned in Mount Clemens, Mich., in July in an apartment-house pool while winning a game with his friends as to who could hold his breath under water the longest.

(Send your Weird News to Chuck Shepherd, P.O. Box 8306, St. Petersburg, Fla. 33738, or 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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