News of the Weird

Week of April 30, 2000

-- In March, Milwaukee lawyer Robin Shellow agreed to settle the slander lawsuit filed by former client James Hermann, stemming from a statement she made on his behalf at his 1996 sentencing for armed robbery. To help explain his behavior to the judge, Shellow said Hermann was a heroin user, but Hermann said he was merely a cocaine addict and that to hear himself described as a heroin user gave him post-traumatic stress disorder resulting in lessened "self-confidence, self-esteem and self-image."

-- In April, the Orange County (Calif.) Register revealed that human tissue banks, which are widely believed by the donating public to be either government- or non-profit-operated, are highly profitable commercial concerns, with annual revenues of $500 million and rising. Today, a cadaver "donated to science" actually brings up to $200,000 for tissue banks and their contractors. The companies argue that if they paid for cadavers, the costs would rise to tissue recipients (who range from blind people receiving corneas to makeup models who want fuller lips).

Who Cares?

The I Am Hurt Corp. lawyer-referral company filed a lawsuit in Edmonton, Alberta, in March against a competing lawyer who advertises his phone number, 428-HURT. And in November, a New York grand jury indicted three principals in a Maryland distributing company for fraudulently substituting common fish eggs for caviar. And in March, the Securities and Exchange Commission filed a complaint against four Georgetown University law students, accusing them of recommending an obscure stock on an Internet bulletin board and then exploiting people who bought that stock, even though the buyers put their money down apparently knowing nothing about the stock except that these anonymous strangers recommended it.

The Entrepreneurial Spirit

-- Exciting New Products: the Vast-ity Belt, which contains a microchip that flashes and beeps when the wearer has eaten too much at a meal (from Piero De Giacomo of Bari, Italy); The Gooser, a computer program that automatically inflates lawyers' billed hours (according to a November federal indictment against the developer, a Wayne, Pa, consultant); and sliced peanut butter, packaged like single slices of cheese, from researchers at Oklahoma State University.

-- Latest from the Restaurant Industry: A Nazi-themed restaurant called The Third Reich (with Gestapo-clad waiters) has been open for about a year in downtown Seoul, to little criticism, perhaps because of South Korea's minuscule Jewish population. However, an unaffiliated eatery called Jail (with a prison motif) in Taipei, Taiwan, was forced to apologize in January for including Holocaust prison scenes on its walls. Yet another Taipei theme restaurant opened in January, built on a smokestack at the city's biggest garbage incinerator, with picturesque views of trucks bringing in the trash.

-- In London, England, in December, a completely automated tavern, Cynthia's Cyberbar, opened, featuring a robot that mixes drinks perfectly and carries on recorded conversations to simulate a friendly bartender.

-- New York City psychotherapist Marilyn Graman recently offered a $9,600-per-person set of classes that she describes as "a step-by-step intensive program designed to lead (a woman) down the aisle." According to a December Philadelphia Inquirer report, the course covers 276 hours over six months, full of such tips as how a woman can visualize herself as a wife and how to make your closet "man ready," but she offers no nuptial guarantee.


-- Wilhelm Krumwiede asked the Nebraska Supreme Court in December to rule that his estranged (and possibly dead) wife is also liable for the $120,000 in legal fees he has amassed defending the charge that he murdered her. (She has been missing since 1995, but in two trials, Krumwiede has not been convicted.) And in December, after estranged wife Cora Caro was arrested in Ventura County, Calif., and charged with murdering three of her four children, she demanded $550,000 from her husband (the kids' father) as a "loan" from the future division of the community property in order to fund her expectedly elaborate defense.

-- In November, testifying before the state gaming commission in Indianapolis, principals of Caesars Indiana apologized for falling far short of the commission rule requiring that 10 percent of casino contracts go to minority businesses. Caesars said it had greatly improved over 1998's dismal one-half of 1 percent, but then revealed that that improvement was produced by counting its major engineering firm as minority-owned because its owner claims to be 1/16th American Indian.

-- Ronald Bell Jr., 18, was convicted of murder in Shalimar, Fla., in March; part of the evidence against him was a surveillance video from a Target store showing Bell and two accomplices returning the murder weapon (a $9.99 meat cleaver) for a refund.

Recent Fire News

A brand-new, $1 million fire station in Charleston, W.Va., as well as the Southampton Street headquarters of the Boston Fire Department, were closed (in January and November, respectively) because of fire-code violations. And fires demolished a fire station in Allentown, Fla. (in January), the Mercury Candle Co. factory in Newark, N.J. (in January), and the Argo Co.'s fire-extinguisher plant in Detroit (in November).

Recurring Themes

-- In 1992, News of the Weird reported the onstage death of a nightclub comedian in Tempe, Ariz., who keeled over from a heart aneurysm while emceeing a show. In March 2000, a performer who worked as Uncle Ron the Magician collapsed and died during a show in Hamilton, New Zealand, and as with the 1992 incident, some in the audience applauded, thinking the collapse was a pratfall that was part of the show.

Least Competent Criminals

Easy IDs: Four men escaped in March after robbing a Mellon-PSFS Bank in downtown Philadelphia, but police got a clear photo of one of the men, who had inadvertently stood on the sidewalk directly facing the bank's surveillance camera while getting up the nerve to put on his mask. And Cedrick Washington, 33, was arrested in November and charged with robbing a Kenner, La., sandwich shop; according to police, he had stood in front of the shop (again, inadvertently facing the surveillance camera), repeatedly practicing pulling his shirt over his head as a disguise.

Also, in the Last Month ...

Four kindergartners were suspended for three days for pretending to shoot each other with their fingers (Sayreville, N.J.). The real name of a man charged with attempting via the Internet to lure an underage girl into a sexual tryst: Mr. Dirk Lust (Merrimack, N.H.). A 38-year-old inmate, who might have been released next month, was sentenced to 50 more years for assaulting a guard (Huntsville, Texas). Clyde Charles, 47, was freed from the Angola prison in Louisiana (after serving nearly 20 years for rape) when a DNA test implicated his brother Marlo, instead. A Tucson, Ariz., schoolteacher who claimed an Hispanic student shot her confessed that she had shot herself to draw attention to school security problems.

(Send your Weird News to Chuck Shepherd, P.O. Box 18737, Tampa, Fla. 33679 or, or go to

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

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