News of the Weird

Week of July 1, 2001


-- In recent New York City art auctions, according to a May report in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Tom Friedman's "Untitled" (a Styrofoam cup of evaporated-coffee stains, pinned to a piece of wood along with a ladybug) went for $30,000 at Phillips Auctioneers; Robert Gober's "Broom Sink" (a fancifully constructed wash basin) earned nearly $500,000; and Jeff Koons' life-sized ceramic "Michael Jackson and Bubbles" (the chimp) sold for $5.6 million.

-- Golfers cannot play on courses in Germany without a license, which applicants must earn by passing a written test and a skills test in putting, chipping and driving, according to a June dispatch in The Wall Street Journal. Golf association officials defend the requirement for keeping away slow-playing novices, but they estimate it might take about $800 or more for lessons and classes just to get the certificate.

-- Hard Times for Rape Victims: In St. Petersburg, Fla., in June, a 29-year-old rape victim, still shaken up and in a hospital gown after being treated, was arrested and ushered off to jail when a routine check revealed that she had three outstanding judicial warrants (failure to pay a traffic fine, failure to pay an unlicensed-dog fine, and allowing her young daughters to miss school). Also in June, in Albany, N.Y., Supreme Court Justice James Canfield performed the wedding of Robert Gorghan to his girlfriend, Cheryl, only minutes after Gorghan had been sentenced in another courtroom to 25 years in prison for the serial sexual assault of Cheryl's daughter over a 13-year period. (Canfield is notorious for marrying the just-convicted, which he said reduces the likelihood that they will engage in homosexual sex in prison.)

More Good News for Breasts

Following recent FDA approval and as a safer alternative to surgery, doctors have begun offering the $2,500 Brava Breast Enhancement vacuum device that its developer says can increase cup size by stimulating tissue growth, although the contraption must be worn for 10 hours every day for 10 weeks, pulling tissue gently inside its vacuum domes. And a researcher in Melbourne, Australia, told a recent meeting of surgeons that he had grown breast tissue in rats, mice and rabbits, and that, if it could be done for humans, it would allow women to grow larger breasts. And a 31-year-old woman in Frankenmuth, Mich., reported in June that a nail that flew up from her lawn mower's blade and that could have penetrated her heart was deflected by her "liquid-curved" Maidenform bra; she said that "a higher power" had told her that day to wear a bra for lawn-mowing.

Compelling Explanations

-- In March, the Yakima Indian Nation performed two rain ceremonies (ancient rituals involving fruits and berries) in the Washington mountains to bring an end to the drought plaguing the Northwest and then sent the bill for expenses ($32,000) to the region's electricity provider, Bonneville Power Administration, pointing out the (slight) increase in rainfall afterward. Nonetheless, Bonneville declined to pay.

-- Testifying at his sexual molestation trial in Leeds, England, in March, psychic healer Terence Wood, 41, admitted that he might have put his hands inside the clothing of the four complaining females but that he was unaware he was doing anything wrong: "When I'm healing, I'm in an altered state, and I just go where the spirit tells me the pain is. I close my eyes. My hand becomes very, very hot."

-- Tom Wahl and his wife, Suzi, were convicted in St. Louis in April of "prostitution," in that a jury found that they had engaged in sex for money, even though they were having sex only with each other, at paid sex-education "seminars" the couple ran. Their lawyer's unsuccessful closing argument compared the Wahls to a golf pro trying to teach duffers the proper techniques for swinging a club. That would not be "golf," said the lawyer; it would be a demonstration of techniques, and thus, a demonstration of sex techniques would not be "sex."

-- In May in Denver, Richard M. Young, 43, filed a federal lawsuit against his ex-employer, Ohio Casualty Insurance, for firing him after an incident in which he kept sheriff's deputies at bay for six hours while wielding a gun in a shopping center parking lot, threatening to kill himself. Young said he has a mental illness, which the company is required to "accommodate" under federal law, and that just because he wanted to kill himself doesn't mean he doesn't want to continue working for Ohio Casualty. Young's job at the company was regional manager of litigation.

-- In separate lawsuits filed in January, two teen-age boys claim that York, Pa., personal injury lawyer Mark David Frankel fondled them inappropriately when the boys, with their mothers, went to Frankel's office to discuss injuries they had suffered in auto accidents. According to the lawsuits, in each case Frankel quickly attempted to examine the boys' buttocks, thighs and genitals, claiming that he could detect injuries that doctors often miss. According to one mother, Frankel said he needed to examine those areas because, if a doctor had diagnosed a head injury and a foot injury, there was usually another injury in between.

The Classic Middle Name (All New)

Arrested for murder: Andrew Wayne Toler, 21 (Houston, May); Christopher Wayne Scarber, 25 (Independence, Ky., February); Kenneth Wayne Jackson, 32 (Balch Springs, Texas, May). Filed for a new trial: convicted murderer Jack Wayne Napier, 48 (Lexington, Ky., March). New trial granted: convicted murderer Anthony Wayne Walker, 39 (Cincinnati, September 2000). And, occasionally, this happens: acquitted of murder at his retrial (after five years on death row): Gary Wayne Drinkard, 45 (Decatur, Ala., May 2001).

People Different From Us

Frank T. Singer, 38, pleaded guilty in May to manslaughter in the death of a 36-year-old man in Stroudsburg, Pa., that resulted from consensual bondage play between the two men in a motel room last year. The younger man, wearing a sauna suit, was found duct-taped and handcuffed to a chair and apparently choked to death after, according to news reports, being force-fed 2 1/2 pounds of peanut butter.

Least Justifiable Homicides

A 34-year-old man was shot to death over a piece of sweet potato pie (Atlanta, January). A man was stabbed to death allegedly by his girlfriend when he brought her home a McDonald's ham, egg and cheese bagel instead of the two Egg McMuffins she requested (Martinez, Calif., March). A 48-year-old man was shot to death, allegedly by his wife, after a fight over their satellite-TV controls (Orlando, April). A 37-year-old man was beaten to death, allegedly by his roommate, in a fight over the thermostat setting (Dallas, May).

Also, in the Last Month ...

In China, which is enduring one of its worst droughts in history, soldiers were ordered to open fire on any clouds they see, to bring rain. Jail inmates complained at having to wear the new black-and-white-striped uniforms on outside work details, with one man protesting, "It makes us look like convicts" (Pasco County, Fla.). Vineyard owners in southern France began to sell powdered wine extract to pharmaceutical houses in the U.S., to make wine pills that provide health benefits without the hangover. A couple filed a lawsuit against a county building inspector who failed to detect that the attic in the house they bought contained a half ton of raccoon droppings (Bloomfield Hills, Mich.)

(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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