News of the Weird

Week of September 23, 2001

-- In August, the Metropolitan Transit board of Santa Cruz, Calif., had to resort to obtaining a judicial order restricting the bus travel of one of its own members, Bruce Gabriel, because it feared he might continue to assault its transit drivers and others with his wheelchair. According to court documents, Gabriel has deliberately hit two drivers, knocked over a boy in a crosswalk, and verbally assaulted passengers. Gabriel called the collisions accidents and said he is merely an aggressive advocate for people with disabilities.

-- In Halberstadt, Germany, in September, an organist kicked off a performance of the late, radical composer John Cage's "Organ 2/ASLSP" (an acronym somehow derived from "as slow as possible"), which was written for 20 minutes, but thanks to technology and imagination, will be performed over a period lasting 639 years. The first six months will be devoted to creating an organ's first note. The purpose of the performance is to contrast the piece with the frenzied pace of modern society.

-- Georgia state Rep. Dorothy Pelote of Savannah, addressing her chamber during opening prayer ceremony on the day after Labor Day, informed colleagues that she has psychic powers and in fact managed to catch a glimpse of Chandra Levy's dead body in a ditch (but did not get a chance to speak with her). House Speaker Tom Murphy diplomatically told reporters, after being asked for a comment, that he really did not hear too well what Rep. Pelote had said (even though he was standing well within earshot).

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: (47) A husband's enthusiastically taking his wife back into the marriage even though she just tried to murder him, as David Martin did in June after his wife, Tammie, emptied a gun into him and his father (Moulton, Ala.) (works also for wives taking husbands back). And (48) forcing young miscreants to listen to less popular kinds of music as punishment for playing their rap or rock music too loud in public, as Cambridge, Ohio, Judge John Nicholson sentenced Alan Law to do in August (i.e., listen to polka).

The Entrepreneurial Spirit

Latest Cutting-Edge Products: Fox News reported in July that business was good for Hidden Vestments (Santa Monica, Calif.), a lingerie shop with silk female-type undies specially tailored for cross-dressing men's bodies (e.g., lace-edged vest-and-boxer set, $136). And, according to a June Denver Post story, Buck Weimer (Pueblo, Colo.) sold his entire first run of airtight briefs called Under-Ease, which contains a charcoal filter lining that effectively, he says, prevents flatulence from escaping into the air. And the Potty Putter (mentioned in Newsweek in May) is a toy fabric golf green, complete with hole, flag, ball and putter, that men can put on the floor and play with while sitting on a toilet.

Science Breakthroughs

-- In July, Richard Davis, 53, settled his lawsuit with a London doctor and a pharmaceutical company over his claim that a prescription drug made him so sexually wild that it led to his bankruptcy and a criminal fraud conviction. He said he was a virgin until he started binging on the apparently magical bromocriptine, which caused him to act like a "cross between a deranged sex maniac and a highly overexcited teen-ager."

-- Among the potential 21st-century foods being developed for military use (according to research led by Purdue University professor Michael Ladisch, released in June) is a chocolate bar with special nutrients to change body temperature, which could not only make soldiers warmer in cold climates but could also thus render soldiers "invisible" to an enemy's thermal-imaging equipment.

The Weird Workplace

-- Police in Northumbria, England, agreed in April to pay Detective Brian Baker the equivalent of "several" thousand dollars (he was asking for about $25,000) to compensate him for the snoring habit he picked up, allegedly from too many years in the evidence room inhaling dust from seized marijuana plants. His maladies, including a whistling in his nose, were said to have caused Baker marital disharmony.

-- Tim Nelson, a La-Z-Boy recliner tester profiled in a May Associated Press report, said the job of sitting down, kicking his feet up, and rocking back and forth in the company's chairs all day is much harder than it looks: "It's not like they give us popcorn and a TV set to watch"; "(u)p and down all day (can) be a workout." Actually, said colleagues, the job is one of the hardest at the Dayton, Tenn., plant because testers must certify the comfort and balance of up to 130 recliners a day (with 10 to 15 pieces not making the grade).

People With Issues

William Lyttle, 71, of North London has been a compulsive digger for years, said neighbors, according to an August report in The Guardian. To satisfy unarticulated inner needs, Lyttle has dug extensively all over his multi-acre property, once going about 50 feet straight down before getting bored and cementing up the hole. However, in his latest adventure, which authorities said is probably the first time his digging has gone past his property line, his excavation caused the street in front of his home to collapse. Lyttle lives in a 20-room home that would be worth about $1.5 million if it were in good repair.


-- The Philippine toxic garbage pile that collapsed in July 2000, killing more than 200 professional scavengers, is still active in the Patayas neighborhood of Manila, and more dangerous than ever, according to a July 2001 Associated Press dispatch. The government offered to relocate the scavengers, but most stayed because of the pay (about $3 (U.S.) a day). As the AP writer set the scene: "Hundreds of self-described scavengers, many with skin rashes and teeth nearly as black as the toxic mud that caked their feet, followed in a swirl of flies, mangy dogs, diesel exhaust and flying cockroaches." "The children who splash and play in the fetid runoff spread skin fungi, tuberculosis, hook worms, and stomach viruses at an alarming rate." A recent, tough clean-air act, banning incineration, has increased the dump's volume.

Thinning the Herd

An 18-year-old man, rowdily hanging out of the passenger-side car window, fatally struck his head when the driver came too close to a trash can (Lebanon, Ore., August). A 38-year-old man fell 15 floors to his death after he accepted a dare from a buddy and attempted unsuccessfully to hang from an apartment balcony (Vancouver, British Columbia, July). A 39-year-old man was killed when his speeding car struck a parked semitrailer truck at about 9 a.m., with another motorist telling police the man appeared to be reading a newspaper moments before the crash (Pleasant Prairie, Wis., June).

Also, in the Last Month ...

A 31-year-old man barely survived a deadly bacterial infection of the heart valve, facilitated by his numerous body piercings that he acquired in order to look like his idol, basketball player Dennis Rodman (Chicago). Responding to several noise complaints, a city's environmental officer publicly urged citizens to be quieter at night while making love (Stockport, England). In its latest advertising campaign, the University of Bonn (Germany) profiled famous alumnus Joseph Goebbels ("philosophy student," "propaganda minister") but without mentioning his role as an architect of the Holocaust. A 39-year-old woman, who had just killed one son, was thwarted in killing another because the bullet lodged in the Holy Bible he was carrying (North Fort Myers, Fla.).

(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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