News of the Weird

Week of October 13, 2002

LEAD STORIES

-- England's Mentorn production company announced in September that it was finalizing a deal with Channel 4 TV in London for a series in which a terminally ill man would volunteer for what Mentorn called the "ultimate makeover" (the postmortem reconstruction of his body in "plastination," to demonstrate how changes could have improved the quality of his life). Among the possibilities: adding ribs, making knees back-bending, adding a back-up heart, and redoing the trachea to better keep food out. The show would be staged by artist Gunter von Hagens, whose Body Worlds exhibit consists of vivid dissections and reconstructions of body parts.

-- Police in Irvine, Calif., told the Los Angeles Times in September that, based on a recent crackdown, they were stunned at the high number of abuses of handicapped parking placards. Among those caught were a teenage girl parked at a Weezer concert three months after her grandmother died and who with a straight face said that she was her grandmother ("So you're 80 years old?" asked officer Kyle Oldoerp) and a woman who said she thought she had inherited her late husband's parking privileges as part of his estate.

America's New Gun Problem

Among those who accidentally shot themselves recently: Police Lt. Walter Warot (carried gun in waistband, shot in buttocks) (Woonsocket, R.I., August); a 43-year-old man (gun in waistband, shot fatally) (Ventura, Calif., September); a 43-year-old man (carjacker, carried gun in his pants) (Detroit, September); and an 18-year-old man (shot in the hand) (Artesia, N.M., September). Also, three Montanans were on the list: Undersheriff Mike Dominick (gun caught in holster) (Missoula, August); a 19-year-old gang-member suspect (gun in waistband) (Great Falls, April); and a 22-year-old man (gun in waistband, shot off right testicle) (Great Falls, May).

Leading Economic Indicators

-- In New York City in August, businessman Herbert Black sued socialite Denise Rich (ex-wife of the Clinton-pardoned Marc Rich) for nonpayment of fees he said he earned by saving her nearly a million dollars annually as a personal financial adviser. Included alleged savings were: $125,000 in flowers (by having fewer deliveries to her apartment when she wasn't at home); $30,000 by changing the payment plan for her yoga instructions; and $52,000 in "dog maintenance" (mostly by giving away her two oldest dogs, which were so feeble that they had to be pushed by sitters around Central Park in an $8,000 baby carriage).

-- Business was booming in August for unlicensed street dentists in Lahore, Pakistan, according to a New York Times reporter, who witnessed several patients' gruesome sidewalk experiences (forced on them because one-third of Pakistanis earn less in a month than even the lowest-priced licensed-dentist procedure). Tools of the trade include ordinary pliers, wire-cutters, metal files, a container of moonshine (to rinse tools off) needle-point probes (to inflict a distracting pain elsewhere in the mouth), and a red plastic sheet (so the blood won't stand out so much). Also plentiful in the street-dentists' "offices": dust and vehicle exhaust.

Weird Workplaces

-- According to the Beijing Morning Post, the government in Chengdu, China, shut down a food-processing plant in August after discovering that workers routinely pulled the bones out of chicken feet with their teeth. Workers first boiled the feet in water, then made three slits in the foot with a knife, pried open the skin with their fingers, and removed the bones with their teeth. The fastest workers could go through a foot every five seconds.

-- In Meriden, Conn., in August, music store owner Jeff Caillouette, 35, was charged with sexual assault for allegedly forcing a then-15-year-old employee to let Caillouette spank him, supposedly as punishment for various workplace mistakes. At one point, when the kid caught Caillouette in a lie, he requested and received permission to spank the boss, which he did at first while the boss was clothed but later on his bare buttocks. During the time of the alleged assaults, Caillouette was the band director at a local high school.

-- In August, the historic Shugborough Home (Staffordshire, England) announced a job opening for a hermit to live temporarily in a cave on the grounds (running water not available) and scare away trespassers; an administrator was said to be astonished at the large number of applications. Also in August, the Landmark Trust, which manages the remote Lundy Island off the southwest coast of England, announced a job opening for a shepherd for the island's 600 sheep and various rare wildlife; the island receives birdwatchers but has no nighttime electricity.

People With Issues

In Albuquerque, Darcy Ornelas, 31, was arrested in July after a car crash that killed her 4-year-old son. According to police, Ornelas had several drinks at a party but refused advice not to drive home. She fastened her own seatbelt but not the kid's, and then, in her Nissan 300 ZX, she became involved in a road race to prevent a Mustang from passing her, continuing to speed up and cut in front to frustrate that driver. After the fatal crash into a utility pole, Ornelas implied (according to police) that she had been concerned about being upstaged by another sports car.

Least Competent People

Cheverly, Md., juror Levon Adams, 25, skipped out during deliberations in a September carjacking trial, and when sheriff's deputies brought him back to the courtroom the next day, he told the judge that he left because the other jurors were becoming aggressive with him. Adams told the judge that he was the only holdout against a guilty verdict and told the jurors that no matter how much evidence there was against the defendant, he could not convict him because Adams was not present at the scene of the crime and thus did not actually see the defendant do it.

City Cliches Come to Life

The annual late-summer arrival in Boulder, Colo., of 4,000 starlings has once again drenched a 128-unit mobile home park with droppings, but city regulations prohibit even shooing the birds away. (And the Whole Foods Market company was hit with an animal-rights boycott in September after a dead mouse was found in its Boulder warehouse, showing that the company might not be using rodent-friendly catch-and-release traps). And the Telluride, Colo., Town Council brought in a shaman in August to rid the chamber of bickering among council members. And several city officials in Santa Cruz, Calif., sponsored a marijuana giveaway at City Hall in September, to protest federal crackdowns on the medicinal use of marijuana by local citizens.

Recurring Themes

News of the Weird reported in 1989 that 31-year-old swimsuit model Chanel Price, landing by helicopter at a Malibu, Calif., St. Patrick's Day party to deliver a singing telegram, acknowledged guests' attention by waving, which cost her a thumb and finger in the helicopter blades. In September 2002, 16-year-old Mexican singer Ricardo Abarca suffered a similar fate waving to fans after landing at Guatemala City, Guatemala, airport, but doctors were able to reattach two of his three severed fingers.

Also, in the Last Month ...

Executed for the 1992 murders of two little girls was Rex Mays, whose biography included part-time work in the Houston area as Uh-Oh the Clown (Huntsville, Texas). State officials cited the Key West (Fla.) municipal incinerator for briefly gagging its neighbors when it burned nine tons of contraband Miami cocaine and marijuana that had been improperly prepared for disposal. A government trade official in Iran complained that his nation's annual caviar exports are down two-thirds (to 10 tons) because of post-Sept. 11 cutbacks in first-class air travel. And European researchers found that children exposed to dirt and dust have much lower rates of asthma than kids in cleaner environments.

(Send your Weird News to Chuck Shepherd, P.O. Box 18737, Tampa, Fla. 33679 or Newsweird@aol.com, or go to www.NewsoftheWeird.com/.)

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