News of the Weird by the Editors at Andrews McMeel Syndication


Lead Story

To publicize the use of fat as an alternative method of harvesting stem cells to grow new human tissue, Austin, Texas, plastic surgeon Dr. Robert Ersek, who is overweight, called in reporters in August to watch as he liposuctioned 1-1/2 pounds of his own fat from the left side of his abdomen. As Ersek (under local anesthetic) moved the vacuuming wand inside his body, he urged people to save their fat for the time (maybe five years from now) in which stem-cell work will be routine. (Ersek said he would leave the right side of his abdomen as is, to show liposuction candidates a "before" and "after.")

Japanese Passions

Judging by sales figures for two recent products, Japanese men and women have either too much free time or not nearly enough because now selling briskly in pet shops are ants and shrimp. The Antquarium is a six-ant farm that uses a self-sustaining nutritional gel instead of sand, and the Holo Holo is basically a plastic box containing five deep-water scarlet shrimp packaged in nutritional algae-water. Each sells for the equivalent of about US$30. One satisfied customer told the Japan Times, "As I live on my own, I wanted to have pets that are easy to take care of."

Least Competent Animals

With cameras from the "Cops" TV show rolling, an Evansville, Ind., police dog chasing a gunman in a retirement home suddenly leaped on innocent bystander John Terry and bit his right arm before he was pulled off (August). And a 10-year-old Komodo dragon in heat accidentally plunged to her death off a wall in the London Zoo trying to get to her mate (August).

Never Give Up

(1) Jacob Hadad and his "witness," David Mullem, were charged with perjury in Long Beach, Calif., in July after they refused to budge from their testimony in Hadad's challenge to a camera-generated traffic ticket. Hadad said he was forced to run a red light because a maniacal driver was chasing him, and Mullem, his "passenger," backed him up. However, the camera revealed no car chasing Hadad and no passenger in his car. (2) Similarly, Shaun Woodhouse, caught on camera speeding in Northrop, Wales, admitted in June owning a car of the same model and color and license plate number as in the photo, but said nonetheless, "It was not my car, and it was not me driving." (He was convicted.)

Only for Me, Not for Thee

In April, the St. Augustine (Fla.) Record announced the opening of artist Andrea Giovanni's exhibit on behalf of The Betty Griffin House, a local shelter for battered women; eight days later, the same newspaper carried news of Giovanni's arrest for allegedly beating up her boyfriend and trying to run him over with her car. And in a feature in the July 2004 Smithsonian magazine on the work of ecology-minded architect Paolo Soleri, who advocates that people form smaller, efficient, high-density residential communities to help conserve the environment, it was revealed that Soleri himself lives on a five-acre ranch near Scottsdale, Ariz., housing a bell foundry and several buildings.

Bright Ideas

-- Searching for ways to convey law enforcement professionalism to the Iraqi police, Marine MP Company C in Camp Al Asad, Iraq, developed a costumed mascot, "Farid the Crime-Fighting Falcon" (patterned after the famous "take a bite out of crime" dog, McGruff, but using an animal they believe the Iraqis better respect). Cpl. Justin Weber has the easy job, putting on the falcon suit; his comrades have the more difficult task of explaining to their classes just how Farid fits into effective law enforcement.

-- Police in Niles, Ohio, were called to the house of a 50-year-old man in July, having received complaints that the home might be one of those increasingly common ones that the resident loses control of, littered with garbage and vermin and reeking of urine and feces. Zoning inspector Anthony Vigorito did declare the home unfit for human habitation, but gave the resident credit for trying to improve things: The man had gone to the trouble of installing a porta-john in the middle of his living room.


Palestinian Authority legislators disclosed in July that some local businessmen, aided by Palestinian officials, made huge profits by selling low-priced cement (provided at discount by Egypt to support its Muslim brothers) to Israelis at huge markups, even though they knew the cement was destined to be used in the controversial "security wall" Israel is erecting in the West Bank.

People Different From Us

Bobbie Lynne Warren, 44, was charged in Nevada City, Calif., with several gun violations, and according to sheriff's deputies interviewed by The Union newspaper, it was a lively arrest. Warren allegedly admitted shooting at her boyfriend, Kevin Denson, because after 18 years, he still refuses to marry her (although she denied firing a handgun, insisting it was a rifle, in that she is an ex-felon barred from holding handguns). One deputy said Warren insisted that he tell her why no one had ever proposed to her, and on the way to jail asked him directly if he would propose to her.

Least Competent Criminals

Accused bank robber Stephen C. Jackson, 35, was arrested after violating the rule that a criminal on the lam should try to keep a low profile. He was spotted standing calmly at the Ultimate Car Wash in Lakewood, Ohio, on Aug. 18 feeding one red-dye-stained dollar bill after another into the coin changer, which bystanders found suspicious in that his pockets were bulging with quarters (about 1,800 in his trousers). Police tied him to the robbery earlier in the day of a Charter One bank in Cleveland.

Recurring Themes

Once again, a kid survived with minimal aftereffects after being impaled by a stake that completely penetrated his chest. (Jason Curtis, 9, was bouncing on a trampoline in Camanche, Iowa, in August and came down on the stake, which entered through his left armpit and barely missed vital organs, but he lifted himself off the stake and walked for help.) And once again a clerk (this time at the Fashion Bug store in Greensburg, Pa.) not only accepted an obviously bogus piece of currency (a "$200" bill featuring a likeness of President Bush), but also gave the customer back change (on a $99 purchase) (August). (Note: Yes, Greensburg is the same town featured in News of the Weird last week as the home of the accused toe-kisser and the middle-aged man who dresses as a cheerleader.)

Readers' Choice

In August, a sightseeing boat taking some society-type guests of the Chicago Architecture Foundation down the Chicago River crossed under the Kinzie Street bridge just as a bus passed over and apparently released its sewage container through the bridge's grating, directly onto the boat's passengers. Police subsequently charged a driver for a bus belonging to the Dave Matthews Band, but the band claimed its buses were not in the area at the time.

Almost All True

Three of these four things really happened, just recently. Are you cynical enough to figure out the made-up story? (a) A Texas school board refused to allow a boys' hair-growing campaign to donate for wigs to support hair-losing cancer patients, citing school rules against long hair for boys. (b) A misbehaving monkey in India was sentenced to life in an official government monkey prison, joining a dozen other simians declared incorrigible. (c) A man in Seville, Spain, filed a domestic-abuse complaint against his wife for turning him down for sex for five consecutive days. (d) Its budget depleted until the new fiscal year in October, the District of Columbia government said the public could copy official documents in September only if they lugged their own copy machines and paper into a government reading room.

Answer to Almost All True: (d) is false.

CLARIFICATION: Three weeks ago, in an item I labeled "The IQ-Diminishing Aspect of the Fourth of July," I referenced the story of the death of a teenager in Webster, Wis., in which the local sheriff had been quoted in such a way as to suggest that the boy's imprudence was a major factor in his death. Subsequently, two people who were at the scene of the incident wrote to say that the boy had not acted imprudently at all and that the death was due to an equipment malfunction. Had I known that, of course, I would never have considered the item for News of the Weird, and I now regret having used it.

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

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