-- In May, a San Francisco Chronicle feature alerted readers to the problem of people addicted to lip balm, and especially Chapstick brand. According to one addict who studied the problem, the Chapstick ingredients fuse with the skin, requiring constant re-use. Another source cited a better, nonaddictive lip balm: a person's own nose oil, which is reported to have been used by watchmakers for years to lubricate tiny gears.
-- Sexual Rejuvenations: The Hong Kong Standard newspaper reported in February on the thriving business of a Dr. Liu, who runs a virginity- (hymen-) restoration practice in Ghangzhou province, China, charging about $500. "So many Hong Kong girls come to us," she said. "They come just before their wedding. They don't want their husbands to know they had many boyfriends in the past." And New Scientist magazine reported in January that the German government, fearful of immune-system reactions and the spread of "mad cow" disease, has banned the popular sheep-fetus injections that men and women have been receiving to firm up their buttocks.
-- Following in the footsteps of her completely unsuccessful predecessors (Mr. Mellon E. Bank and Mr. Roadway V. Express, reported in News of the Weird in 1989 and 1996, respectively), Keisha Yvette Gregory was arrested in Durham, N.C., in March and charged with theft of a check made out to the Tension Envelope company, which she tried to pass off as a personal check made out to Ms. Tension Nicole Envelope.
-- Tacky, Tacky, Tacky: The trial of National Institutes of Health police officer Bruce Blum ended in a hung jury in April on the Dec. 19 accusation (based on a surveillance videotape) that he stole the current issue of People magazine from the NIH library in Bethesda, Md. And Rhode Island state traffic court clerk-typist Sharon James, 30, was fired in March for stealing a bag of potato chips and some coins on the counter of a blind vendor in the traffic court building.
-- In March, in cases in San Diego, Calif., and Norfolk, Va., prosecutors came under fire for allegedly allowing witnesses in a gang murder case and drug case, respectively, to have numerous conjugal visits in government offices after business hours while in custody as part of deals to coax their testimony.
-- A 24-year-old, unidentified woman was arrested in Waukesha, Wis., in April on suspicion of child abuse. Her son had complained of a nose infection, which she said was caused by acid from a wristwatch battery that he had put in his nose several months earlier, but which she had declined to help him remove until the battery started leaking.
-- Peter Lerat, 33, was arrested in Toronto, Ontario, in May and charged with two robberies, one in a doughnut shop while he was carrying a goose and one on the street while he had a raccoon. In each case he threatened to kill the animal unless someone gave him money. He cleared $60 from a woman in the doughnut shop, but a prospective victim in the second robbery ran to call police, and Lerat was captured nearby.
-- In January, West Palm Beach, Fla., police officer Ed Wagner filed a lawsuit against the city for removing him from the SWAT team following a complaint he made about a neck injury. The injury occurred at a car-crash scene in 1993 when one of Wagner's colleagues playfully grabbed his head and gave him a noogie. And Franklin, Tenn., water and sewer director Eddie Woodard was suspended for three days in February after he goosed police chief Jackie Moore at a fire scene.
-- Richard Lee Hamrick, 28, was picked up in Longview, Wash., in February, suspected of being the guy who robbed a Safeway a few minutes before. Not only was the robber wearing bikini briefs on his head, backward, with eye holes cut in the derriere, but, according to the officers who had to book the evidence, they were soiled.
-- Life Imitates the Three Stooges: Julio Guaman, 31, landed in a tree, with a broken pelvis, after a five-story fall from his Queens, N.Y., apartment in December. According to his wife, Julio had lunged at her in a fight in order to push her out the window, but she ducked, sending him out.
-- Life Imitates Prison Movies: Joshua John Jaeger, 25, housed at the Queen Street Mental Health Centre in Toronto in January, and David Anderson, housed at the California Medical Facility in Vacaville in April, became the latest inmates to escape by tying bedsheets together and lowering themselves to the ground. (Anderson even left a pillow-and-blankets dummy in his bed as a decoy.)
-- Marsha Watt, a 1990 graduate of Northwestern University School of Law and formerly an associate at the prestigious Winston and Strawn law firm in Chicago, had charges filed against her in February by the Illinois Bar Association's discipline committee over her most recent conviction for prostitution (i.e., the kind involving sex, for which her published rate, according to a personals ad, was roughly three times what the law firm billed for her).
Adding to the list of stories that were formerly weird but which now occur with such frequency that they must be retired from circulation: (19) The person easing into the parking lot of the driver's license office, either arriving for the exam or just completing it, who accidentally crashes into the office's storefront, as a woman did in Hillsboro, Ore., in May and a man did in Barrie, Ontario, in March. And (20) the burglar attempting to enter an establishment from the roof via a vent pipe but who gets stuck and must be rescued by the police, or, as with a 20-year-old man in Dayton, Ohio, in December, who suffocated.
Guns in the Reading Room: In April in Chandler, Ariz., Johnel Trinidad, 18, sitting on the toilet inspecting a gun he planned to buy from a friend, accidentally shot himself in the knee. Said police Sgt. Matt Christensen, "Bathroom gun safety and gun safety in general pretty much dovetail." It was Chandler's second such shooting in a year. In July, Harold Hughes, 52, was on the toilet, his gun on the counter and his pit bull lounging nearby, when the dog became startled and knocked the gun to the floor, where it fired a shot into Hughes' leg.
(Send your Weird News to Chuck Shepherd, P.O. Box 8306, St. Petersburg, Fla. 33738, or Weird@compuserve.com. Chuck Shepherd's latest paperback, "The Concrete Enema and Other News of the Weird Classics," is now available at bookstores everywhere. To order it direct, call 1-800-642-6480 and mention this newspaper. The price is $6.95 plus $2 shipping.)