-- The show business newspaper Daily Variety reported in December that John Kricfalusi, creator of TV's "The Ren & Stimpy Show," was threatening legal action against the producers of the Comedy Central show "South Park" for ripping off a cartoon character. According to Kricfalusi, his character "Nutty the Friendly Dump," an animated piece of excrement, must have been the basis for "South Park's" "Mr. Hankey the Christmas Poo," a holiday-dressed, singing, dancing piece of excrement.
-- A December New York Times story profiled 55-year-old bank vice president Rosemary Dunne, who has for 13 years been what might be described as a groupie for prominent opera tenor Richard Leech. She has sat on the front row of each of his 74 Metropolitan Opera performances since 1992 and traveled to most of his out-of-town and international engagements, all at her own expense. She has given him many gifts, including scrapbooks of his appearances, but is not romantically interested in him. She calls her obsession "my Valium. I save on therapy."
-- Dallas Monsignor Robert Rehkemper resigned in August in the wake of a $120 million jury award against the diocese for the apparently serial pedophilia committed by one of its priests. Still, Rehkemper thought the incidents weren't entirely the fault of the priest or the diocese: "I don't want to judge (the kids' parents) one way or another, but it doesn't appear they were very concerned about their kids." He also opined that once a kid reached age 6 or 7, he should have known that sex with the priest was wrong and reported it.
-- TV personality Jenny McCarthy, on how those unfortunate nude photos as a Playboy Playmate ever got made: She was walking around Chicago, she told reporters in August, intending to be a model, "And I went, 'Jenny, no, no.' All of a sudden my body started walking there (to Playboy). That's exactly what happened. A larger force, and I call it destiny, brought me in the door, moved my mouth, took the robe off, and did it."
-- In November, the city of Pittsburgh agreed to forgo an appeal and thus to pay a $1.5 million judgment to motorcyclist Henry F. Jodzis Jr. for injuries suffered in 1979 when, fleeing police after running a stop sign, he smashed into a police car being used as a roadblock. The original jury verdict in 1987 was for $60,000, but the city council insisted on an appeal, and a second trial in 1995 awarded the higher amount. The juries found the Pittsburgh police violated its own rules on roadblocks.
-- In November, the High Court in London, England, awarded Peter Lawrence, 39, about $1.6 million for injuries he suffered in a 1991 motorcycle accident. Several broken bones mended quickly, but not the damage to the part of his brain that governs emotion and control. Before the accident, the court found, Lawrence was an easygoing man with a stable marriage and a good job, but now, after having lost his job and marriage, he cannot stop making impulsive, offensive sexual advances, and several women testified that he has sexually harassed them.
-- According to a report in The Washington Post in November, armed robbers in the large Nigerian trading city of Onitsha are so bold, and the police so outmanned, that they often notify the victims in advance that they will be coming to rob them, to encourage the residents to be away from the house at the time. A few days after the police announced a crackdown, one gang of 50 armed robbers cordoned off a street and looted every apartment building on the block.
-- To help the government's case against him, accused bus fire-bomber Saber Abu el-Ulla played himself in a prosecutors' video re-enactment of the crime in Cairo, Egypt, in September. A jovial el-Ulla acted out all the sequences, including firing at the tourist passengers and hurling three Molotov cocktails down the aisle of the bus. Said a clearly pleased el-Ulla, "I have always wanted to be an actor."
-- Outlaw Koose Munusamy Veerappan, 47, wanted in connection with more than 130 murders and 200 elephant-killings in the southern India states of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, announced in August that he would surrender to authorities in Madras only on the condition that he be given a subsidy of about $143,000 and an immediate presidential pardon.
-- Welsh welfare couple Shaun and Julie Doran complained to reporters in November that the free house built for them by the government was "too white" and therefore too difficult to keep clean. The Dorans and their nine children were given the $200,000 house near Llandeilo, Carmarthenshire, plus about $450 a week in welfare benefits. Complained Julie, 34, about the fact that all rooms are white: "White everything. It is driving me mad."
-- Government education officials confirmed a report in Malacca, Malaysia, in September that a fifth-grade boy, the son of a man named K. Ramiah, 38, who was shirking his homework assignments, was held by the teacher, who ordered the 21 girls in the class to slap him on both cheeks, resulting in a swollen face.
-- In July, two volunteer firefighters in The Plains, Ohio, playing hide-and-seek with neighborhood kids, got stuck in a tree 15 feet up at about 10:30 p.m. Ten of their colleagues, with an extension ladder truck, responded to the 911 call.
Recently declared as drug contraband in schools, earning suspensions for the students in possession: cough drops (Belle, W.Va., November); health-food lemon drops (Colorado Springs, Colo., November); Certs Concentrated Mints (Manassas, Va., September); gift-wrapped bottle of Bordeaux wine as a Christmas gift for an eighth-grader's French teacher (Cobb County, Ga.).
Adding to the stories that were formerly weird but which now occur with such frequency that they must be retired from circulation: (23) The emphysema patient who just can't stop smoking even though hooked up to an oxygen tank, with predictable results, as happened to Robert Auger of Bridgeport, Conn., in November. And (24) the gasoline thieves working in the dark who believe the best way to illuminate an area is with a match or lighter, to similarly predictable results, as happened to Timothy D. Compton, 18, in Glenoma, Wash., in November.
(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.)