It's usually in Florida where one reads of lonely widows persuaded to pay extravagant prices for dance lessons, but Mimi Monica Wong, 61, is a different kind of dancing widow, according to an August Wall Street Journal report. A Hong Kong private banker with a top-drawer client list, Wong contracted to pay US$15.4 million over eight years for cha-cha and rumba lessons from two world-class instructors so she could excel on the international championship Latin dance circuit. However, she soured on their motivational approach ("lazy cow" and "(move your) fat arse" were allegedly part of their dialogue) and sued. In September, a court ordered Wong's $8 million advance returned, and she has since signed on with another instructor whose fee is a bargain: $21,000 a month.
-- Trial judge Florentino Floro was fired by the Philippines supreme court in April, and his appeal rejected in August, after investigators found that he had claimed to rely on three mystic dwarves (Armand, Luis and Angel) for psychic powers and the ability to write while in a trance. (Floro protested media accounts of his firing to The Wall Street Journal in July, denying that dwarves helped him decide cases and writing that Armand, Luis and Angel are merely "spirit guides" and that he himself is "gifted" from God "to heal and to prophesy.")
-- "I shouldn't even be doing this," said Judge Gary F. McKinley in a Kenton, Ohio, courtroom in August. "I'm cutting you somewhat of a break," he told two star athletes of Kenton High who had just been convicted of vehicular vandalism in a prank that caused two men serious, life-long disabilities. The kids' sentence: 60 days in juvenile detention (plus community service), but only after football season. (The families of the victims were appalled, especially the family of the one who was brain-damaged.)
-- Judge Paul E. Zellerbach was admonished by California's judicial agency in August for behavior in October 2004, when he left a jury deliberating a murder charge in order to attend an Angels-Red Sox playoff game and declined to leave the game when notified that the jury had reached a verdict (forcing everyone to return the next day).
-- In July, according to a Canadian Press report, a Wal-Mart in St.-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Quebec, received a bomb threat and immediately dispatched about 40 employees on duty to look through the store to find the explosive. (Customers were allowed to leave, though, and ultimately, it was a false alarm.)
-- Can't Possibly Be True: (1) School bus driver Delores Davis faced termination in Coushatta, La., in August after she decided to arrange seating on her bus, with whites up front and all nine black kids into the back two rows. (2) In a suburb of Nashville, Tenn., in July, reserve Army Capt. John Parker was let go as a criminal-justice teacher at Wilson Central High School because he had volunteered for a second tour of duty in Afghanistan. School officials offered him his job back after the first tour, but after the second, they terminated his course, suggesting that he was insufficiently committed to teaching.
-- Tammie Lee Doss, 43, and two friends were charged with unlawful imprisonment in September in Athens, Ala., when Doss held her brother Randy at gunpoint and prayed for him. According to police, Tammie had confronted Randy, even firing a shot near his head to keep his attention, and urged him to redress his childhood mistreatment of her.
-- A puppy with six legs and two penises was reported outside the Kwang Sung Temple in Malaysia in June, according to that country's Star newspaper. And a kitten was born with two faces in July in Grove City, Ohio, and another with just one eye and no nose was born in Syracuse, N.Y., in April. And the World Aquarium in St. Louis, Mo., ran an exhibit in August featuring 10 two-headed snakes and turtles. And a 24-year-old businessman, in a hospital in New Delhi, India, in August, was reported to have two functioning penises.
-- Sanju Bhagat was admitted to a hospital in Nagpur, India, in August, where doctors expected to find a very large abdominal cyst, but instead, said surgeon Ajay Mehta, "To my surprise and horror, I could shake hands with somebody inside." Bhagat was a victim of fetus in fetu, in which his birth twin had migrated to the inside of his body and continued to leech off of him. Mehta extracted feet, hands, hair and jaw.
Hapless: (1) The guy in the Ronald Reagan mask who robbed a Bank of America in San Diego in August got away, but all his money was dye-stained, in a caper that went wrong from the start. According to police, the mask covered his eyes; he wore a cape that tangled with his gun, causing him to drop it; his getaway car got blocked in by a delivery truck; he rammed the truck to get away, provoking an argument with the driver; the dye pack exploded; and the mask and gun got left behind. (2) Twice in a week in August, gangs (or maybe the same gang) of bank robbers in Kuala Terengganu, Malaysia, tried to haul away an ATM. In the first, they mistakenly yanked loose a check-depositing machine instead of the ATM, and in the second, their excavator's digging arm got stuck in the bank's ceiling.
In September, police in New Zealand dropped the dangerous-driving charge against the armless driver reported in News of the Weird in April, satisfied that he steers well enough with his left foot (though his speeding ticket remained). In August, though, the St. Petersburg Times profiled Michael Wiley, 39, of Port Richey, Fla., an enthusiastic driver despite having lost both arms and half a leg in a childhood accident. Wrote the Times, "He guides the key into the ignition with his mouth. Turns it with his toes. Shifts with his knee. Bites the headlight switch. Jams his stump of a left arm into the steering wheel and whips it around." On the minus side, his license was revoked long ago, and reckless driving charges flourish, including the latest, one day after the Times story ran. (And in September, he was charged with domestic assault, with his head.)
Reuters reported in August that a man was killed in his workshop on the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro when he tried to open a rocket-propelled grenade (probably to recover scrap metal) with a sledgehammer. And two days before that, in the Indiana town of Brazil (near Terre Haute), a 31-year-old man was accidentally killed in the explosion of the pipe bomb he was carrying (probably to be used to help him catch fish in Birch Creek).
Eighty such themes have occurred so frequently that they have been "retired from circulation" since News of the Weird began publishing in 1988, and here are more of them: A jar with a loved one's ashes is sometimes inadvertently given away or sold, as at a yard sale. Or a spouse agrees to reconcile even though he or she was recently the victim of attempted murder by the other. Every couple of years, reports surface from Africa about rumors of people able to make penises disappear. Increasingly now, judges punish young noisemakers by forcing them to listen to demographically unappealing music (classical or polka or Barry Manilow). Those things were once upon a time weird, but no longer.
(Visit Chuck Shepherd daily at http://NewsoftheWeird.blogspot.com or www.NewsoftheWeird.com. Send your Weird News to WeirdNewsTips@yahoo.com or P.O. Box 18737, Tampa, FL 33679.)