News of the Weird 

Celebrity Trademark News

The gruff, former Chicago Bears player and coach Mike Ditka recently teamed with a California winery to sell a signature line of wines, including a premium taste retailing for $50 a bottle. And actor Andy Griffith filed a lawsuit in November demanding that the former William Fenrick change his legal name back from “Andy Griffith,” which he admitted he acquired only to help himself get elected sheriff of Grant County, Wis. (he lost). And a man in China’s Fujian province applied to the government in November to sell female sanitary pads under the trademark “Yao Ming” (China’s superstar pro basketball player), catching Yao’s agents dumbfounded at the man’s audacity.

Cultural Diversity

Among the indigenous rituals that survive today in Madagascar is the quinquennial (or so) “turning of the bones,” when families dig up their ancestors’ remains, polish them, show them around the village (so the departed can see how things have changed), and re-dress and re-inter them. Not to partake is to show disrespect, bring bad luck, and risk one’s own unsatisfactory afterlife, according to an October Wall Street Journal dispatch from Antananarivo.

Asia’s Game: According to an October report in the Asian Wall Street Journal, golf camps in China, Japan, South Korea and Singapore teach kids as young as 2, in many cases merely because parents are awed by the financially successful pro golfer Michelle Wie, who started at age 4. Some adult golfers in Thailand understand the obsession, such as those who play the Kantarat course in Bangkok, whose fairways are between active runways of Don Muang airport, with the “smell of kerosene on the first tee” and the occasional need to dodge planes to play a tough lie. And China’s Xiamen University recently began requiring that students majoring in management, law and software engineering take a course in golf, to round out a “socially elite” education.

Latest Religious Messages

Bad Water/Good Water: Some churches in Canada have begun actively condemning commercial bottled water (except where no other sanitary water is available), either as environmentally destructive or as the commercialization of God’s gift of life (according to a September report in Toronto’s Globe and Mail). At the same time, in Mumbai, India, as many as 1 million Hindus once again this year ritually dunked hand-made idols of the elephant-headed Ganesh, thus worsening the hopelessly polluted waters around the city.

New York City Episcopal priest Timothy Holder (“Poppa T”), whose HipHopEMass and “Hip Hop Prayer Book” have turned south Bronx youth into parishioners over the last two years, issued a music CD in November featuring Bible stories in street language. For example, the 23rd Psalm: “The Lord is all that / I need for nuthin’ / he ‘lows me to chill.”

Questionable Judgments

Frank Williams, 48, filed a lawsuit in Pittsburgh in August, accusing the state Department of Corrections of improperly punishing him four years ago when he was immediately ordered back to prison for missing a parole appointment. Williams said he was not able to contest the decision then because he was hospitalized, unconscious, having been shot on his way to the appointment, and in the intervening years, his medical condition has worsened because of inadequate medical care in prison.

Election Roundup (cont’d)

Dead candidates continued to enjoy electoral success, with at least four winning hard-fought races in November. Katherine Dunton tied in an Alaska school board race but, though dead, won the coin toss and was elected. Glenda Dawson won her Texas state House seat, thanks in part to a colorful campaign mailer that went out a month after her death, touting her achievements (but making no campaign promises). And Sam Duncan won a seat on a North Carolina county soil and conservation board, which was such a low-key race that even some of his backers were surprised to learn after the election that he had died in September.

Smashmouth Politics: Republican Barbara Cubin barely won re-election to the U.S. House from Wyoming after she angrily threatened to slap her wheelchair-confined opponent over a comment about campaign finance reform after an October debate. And former Texas state House member Rick Green took a swing at the man who beat him in 2002 when both arrived at the polls to vote at the same time.

People With Much Worse Sex Lives Than You:

(1) Michael McPhail, 26, was arrested in Spanaway, Wash., in October after his wife said she caught him having sex with the couple’s pit bull terrier. (Washington’s new anti-bestiality law took effect in June, passed after the highly publicized 2005 death of a man in Enumclaw who allowed himself to be penetrated by a horse.) (2) Bryan Hathaway, 20, was arrested in Superior, Wis., in October and charged with molesting a deer carcass that he said had sexually aroused him when he saw it in a ditch. (Hathaway’s lawyer has raised the defense that the anti-bestiality law only applies to sex with live animals.)

But for Alcohol, There’d Be Little News of the Weird

Twice in October, motorists were arrested for DUI after driving up to the security guard house at the nuclear power plant in Braidwood, Ill., by mistake. According to police, Lloyd Kuykendall, 38, drove up and handed the guard $1, thinking it was a highway toll booth, and 10 days later, Stanislaw Drobrzawski, 51, tried to align his car with the guard house, thinking it was a gas station pump. And in Des Moines, Iowa, in October, customer Michelle Marie Engler, 45, was arrested for public intoxication at the Big Tomato Pizza restaurant after boisterously demanding to know why her food was taking so long. (An employee explained she hadn’t ordered yet.)


Since 1999, News of the Weird has reported stories of perhaps the same man who, posing as a cop, made periodic phone calls to managers of fast-food restaurants demanding that a young female employee be interrogated about a crime while he listened in and steered the questioning to sex. Last year, police made an arrest after identifying the purchaser of a calling card used to phone a Kentucky McDonald’s as David R. Stewart, 39, of Fountain, Fla. (The caller had demanded that the employee undress and jump up and down so the manager could sniff her sweat for traces of drugs.) However, a jury in Shepherdsville, Ky., acquitted Stewart in October. The employee still has a lawsuit pending, and authorities in other states want to talk to Stewart.

Bright Ideas

Sarasota, Fla., dermatologist Michael Rosin was sentenced to 22 years in prison in October for subjecting numerous patients to unnecessary, frightening cancer surgery so that he could bill them (and Medicare) for millions of dollars. An FBI investigation had revealed that Rosin had once detected aggressive cancer from a slide that contained not a skin sample but chewing gum and another time from a slide that contained plastic foam.

When oil prices rose in the summer, Steve Jordan began drilling what would be an 8,500-foot oil well under his house near Lake Charles, La., because prices were finally high enough for him to recover the $2 million he thought the operation would cost. (Crude oil, which peaked in July at about $77 a barrel, had fallen to $65 by the time Jordan gave his last interview, on CNN in September, and at press time was about $56 a barrel.) č



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Chuck Shepherd

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