Lead Stories

L. Dennis Kozlowski, former chief executive of Tyco International, spent $135 million in company funds (without authorization, claimed Tyco officials in September) on personal luxuries, including two New York City apartments ($24 million) and a house in Boca Raton, Florida ($29 million); in addition to the infamous $6,000 shower curtain, he bought a $17,100 travel toiletries box, a $15,000 umbrella stand, and a $445 pincushion. Tyco also picked up half the tab for a 2001 trip to the Italian island of Sardinia, which included a $2.1 million birthday party for Kozlowski’s wife, Karen, that featured a performance by Jimmy Buffett and an ice replica of Michelangelo’s David that dispensed vodka from its penis.

Toronto’s National Post reported in August on the executive seminars offered by the local firm Case Solutions, which cost over $12,000 and encourage clients to use specialized Lego blocks to build metaphorical representations of their companies’ strengths and weaknesses. One executive, intending to portray himself as a multitasker, built an octopus wearing a hard hat and holding a skeleton; according to the Post, the skeleton symbolized “problems from the past” and the hard hat “his tendency to protect himself from sales quotas.” People use the blocks, said one Lego advocate, “to make a statement that they might not have been able to make before.”

Democracy in Action

In September, Robert Bouslaugh dropped out of the race for sheriff in La Plata County, Colorado, after allegedly shooting a teen gang member to death in Albuquerque, New Mexico, while wearing a blouse and skirt. Bouslaugh was leaving an adult bookstore when the teen attacked him, stole his purse, and forced him into his own rental car at gunpoint to look for an ATM; Bouslaugh explained the drag by saying he’d been working undercover but claimed he could not elaborate.

Compelling Explanations

In August in Sarasota, Florida, a jury awarded $2.1 million to a 59-year-old woman who’d sued cosmetic surgeon Holly Barbour over a botched neck- and face-lift. According to testimony, Barbour had previously worked only on eyes, and offered the surgery at a discount ($7,500) because she wanted to expand her practice to the rest of the face. The operation took over ten hours (twice the norm) and left the patient with a pea-size lump next to her left eye that made a popping sound when she blinked.

In April in Little Rock, Arkansas, model Raymond Leopard, who played the Winston Man in cigarette ads from 1978 to 1980, filed a federal lawsuit demanding $65 million in damages from R.J. Reynolds; he claims that when he did the ads he didn’t know cigarettes caused cancer, and now he’s torn by “long episodes of remorse and guilt.”

In September in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, 55-year-old Gordon Neal Diem was convicted of several crimes in connection with his alleged on-line attempt to lure two teenage girls (one of whom was actually a police officer) to a motel room for sex. According to Diem, however, his actions were all part of a crusade against adults who sexually abuse children. He suspected that the 17-year-old he’d had a three-month Internet relationship with was really a “pedophile madam” whose organization he hoped to infiltrate, and that she was feeling him out as a potential recruit; the 60 sex toys and pieces of bondage gear he’d brought to the motel were props to make him look like a real pervert, and the child-sex photos found in his home were there, he said, to “help motivate [him] to altruism.”

Trademark Blues

In August, a federal judge in New York rejected Tommy Hilfiger’s trademark lawsuit against a company in Wichita Falls, Texas, that makes a dog perfume called Timmy Holedigger, ruling that consumers were unlikely to confuse pet products with products meant for people. (The company also makes fragrances called Pucci, CK-9, and Miss Claybone, but has yet to hear from Gucci, Calvin Klein, or Liz Claiborne.)

Our Civilization in Decline

Lutheran minister David Benke was suspended in June for speaking at an interfaith prayer service in Yankee Stadium shortly after the September 11 attacks; conservative Lutherans strictly oppose praying with “pagans” (as the suspension decision referred to Jews and Muslims) because it implies that there is more than one God.

In the Last Month

In Duarte, California, Beckman Research Institute investigators developed genetically engineered male flies that became homosexual whenever the temperature was raised above 86 degrees….On U.S. 160 near Kayenta, Arizona, a 54-year-old truck driver became the latest person to be killed by a flying cow; he crashed after another driver knocked the animal into his vehicle….And Reuters reported that a 40-year-old Yemeni man who’d left his wife of 15 years because of her “screaming and endless disputes” had chosen a deaf-mute woman as his new bride.

Send your weird news to Chuck Shepherd, Chicago Reader, 11 E. Illinois, Chicago 60611 or to newsweird@aol.com.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): illustration/Shawn Belschwender.