Lead Stories

Variety reported in January that Britain’s Pathe Pictures had scheduled an April shooting date for the $7 million comedy Thunderpants, described as the story of “an 11-year-old boy whose amazing ability [to break wind] leads him first to fame and then to death row, before it helps him to fulfill his ambition of becoming an astronaut.”

Twenty-two-year-old Devin Grant survived a gunshot attack by three Atlanta police officers in December, catching 16 bullets in the neck, back, arms, and leg and suffering 24 separate wounds. One bullet severed an artery, but Grant’s muscularity slowed the release of blood, allowing him to remain alive until he could be treated. The shots were fired after Grant allegedly pointed a gun at officers following a 20-mile car chase, which started, police said, when Grant attempted to evade an arrest for a traffic violation. He went immediately from hospital to jail.

For Immature Readers Only

In November Welsh entrepreneur Ben Holst formed the TitPillow Company, which sells pillows shaped like breasts, after receiving a grant of about $1,500 from the Prince’s Trust, headed by Prince Charles. In Puppetry of the Penis, which closed in January after three months at London’s 600-seat Whitehall Theatre, nude actors artistically twisted their private parts into shapes resembling, for example, the Olympic torch and a hamburger. And a November conference at Penn State University featured workshops and exhibits organized around regaining control of a word the feminist organizers regard as empowering but which is generally regarded as vulgar. The event’s name? “Cuntfest.”

The Laws of Irony Are Strictly Enforced

In October in Springfield, Vermont, Brian Dodge, 44, the owner of two Christian radio stations (including LOVE radio in Madbury, New Hampshire), was charged with punching his wife and choking her with a towel. He was subsequently arrested for violating a stay-away order.

Their life’s work: In November a space-heater fire wiped out George Marchiando’s nearly complete two-story dream house in Plainfield, Indiana, which he had spent ten years building in his spare time. In Lakeland, Florida, David Eachon, 32, who spent nine years building a scaled-down replica of a World War II Spitfire fighter plane, finally took it for a test flight in August, but crashed shortly after takeoff and was killed.

New York state assemblywoman Nancy Calhoun, a cosponsor of anti-stalking legislation, pled guilty in January to harassing her ex-boyfriend in 1999. Her crimes included making dozens of hang-up phone calls; bursting into his home in the middle of the night; tailgating him in a car; and posing as a cosmetics saleswoman in order to get the phone number of his new girlfriend.

Courtroom Follies

In granting a man visitation rights to his newborn son in November, Chicago divorce court judge Edmund Ponce de Leon ruled that, for the baby’s well-being, the mother would have to pump breast milk before each visit for the husband to feed to the baby. After a December appeal, the judge dropped the breast-milk requirement.

In October the Florida Supreme Court ruled that a man who had been convicted and imprisoned for sexually abusing his eight-year-old stepdaughter did not necessarily pose a threat to his own children, aged three and five, and thus could retain custody of them.

Latest Patron Saints

In November the Russian Orthodox Church named the apostle Matthew patron saint of the country’s tax police. And in October the Vatican announced a patron saint for politicians: Saint Thomas More, the latest of nearly 300 patron saints named by Pope John Paul II. Vatican observers believe Saint Isidore of Seville will soon be named patron saint of the Internet.

Not Like You and Me

In December annoyed shopkeeper Akira Ishiguro, who once locked a customer inside his store in Yokohama, Japan, until she agreed to buy something, allegedly made a woman get on her knees and apologize because she did not want to buy a coat she had been handling. He then pressured her into changing her mind, and she ended up giving him a $25 down payment.

Recurring Themes

From the department of supermessy homes: In December a Fairfax County, Virginia, couple (both well-paid U.S. Department of Labor employees) were ordered out of their three-story home by county officials because of accumulated garbage. Trash was so heavy that walls had separated from ceilings; cleanup crews had to crawl on their stomachs to get to some of it; and feral cats, rabid raccoons, and rats (who had built a nest in the oven) were running wild. As she witnessed the cleanup, the wife moaned that she was losing “everything that was precious to me.”

God’s Will

A 45-year-old woman who was killed as she walked onto Interstate 55 near Sherman, Illinois, in October was revealed to have been a member of a Jehovah’s Witnesses breakaway group who believe they should test their faith by standing in the middle of traffic. A few days before, she had been pulled to safety from the same highway while attempting to proselytize to drivers zooming by.

In the Last Month

New Hampshire state representative Tom Alciere resigned after constituents discovered his Web site contained long-standing statements praising people who murder police officers. In official papers filed with Georgia’s department of education, school districts mistakenly reported that 112 students were murdered last year (the actual state total was zero). A man arrested for stealing a car in Bismarck, North Dakota, would identify himself only as Obi-Wan Kenobi and said he was on orders from “the force.” A 43-year-old man was charged with three recent bank robberies after walking onstage at a Macon, Georgia, comedy club and confessing.

Thanks this time to Gary Abbott, Paul Hirschfield, Joel O’Brien, John Cieciel, Martha Swift, Arthur Fields, Juliana Abbott, Mike Lewyn, Chris Nalty, Rob Borosak, David Lips, and Gary Goldberg, and to the News of the Weird Senior Advisers and Chief Correspondents.

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

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