Lead Stories

Least competent magician: According to an Australian Broadcasting Commission report in June, Luke Dow, recuperating in a hospital in Mount Isa, was considering a lawsuit against an unnamed magician as a result of a recent performance during which Dow had volunteered to assist in two stunts. First, the magician was to knock a piece of paper out of Dow’s hand with a whip, but he missed, snapping Dow hard in the head. Dow nonetheless decided to participate in the second stunt, in which the magician, back turned, was to shoot a balloon held by Dow, using a mirror to aim. The shot hit Dow in the hand.

Six women filed a lawsuit in Birmingham in July against Alabama’s new ban on the sale of sex toys, defined as “any device designed or marketed as useful primarily for the stimulation of human genital organs.” According to the lawsuit, four of the women claim the law violates their privacy because they need sexual aids to achieve orgasm.

In Bridgeport, Connecticut, a 37-year-old man was put on probation and ordered to undergo counseling in July for breaking into a home in nearby Fairfield in April. According to police, the man wanted to kill some white people because he was tired of “honkies” not respecting him, and he knew white people lived in the house because it was painted white. The man is also white but believes he is black.

Doesn’t Anyone Drive Sober Anymore?

In Colonial Beach, Virginia, Michael L. Long, 46, was charged with DUI in May as he pulled up in a limo at the local high school to pick up students who had hired him as a graduation-night designated driver. Two weeks later in Minneapolis, Curtiss Clarin, 56, was charged with DUI and failure to submit to a Breathalyzer test. For the last 15 years, Clarin has been employed by the Minneapolis Police Department to testify in jury trials about how Breathalyzers work.

News From the Disrespect Community

In May Professor John H. Lammers was fired by the University of Central Arkansas for making a snorting noise as he passed school administrators with whom he’d been feuding. And in February Jermaine Brown and his cousin Jonas Brown, both 21, were sentenced in Durham, North Carolina, to six months in jail for riddling a man’s car with bullets. According to the prosecutor, they said the man had “looked at them funny.”

No Stress Picking Up the Paycheck

In March of last year Algie Toomer won a $100,000 settlement against the state of North Carolina for harassment resulting from a power struggle in his office at the Department of Motor Vehicles. A legislative committee investigating the situation called him once as a witness, and in June of this year Toomer announced that the hearing was so stressful he had been advised by doctors to take the next year off. And two employees of the Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs haven’t been to work since April because they say harassment by their supervisors would cause them to lapse into clinical depression.

Mixed News on Smoking

A study released in July by a University of London Institute of Psychiatry researcher concluded that the workplace accident rate on England’s annual nonsmoking day has gone up every year since it was implemented 13 years ago. In July preliminary findings of a Boston University medical school study revealed that smoking could reduce the size of a man’s erection.

Government in Action

France’s Employment and Solidarity Ministry reported in June that it had already logged “several thousand” violations by companies forcing their employees to work too much. The maximum legal workweek is now 39 hours and drops to 35 in 2000. Among the ministry’s recent busts were a crucial early-evening labor-management bargaining session at a communications firm and another at a defense contractor, after which the contractor agreed to lock its buildings at 7 PM.

Puerto Rican legislator Augusto Sanchez Fuentes proposed in April that the government sponsor “fairs” at which mothers could sell their newborn babies to people from the mainland. He said such fairs would reduce abortions, improve tourism, streamline the adoption process, and ease poverty in Puerto Rico.

Banker Glen Garrett, 66, of Purdy, Missouri, said in March that he has spent about $1 million in legal fees over six years fighting federal regulators who fined him $25,000 for doing business as his father had taught him, by handshake, rather than using the required paperwork. The FDIC became upset when Garrett hired himself to construct a bank, even though an independent appraiser later said Garrett charged about $300,000 less than market price.

In June Pakistan’s prime minister Nawaz Sharif said it is the patriotic duty of his countrymen to “eat grass” to save money for defense spending. The Washington Post reported that Sharif paid only $58 in income tax in the last year for which figures are available, despite the fact that his family’s business, the Ittefaq Group, the country’s fourth largest industrial company, is worth $217 million.

In June Ontario’s health minister, Elizabeth Witmer, ordered her office to cease requiring photographs of the breasts of women who want reduction surgery, though apparently it was never departmental policy. She pointed out that such photos are irrelevant in determining medical necessity.

Least Competent Criminal

Karl Ray Johnson, 23, was charged with disorderly conduct at a department store in Vallejo, California, in June. He fell through a ceiling from his perch in a crawl space above a women’s dressing room.

Recurring Themes

Among the odder cases of paraphilia that News of the Weird has reported are the raincoat-clad peepers who lurk in the pits of outhouses. An alert went out in June of this year in Horsetooth Mountain Park near Fort Collins, Colorado, when a 28-year-old woman using an outhouse noticed a red light in the pit and looked down to find a man in hip-high waders videotaping her. He escaped.

The Curse of Stevie Nicks

Last week News of the Weird reported that singer Stevie Nicks had obtained a restraining order against a man who believed she was a witch who could “cure” his homosexuality. At a recent Stevie Nicks concert in Concord, California, a 38-year-old man saw his estranged wife (who had a restraining order against him) in the parking lot, then climbed a utility pole and hanged himself with jumper cables as hundreds of people watched.

Send your weird news to Chuck Shepherd, Chicago Reader, 11 E. Illinois, Chicago 60611.

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