In November Ontario College of Art student Jubal Brown told the Associated Press that he was the person who vomited publicly on two masterpieces this year. At the Art Gallery of Ontario in May he regurgitated red food coloring on a Raoul Dufy work, and at New York City’s Museum of Modern Art in November he threw up in blue on a Piet Mondrian painting. Brown claimed that his goal was “to liberate individuals and living creatures from banal, oppressive representation.” He said his third work will be in yellow.
Officials at the Central Penitentiary in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, announced in October that they’re encouraging male inmates to marry each other in order to reduce HIV infections. Eight couples have taken the plunge so far and received a certificate that shows their pledge of fidelity. The marriages are valid only in prison because Honduran law does not recognize same-sex marriages.
Roberto Alomar-ism in the news: In September East Pittsburgh school custodian Anthony DePaulo spit on the car of a city councilman he didn’t like; in October Robert Cossia in Belleville, Illinois, spit on the truck of Gregory Brown (and allegedly on Brown himself) after a dispute over a bounced check; in November British doctors reported in the Lancet that meningitis was passed to a man when another man spit in his face; and also in November, according to U.S. News & World Report, the National Spit Tobacco Education Program reported that televised tobacco chewing and spitting during the 1996 World Series was down 80 percent from the average over the last ten years.
In August the parents of five-year-old Alexandra Taylor received an undisclosed settlement from Continental Airlines because the airline permitted another customer to bring a six-foot-long python into the cabin of a 1994 flight, which allegedly caused Alexandra to have severe nightmares. The snake’s owner had brought along her companion as a “support snake” prescribed by her therapist to help her overcome the trauma of being sexually harassed by a professor.
In June a federal magistrate ordered Dr. Susan J. Powers to pay the government $292,000 for breaking her contract to provide medical care to underserved rural areas in exchange for the government’s having funded her medical education. Powers tried to get out of the contract by claiming that if she left her “support network” of friends in the San Francisco Bay area she would become despondent and possibly suicidal.
In August Charles Murphy filed a lawsuit against Lisa Aune, the manager of the federal building in Eugene, Oregon, after he was dismissed as a security officer. He claims Aune fired him for violating a grooming rule because he has too much chest hair, which bulges out in the summertime when rules permit him to wear open-necked shirts.
After four months of increasingly violent attacks by vigilantes, South African criminal gangs began lobbying for police protection in November. More than a thousand gangsters stood outside the gates of parliament in Cape Town, begging for “justice” and “peace” in the wake of news that one gang leader was shot 72 times by a vigilante and his body set on fire. The gang members claim they’re basically good people and that their own murdering, thievery, and drug dealing were attempts to cope with apartheid.
In November a federal appeals court turned down Albert Johnson’s lawsuit against Cook County Jail that sought to reassign female guards away from the showers and toilet areas, saying their presence was “humiliating” to Johnson’s religious belief in “Christian modesty.” A dissenting opinion agreed that the monitoring by females was “cruel and unusual” punishment.
In the Lancet in November stumped British doctors asked for help worldwide in diagnosing a man’s infected hand that has for five years carried an incredibly putrid odor. A finger was nicked while the man was dressing chicken carcasses, with the cut yielding an “overpowering” smell that’s “almost intolerable” in a closed examination room.
China’s Xinhua news agency reported in September that Lui Yuxue, 16, had successfully undergone tongue-reduction surgery. The operation snipped off several inches of Lui’s tongue that extended outside her mouth.
German physicians from Eberhard-Karls University in Tubingen reported in a November New England Journal of Medicine that a surgeon accidentally transplanted a patient’s malignant tumor cells into his own hand when he nicked it during surgery on the patient.
Knoxville, Tennessee, dentist Stephen Cobble, who made News of the Weird a year ago when patients and former employees described alleged unorthodox treatments (such as transferring C-section scar tissue to treat a jaw disorder), had his license revoked in November after protracted hearings over whether his unconventional anesthesia methods contributed to a patient’s death. And retiring U.S. representative Wes Cooley of Oregon, who made News of the Weird in March over accusations of serial lying, was indicted in December for falsely claiming on his official state voter’s guide biography that he had fought in Korea during the Korean War. Cooley apparently was done in when he offered as verification the name of his army supervisor who he thought was dead but who turned up alive and revealed that Cooley spent the war in Georgia.
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 Belschwender.