Lead Stories

Dick Shields made the Pittsburgh newspapers on his 75th birthday on January 11 for his remarkable recuperative powers. Among the medical traumas from which he has recovered: a weeklong coma after his appendix burst, a thrice-broken neck, a broken back, triple-bypass heart surgery, a grapefruit-size blockage of a blood vessel, and a fungus that ate the skin off his feet. He also survived a World War II duty than included hand-marking active mines. Said Shields, apparently without irony, “I’d have to say I’ve been truly blessed.”

In 1978 the Oakland Raiders’ Jack Tatum made a clothesline hit on New England Patriots receiver Darryl Stingley, causing Stingley permanent paralysis. At the time, Tatum arrogantly defended the play as legal and warned other opponents that they could expect the same. In January Tatum applied for disability benefits of $156,000 a year from the NFL Players’ Association, pointing to the mental anguish he has suffered living with the incident. (The $156,000 “catastrophic injury” category is the association’s highest–the same category Stingley is in.)

Beyond fingerprints and earprints: Lavelle Davis, 23, was convicted of murder in Geneva, Illinois, in February. Davis and an accomplice had rehearsed the murder at the scene, with the accomplice placing duct tape over Davis’s mouth just as they would later do to the victim. Davis was linked to the crime scene when his lip prints were found on the piece of tape.

The Continuing Crisis

Reuters news service reported in October that seven women and eight newborn babies were being held in a hospital outside Kinshasa, Zaire–some for as long as three months–because they couldn’t pay their maternity bills. Said a hospital official, “We are obliged to use unusual means to force the patients to find the money.”

In January the wife of Dr. Michael Baden filed divorce papers against him in New York City. (Baden, the head of the New York state police’s forensics unit, testified on behalf of O.J. Simpson that Nicole Brown’s and Ron Goldman’s knife wounds probably were caused by more than one assailant.) According to his wife’s papers, Baden once performed a pair of autopsies on the couple’s dining room table, once asked her permission to impregnate his girlfriend, and once told her he could kill her and make it look like a natural death.

In October a court in Fort Worth, Texas, awarded Jeannie Warren, 23, $8.4 million. Warren sued the now-defunct Psychiatric Institute of Fort Worth, where she had undergone “rage reduction therapy.” According to the institute, the treatment involves restraining the patient and creating a rage “in a controlled and loving environment.” Warren said that in two dozen sessions institute personnel pinned her down, punched her in the abdomen and ribs, and continually demanded to know what she was angry about. Said Warren, “I couldn’t think of anything except ‘You!'”

Pro wrestler Don Harris, 36, went to trial in Nashville in January in his lawsuit against plastic surgeon Glenn Buckspan. Harris had wanted his pectoral muscles tightened but wound up with misplaced nipples. He says he is mortified every time he takes off his shirt in public and that he now wrestles in a vest.

In November the University of Arizona turned down a $250,000 scholarship gift for female American Indians. Four-year Sally Keith scholarships were to have been given on the basis of personality rather than grades. Preference was to have been given to virgins, a point that caused the university to balk because, said a university official, “We can’t dictate morals.”

A 35-year-old woman in Seoul, South Korea, identified only as Mrs. Lee, was granted a divorce in November on the grounds that her husband frequently called out the name of his mistress while asleep and made what were described as “diverse” lovemaking expressions that Mrs. Lee said he’d never used with her.

Texan Randy Farmer, like millions of other people around the world, felt compelled to welcome in 1997 by firing off a few gunshots just after midnight. Farmer was shooting at a backyard tree when the gun jammed. He went inside to unjam it and accidentally shot and killed his seven-year-old daughter. Said Farmer: “God had a hand in this. He had to. It was like God called my baby home to be with him, and God used me as a tool to bring her to him.”

On February 21 Singapore’s appellate court ruled that oral sex is illegal as a substitute for “natural” intercourse but permissible if it is merely foreplay leading to such intercourse. The ruling came as part of a decision against a 47-year-old man who had convinced a 19-year-old woman that the only way to get rid of the poisons in her system was to perform oral sex on him.

The Weirdo-American Community

Buffalo State University professor Scott Isaksen, 44, was arrested in December, allegedly in connection with his coursework, which is described in the university’s bulletin as “original thinking” and “approaching situations with innovative techniques.” According to police, he had given a truant male student the option of writing a paper on stress or meeting privately with Isaksen for a series of stress exercises. The student chose the latter, which included allowing Isaksen to handcuff him and to put a rope around his neck in a motel room.


Convicted child molester Lou Torok, who made News of the Weird in 1995 from his Kentucky prison cell for persuading several governors to declare October 7 Love Day, has written what he calls a “powerful new screenplay” about the Salem witch trials. Says Torok, “One of the main characters, who is believed to have innocently incited the famous trials and eventual hangings of 19 accused witches, is a Carib Indian woman from Barbados, modeled after the personality of Whoopi Goldberg.” Torok also says he is working on a second script, The Burley Boys, “the story of comedian Bob Hope’s sponsoring a home for troubled boys in Cincinnati.”

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.