Lead Stories

A Washington Post report in March on prison corruption in Mexico revealed that imprisoned drug traffickers supposedly under maximum security actually have “spacious rooms, cooks and maids, cellular phones, a gymnasium, a sauna, and manicured gardens where they host barbecues,” among other things. And in May the New York Times revealed that a federal jail in Brooklyn had been run as a “Mafia social club,” where family-business “sit-downs” featured smuggled-in meatballs, manicotti, vodka, and wine. Also in May, imprisoned Gangster Disciple leader Larry Hoover was convicted in Chicago of running a vast drug operation from prison. Hoover issued memos and gave orders by cellular phone, wore $400 alligator boots, and ate specially prepared food in his cell.

In April DSC Communications of Plano, Texas, filed a lawsuit against ex-employee Evan Brown to force him to reveal one of his thoughts. DSC had fired Brown for allegedly failing to honor a contract that it says gives the company the right to know any idea Brown comes up with for ten years. Brown says he has an idea for upgrading old computer code into a higher-level code, which could be worth millions of dollars, but has not written it down and refuses to divulge it. In June a federal judge ordered Brown to tell the idea to DSC.

The Times of London reported in July on an 86-year-old woman who lived without electricity in her home in Sheffield, England, for 20 years because she had mistaken a power failure in 1977 for the utility company’s way of dropping her as a customer. It turned out that Yorkshire Electric Company had only forgotten to hook her back up, but she said she was too embarrassed by how little electricity she had used to ask if there had been a mistake. For years, neighbors thought the woman preferred to live by candlelight.

The Continuing Crisis

Union news: In July a Teamsters local in Oakland, California, protested Mills College’s use of goats to clear brush on its land. Since the union has a contract with Mills, a Teamsters official said the college should either replace the goats with union members or unionize the goats. And in June the New York Times reported that the union which represents office-building cleaning staff treats the workers who clean its own New York City offices worse than any of the workers it represents. The union’s cleaners have no grievance procedures regarding wages, discipline, or firing.

In April off the coast of Long Beach, California, the Coast Guard rescued 16 people from a 40-foot yacht that began to sink while a commercial porn movie was being shot on board.

Maria Soto, 42, of Silver Spring, Maryland, was charged in April with practicing dentistry without a license after a complaint from a patient who originally went to her because she was “cheap.” According to the complaint Soto extracted the wrong tooth from the man, and on another visit she said a tooth was too big for his mouth, removed it, filed it down, and put it back in with Krazy Glue.

In March Jaimie Rising, a student at Indiana University in Pennsylvania, filed a sexual-harassment lawsuit against professor Gordon Thornton for his behavior while teaching a psychology of death course. According to the lawsuit, when Thornton asked whether any student had ever kissed a dead person, Rising said she had kissed her father after he died, which Thornton then described as “disgusting and gross.” Thornton allegedly continued, asking Rising whether she had “stuck her tongue down her father’s throat.”

In May 1996 Marvin Bright was shot to death, reportedly by a coworker, near Nashville, Tennessee. Since then, five women have filed wrongful-death lawsuits against the alleged assailant, claiming Bright was the father of her child. And in June Glynn “Scotty” Wolfe, 88, reported to be the world’s most often-married man, passed away in Redlands, California, but none of his 29 former wives claimed the body. One of his sons finally did two weeks later.

In Buenos Aires The Anatomist by Federico Andahazi, a novel about the discovery of the clitoris by a 16th-century Italian doctor, won a prestigious local literary prize last year, and when the sponsors canceled the award ceremony rather than honor such a controversial book, it became a best-seller. According to a New York Times story, many Argentinians hope the book “will generate a new understanding of female sexuality.”

During a March review of University of New Mexico Hospital expenses, the board of regents found that in 1996 a hemophiliac patient who has since died received a genetically engineered blood-clotting medicine that, over three months, cost $2.4 million. A hospital official explained that the clotting agent is so rare they were unable to negotiate a volume discount. The university said it hoped the state of Texas, where the patient lived, would pick up the tab.

Recent medical no-no’s: In May a University of Maryland entomologist warned people not to wear flea collars to ward off bugs, noting that human skin is far more sensitive to the pesticides than animal fur. Also in May, a doctor in Dublin, Ireland, writing in a British medical journal, told of a golfer who developed hepatitis in part because of the defoliant used by his golf course; he had the habit of licking the ball for luck before each drive.

In May the business school of the University of California at Berkeley appointed Ikujiro Nonaka to the endowed position (sponsored by the Xerox Corporation and its Japanese affiliate) of Distinguished Professor of Knowledge.

How to tell if you’re too rich: The Wall Street Journal reported in May on the growing market for designer clothing for infants. One mother from Short Hills, New Jersey, reported spending $20,000 on clothes for her two-year-old daughter. Popular toddlers’ items include a $250 black Versace motorcycle jacket and a $329 denim jacket-and-pants set from Moschino.

The Classic Middle Name

In Alabama murderer Billy Wayne Waldrop was executed in January, and the next month murderer Dudley Wayne Kyzer was turned down for parole. Two weeks later murderer Coleman Wayne Gray was executed in Virginia. In May murderer Larry Wayne White was executed in Texas. In July Maryland inmate Richard Wayne Willoughby was sentenced to life in prison for killing another inmate.


In May News of the Weird reported the conclusion of the editors of the journal Nature that the recent use of dog DNA in a murder case was the first criminal-trial use of nonhuman DNA. Not only is that incorrect, but News of the Weird itself reported one such incident in 1995, in which two men were charged with cattle rustling in Cocoa, Florida, based on tests that matched the DNA of a calf with the DNA in an uncooked slab of pot roast from the calf’s mother. A News of the Weird reader turned up an even earlier cattle-rustling case in 1993 in Brownstown, Illinois.

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 Belshwenderr.