Lead Stories

Restaurant openings: La Nouvelle Justine, an S&M-themed restaurant that offers mild spankings, food served in dog bowls, and the opportunity for diners to dominate and be dominated as they eat, opened in May in New York City. And in Beijing, a nostalgia-themed restaurant called Fang Li’s Compare Past Misery With Present Happiness is noted for serving the food of the cultural revolution, mostly peasant fare like ant soup and fried crickets. One woman who tried the corn cake said, “It tastes the same, not any better than what I remember.”

In June one of four annual state rattlesnake-bagging tournaments was held in Curwensville, Pennsylvania. Teams of two race the clock in an eight-by-eight-foot cage to bag five rattlesnakes; one person holds the bag above knee level while the other puts the snakes in tail first. Entry and admission fees benefited the local fire department. Said a spectator, “It’s a lot like going to a NASCAR race…like waiting for a crash.” Some people do get bitten (it’s a three-second penalty if a bite draws blood), but, said one contestant, “Why do something sissy, like play golf?” Said another, “It’s [only] $5 to get in, [but] $100 for cocaine. This is a whole lot cheaper.”

8 According to an August Los Angeles Times story, the use of water recycled from sewage has increased by 30 percent in California in the last year. Though formerly limited to the supply intended for toilets and lawn watering, recycled water is now in the drinking supply in San Diego and will soon be in the South Bay and Livermore.

Great Art

Performance artist Ming-Wei Lee’s most recent work featured him eating dinner, in private, with a new guest each night in a New York City gallery. “Both of us are performing,” he said. “Both of us are participating. The food acts as a medium for conversation. For me, art is about process.”

In a recent show at a gallery in San Francisco, conceptual artist Guy Overfelt, 29, called 2,000 toll-free numbers to request that information be sent to the gallery. And for a show in New York City last winter, he exhibited two mailing lists that each contained the names of a thousand art collectors, one for the east coast and one for the west coast. Overfelt offered “signed” editions of the lists on PC and Mac diskettes for $20 apiece.

To publicize an April poetry show at a coffeehouse in Los Angeles, poet Robert Carroll released a recent piece entitled “Am I Really Going to Veg Out in Front of the TV Again Tonight?” The text of the poem is: “Yes.”

In April sculptor Anthony-Noel Kelly, who works in the medium of corpses and severed body parts, was arrested in London on suspicion of illegal possession of cadavers he received through an associate in the Royal College of Surgeons. Kelly, a cousin of the duke of Norfolk, apparently stashed some of the body parts at the family’s ancestral castle in Kent, where police found them. Kelly formerly worked as a butcher.

This summer the Institute for Contemporary Arts in London featured a functioning toilet entitled The Great Flood by sculptor Sarah Lucas. The owner, who bought the piece for about $20,000 last year, loaned it to the ICA under the proviso that it be plumbed to work. Visitors were allowed to pull the chain but not to use the toilet, as two visitors at a Berlin show had done in what the ICA curator called “the ultimate involvement of the audience.”


In February Clemmie Jones, 35, complained to a federal judge in Nashville, Tennessee, that he was upset by the circumstances of his arrest for drug trafficking. Jones was the object of a manhunt so intense that sheriff’s deputies had T-shirts made with photos of Jones on the front and his wife on the back. Said Jones, “I felt as though I was being targeted.”

In August Sebastiano Intili, 43, jumped off a statue in Rome’s Piazza Navona into a fountain and accidentally broke off a piece of a dolphin’s tail. Restoration authorities said it would cost about $8,500 to fix. Two days later Intili was sentenced to three months in jail for trespassing, but his lawyer immediately announced that Intili was suing the city for about $6,000 because the fountain was “in decrepit state” and his client jumped in at great personal risk.

In July police in Lexington, Kentucky, were searching for Delbert Buttrey, 47, who allegedly kidnapped a transient couple from Indiana, took them to an isolated spot, and forced them to perform oral sex on him while his girlfriend snapped photographs. After that, according to police, Buttrey took the couple home with him and forced the man to mow his lawn.

In Eaton, Colorado, five third-graders were suspended from school in April after they were caught smoking marijuana during recess. They had rolled the joints using pieces of paper torn from their homework.


In August the Associated Press reported on the work of pedicurist Jim Rondy, 26, of Fowler, Michigan. Rondy makes more than $100,000 a year working exclusively on the hooves of milk cows at 90 farms. He charges $10 a head to trim a cow’s hooves and remove mud and manure.

The February Scientific American reported on the field-study techniques of conservation biologist Joel Berger. Berger studies moose, which are notoriously unfriendly to humans. He hired a designer from Star Wars to make him a moose suit that would allow him to get close enough to the animals; it worked so well Berger said he worried about being mounted.

To research his recent book on highway bug kills, That Gunk on Your Car, University of Florida zoology graduate student Mark Hostetler said he hung around Greyhound stations and peeled bugs off the buses’ windshields. He told the Los Angeles Times in May that he also took a 12,000-mile road trip with a net on top of his car to trap bugs that bounced off the windshield.

Thinning the Herd

In March a 36-year-old man choked to death on a six-inch tropical fish he had popped into his mouth while showing off for friends in Bayou Vista, Louisiana. In April, a 12-year-old boy was electrocuted in East Palo Alto, California, after he climbed a high-voltage transmission tower in the rain, dared his three companions to join him, and then accidentally touched a wire. And in July, a 22-year-old man, described by his grandmother as “smart in school,” died in a bungee-jumping accident on a railroad trestle in Fairfax County, Virginia. A police spokesman said, “The length of the cord that he had assembled was greater than the distance between the trestle and the ground.”

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.