Lead Stories

Woe unto the perfectionist: U.S. attorney Kendall Coffey of Miami resigned in May after he reportedly bit a topless dancer on the arm. He’d supposedly gone to the nightclub where she worked to drown his sorrows after losing the big “Los Muchachos” cocaine-smuggling case. And in May in North Brunswick, New Jersey, police charged Rutgers University math professor Walter Petryshyn, 67, with bludgeoning his wife to death. A friend said Petryshyn had become despondent recently over an error in his latest textbook, Generalized Topological Degree and Semilinear Equations, which he feared would ruin his career.

A newspaper in Bangladesh reported that about 100 criminals attended the nation’s first conference of muggers on April 23. The association decided that the city of Dacca was prosperous enough to support a doubling of its daily rip-offs, from 60 to 120. The leader, Mohammad Rippon, was acclaimed “Master Hijacker” by the group for his record of 21 muggings in a two-hour period.

Breast exams in the news: This month the first of six pending lawsuits for improper diagnoses against Peter Kwon, a physician in Washington, D.C., goes to trial. According to one patient, Kwon “examine[d] my breasts no matter what I tell him is wrong.” Kwon admitted he gives breast exams to every female patient if more than 30 days has elapsed since her previous breast exam. And in May the Massachusetts Board of Registration of Chiropractors finally suspended the license of Ronald A. Goldstein for giving improper massages to 14 women over a 17-year period. Goldstein had maintained that the “uterine lift” and “chest spread” treatments were legitimate.

The Entrepreneurial Spirit

The coroner of Floyd County, Kentucky, complained in February that ambulance drivers were taking dead people to the hospital just so they could bill the county for rides. One suicide was rushed to the hospital even though his shotgun had blown both eyeballs out of their sockets. Another had been dead so long that rigor mortis had commenced, but the driver said he thought he felt a pulse.

In January the New York City Parks Department, which controls permits for vendors on parkland, doubled the annual fee for the hot dog pushcart vendor with the exclusive license for the spot just south of the steps of the Metropolitan Museum of Art–to $288,200 a year.

In May the San Diego Union-Tribune profiled Pete Springer of Encinitas, California, and his three-year-old firm, Rats R Us, which breeds food for reptiles. Wholesale prices range from 60 cents for the “pinkies” to $3 for a jumbo rat. Springer disclosed that he is sometimes disturbed by the nature of his business but pointed out that at times he gives mouth-to-mouth resuscitation to keep frail newborn rats alive.

Reuters news service reported in May that German scientists at the Max Planck Breeding Institute have invented a suicidal potato–its cells automatically kill themselves if attacked by potato blight fungi, slowing the blight and saving crops.

People With Too Much Money

This summer in Putney, Vermont, Honey Loring expects 400 people to pay $1,300 to enroll in her two-week camp for dogs and their owners. At Camp Gone to the Dogs (now in its sixth year) activities include doggie square dancing, doggie swimming-lessons, a doggie bathing-suit pageant and costume parade, and Frisbee catching lessons.

The Central Wholesale Market in Sapporo, Japan, put two melons on sale in May with a price tag of about $1,285 each. They were described as “perfect beauties” in color and sweetness.

From a classified ad in the June 1996 issue of Martha Stewart’s Living magazine: The Protocol School of Washington is accepting students in its class to train those who want to become “Children’s Etiquette Consultants.”

Government in Action

In May New York governor George Pataki criticized the New York City school board for voting to spend $187,000 to put a metal art structure on the roof of P. S. 279 even though the school’s elevator has been disabled for nearly two years. Pataki said the board has spent $11 million on artwork for public schools that have problems ranging from leaky roofs to outdated textbooks.

In February the Connecticut Division of Special Revenue issued two pages of regulations to govern charitable artificial-duck races. Among the requirements were that each contestant must receive a diagram of the race course–a “natural stream of water” that “has a steady current”–and that the ducks must be placed in a receptacle before the race for inspection against “counterfeit” artificial ducks.

The U.S. Treasury Department announced in February that it would spend up to $32 million in a worldwide public relations campaign on the new counterfeit-proof $100 bill. (Within two months of the bill’s release the Secret Service found at least 14 counterfeits of the new bill that had been passed in stores in Richmond, Virginia.)

I Don’t Think So

A Hong Kong woman said she would appeal a shoplifting conviction (which means taking her case to the privy council in England) because a Hong Kong judge didn’t believe her claim that she walked out of a department store in March wearing two bras because she was cold.


James R. Trimble, a police officer in Urbandale, Iowa, made News of the Weird after his arrest in January, when he was caught driving around in his car with a battery-operated “sexual device inserted into his body.” Police said Trimble had taken $20,000 worth of methamphetamine from the department’s evidence locker and also had marijuana, cocaine, and LSD in his car when he was arrested. In May Trimble was sentenced to probation, a $1,000 fine, and 100 hours of community service. Though the police department fired him, his community service will consist of what he used to do as an officer–giving antidrug speeches in local schools.

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.