Lead Stories

Middle East obsessions: According to a new book by Judith Miller, God Has Ninety-Nine Names, Moammar Gadhafi seriously pined for Bush administration State Department spokeswoman Margaret Tutwiler. And London’s Sunday Telegraph reported in December that Syria’s defense minister, Lieutenant General Mustafa Tlass, bombards Princess Diana with love letters. His library is said to be decorated with her pictures and to contain the world’s largest collection of books about her.

In May a judge from Monroe County, Kentucky, urged officials to help make money for the county by jailing fewer local criminals. He said, “We could hold more prisoners from Adair County [and charge $44 a day for each one] if it wasn’t for the local court system filling our jail full.”

The Washington Post reported in May that a financial crisis has created poor conditions at the morgue in the District of Columbia. Among the problems: there is a backlog of bodies–74 are awaiting cremation (the crematorium is broken), 200 are awaiting autopsies, and 400 are awaiting toxicology analyses. Furthermore, the air conditioning is broken in the autopsy rooms, cockroaches run on autopsy tables, the floor is sticky with blood and other bodily fluids because drains are clogged, and corpses are exposed in torn body bags.

Courtroom Antics

In May in Narragansett, Rhode Island, Kevin T. McGreevy was sentenced to 20 days’ home confinement for his second drunk-driving conviction. He will be monitored by an electronic bracelet that alerts authorities if he strays more than 150 feet from his base. Unknown to the judge who imposed the sentence, McGreevy lives in an apartment right above the Bon Vue Inn bar and nightclub, well within the 150-foot zone.

In May the California Commission on Judicial Performance recommended that Los Angeles county judge Norman Gordon be censured for various inappropriate remarks to court employees, including calling a Latino court clerk “the little Mexican” and “peon,” a Japanese-American stenographer “little Buddhahead,” a female judge “sow,” and a female stenographer who was trying to have a child “little copulator.”

In May, Matthew Simmons, 21, who had just been found guilty in London, England, of threatening French soccer star Eric Cantona, leaped over a bench, grabbed the prosecutor in a headlock, and tried to punch him, yelling, “I am innocent! I promise! I swear on the Bible!”

In May after prosecutor Michael Spivack waved his finger at defense lawyer Howard Sohn one time too many in accusing him of making inadmissible statements in the just-concluded closing argument of a murder case, the two started wrestling. At one point Sohn had Spivack in a headlock and was repeatedly ramming his head against the jury room door while the jury was inside deliberating. According to Judge Victoria Platzer, jurors were taking bets on the outcome of the match.

Great Art

The Wall Street Journal reported in March that New York City performance artist, photographer, and former Electrolux vacuum cleaner salesman, Eugene Calamari Jr. has a show in which he lies on the floor and lets people vacuum him with an upright cleaner, afterward asking them to write down their feelings. “A lot of people use each other and step on each other’s rights,” says Calamari. “I won’t let anyone do this to me.”

Featured at a contemporary art museum in Sarasota, Florida, in May and June was Charon Luebbers’s Menstrual Hut, a six-by-six-by-five-foot isolation booth symbolizing the loneliness that society has forced upon menstruating women. Accompanying it were 28 paintings created by Luebbers, who pressed her face into the discharge that was present in each day of her cycle.

In March former Andy Warhol protegee Brigid Berlin continued her comeback with a New York City show for her 500-page collection of phallic portraits contributed by people she met at Warhol functions in the early 1970s. Also on display, from her first comeback show in 1995, were her Tit Prints (made with toxic ink, using her nipples instead of a brush) and Penis Pillows (montages of porn-magazine penises, photocopied, shredded, and stuffed into plastic pillows).

Our Animal Friends

Newsweek reported in January that Soraya Juarbe-Diaz of Cornell University is developing a kitten personality test to help prospective owners that elicits cat responses to 13 stimuli, including prolonged petting, various toys, and the sight of dogs.

The Edmonton Sun reported in June that researchers will soon begin studying the effect of “alternative medicine” treatments on dogs, cats, and horses with such illnesses as cancer, liver disease, and kidney disease. Among the treatments being considered: acupuncture, herbal remedies, and massage therapy.

The Weirdo-American Community

In March, Preston Lit, 47, was arrested as the suspected stalker of Philadelphia news anchor Steve Levy. Lit allegedly followed Levy around on assignments for three years and sent him “special gifts,” such as car parts and mail stolen from other people. Lit once congratulated Levy on his ability to “control the weather.”

In April the Foothill Leader newspaper in La Crescenta, California, profiled a 77-year-old local man, Ludovit “Fanman” Salka, who has waged a 28-year war against his neighbors. Convinced that they manufacture drugs in their houses, Salka at first would call the police, who repeatedly found no evidence of drugs in any of the homes. Nowadays, Salka screeches at neighbors at all hours in an attempt to be heard over the roar of the dozen industrial fans on his property, which he says are necessary to blow away the drug fumes.

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.