Lead Stories

Nude gardeners: In August, Robert Norton, 73, was accused of working in his yard naked in Pekin, Illinois. This was at least the 13th time since 1981 that he was charged with public nudity. And during the same month in Brooksville, Florida, Carolyn Sparks, 48, received a citation for raking topless in her front yard. (In November a jury said her behavior did not amount to disorderly conduct.)

In October, Ferenc Kovacs, who recently invented a singing condom that plays communist marching songs, opened a laugh kiosk in Budapest. His fee ranges from about 2 cents to provoke a smile to about 35 cents for a laugh. (Sample: Kovacs dons matching black armbands and explains, “I was talking to my brother yesterday, and it turns out his mother died too.”)

No time to be sleeping: Michele G. Phebus, 27, and Tony A. Phebus, 29, were arrested in Lafayette, Indiana, in August after they fell asleep in their car between the ordering microphone and pickup window at a White Castle drive-through; police found marijuana butts in the car and a brick of hash in the trunk. And in September, Brian K. Costa, 27, was found asleep in his car in the middle of an on-ramp to East Providence, Rhode Island, with five bags of cocaine in his lap.

Great Art

An October Associated Press story reported on the French museum displaying works by Honore Fragonard, an 18th-century French anatomist who sculpted creatures using cadavers, which he carefully skinned, preserved, and posed. Visitors to the museum are struck by how much his works resemble the monsters in the movie Alien and other creatures from modern horror films.

A show by feminist sculptor Louise Bourgeois in Toronto in May featured a retrospective of her work, which included bizarre severed penises and huge testicles. One piece, No Exit, consisted of a stairway with two huge testicles at the bottom. In another work, Untitled (With Foot), an innocent baby is crushed by a large pink testicle.

Among the works displayed at the November premiere of the Hugo Boss Gallery in New York’s Guggenheim Museum was Janine Antoni’s Slumber, which consisted of a bed, a loom, and an EEG unit. Antoni sleeps in the bed at night, hooked up to the EEG, and during the day weaves a blanket with patterns in the shape of her EEG readings. A critic for the New York Times called it a “deft mix of public and private, dream and reality” with a “fine poetic spin.”

In October unknown painter Victor Ruiz Roizo, 39, obtained space in the famed Prado museum in Madrid by sticking his canvas on the wall with superglue when no one was looking. It stayed for four days until a visitor inquired about it. Roizo said later that he just thought it would be good to show his work–called Afterwards, featuring a human skull with worms–along with “Rembrandt and all those guys.”

People With Too Much Time on Their Hands

In August, Texas A&M graduate Michael Kelly filed a request under the state’s Public Information Act for a copy of the 1996 confidential football playbook from his school’s archrival, the University of Texas. The request was denied.

In August at the Second Annual International Conference on Elvis Presley, University of North Carolina professor Joel Williamson presented a paper that claimed the screaming girls who tried to rip Elvis’s clothes off in the 1950s were an early part of the women’s movement. Williamson wrote: “An Elvis performance provided a venue in which young women could publicly and all together claim ownership of their bodies, declare themselves loudly, clearly and explicitly to be sexual as well as spiritual characters.”

Two New York dermatologists told the Wall Street Journal in September that each month five to ten of their face-lift patients also tighten their “droopy” earlobes, at about $750 a pair. Dr. Bruce Katz said some patients tell him they want lobes similar to those of Demi Moore, Kathie Lee Gifford, and Sting. Said one 52-year-old patient, “I have the earlobes of a teenager.”

According to a New York Times article in August, the student handbook at the Citadel requires first-year cadets to memorize quirky responses to traditional questions posed during shakedowns by upperclassmen. For instance, the question of how much milk is left in the carton (which is expressed by the upperclassman as “How is the cow?”) must be answered, “Sir, she walks, she talks, she’s full of chalk, the lacteal fluid extracted from the female of the bovine species is highly prolific to the X degree, sir!” (with X representing the number of glassfuls left).


In September News of the Weird listed an array of violent criminals who happened to have the middle name Wayne. More Waynes: In November, Georgia executed Ellis Wayne Felker for the 1981 murder of a college student. Also in November, the suspected rapist of a 12-year-old girl in Petaluma, California, Larry Wayne Cole, apparently died of natural causes while on the lam. And in October, the Oregon parole board turned down the latest bid by Richard Wayne Godwin, serving a life sentence for the 1979 rape and murder of a five-year-old girl.

No Longer Weird

Adding to the list of stories that were formerly weird but that now occur with such frequency they must be retired from circulation: (11) Parents who violate the laws of countries that prohibit giving children certain names, such as the Guillot family, who in October lost a 13-year court battle in France to name their daughter “Fleur de Marie” (Flower of Mary) because it didn’t appear on the list of Roman Catholic saints’ names and also because forenames cannot have prepositions. And (12) the drug user so oblivious to reality that when he comes upon a large-scale police raid at his dealer’s home he still insists on purchasing from one of the officers, as Tomano Summa, 36, was accused of doing in Boston in July.

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.