News of the Weird 

Celebrity endorsements, the religion of hip-hop and more

CELEBRITY TRADEMARK NEWS: The gruff former Chicago Bears player and coach Mike Ditka recently teamed with a California winery to sell a signature line of wines, including a premium taste retailing for $50 a bottle. And actor Andy Griffith filed a lawsuit in November demanding that the former William Fenrick change his legal name back from "Andy Griffith," which he admitted he acquired only to help himself get elected sheriff of Grant County, Wis. (he lost). And a man in China's Fujian province applied to the government in November to sell female sanitary pads under the trademark "Yao Ming" (China's superstar pro basketball player), catching Yao's agents dumbfounded at the man's audacity.

Cultural Diversity: Among the indigenous rituals that survive today in Madagascar is the quinquennial (or so) "turning of the bones," when families dig up their ancestors' remains, polish them, show them around the village (so the departed can see how things have changed), and re-dress and re-inter them. Not to partake is to show disrespect, bring bad luck and risk one's own unsatisfactory afterlife, according to an October Wall Street Journal dispatch from Antananarivo.

Latest Religious Messages: New York City Episcopal priest Timothy Holder ("Poppa T"), whose HipHopEMass and "Hip Hop Prayer Book" have turned South Bronx youth into parishioners over the last two years, issued a music CD in November featuring Bible stories in street language. For example, the 23rd Psalm: "The Lord is all that / I need for nuthin' / he 'lows me to chill."

Questionable Judgments: Frank Williams, 48, filed a lawsuit in Pittsburgh in August, accusing the state Department of Corrections of improperly punishing him four years ago when he was ordered back to prison for missing a parole appointment. Williams said he couldn't contest the decision then because he was hospitalized and unconscious, having been shot on his way to the appointment. In the intervening years, his condition has worsened because of inadequate medical care in prison.

Election Roundup (continued): Dead candidates continue to enjoy electoral success, with at least four winning hard-fought races in November. Katherine Dunton tied in an Alaska school board race but, though dead, won the coin toss and was elected. Glenda Dawson won her Texas state House seat, thanks in part to a colorful campaign mailer that went out a month after her death, touting her achievements (but making no campaign promises). And Sam Duncan won a seat on a North Carolina county soil and conservation board, which was such a low-key race that even some of his backers were surprised to learn after the election that he had died in September.

People With Much Worse Sex Lives Than You: 1) Michael McPhail, 26, was arrested in Spanaway, Wash., in October after his wife caught him having sex with the their pit bull terrier. (Washington's new anti-bestiality law took effect in June, passed after the 2005 death of a man in Enumclaw who allowed himself to be penetrated by a horse.) 2) Bryan Hathaway, 20, was arrested in Superior, Wis., in October and charged with molesting a deer carcass that he said had sexually aroused him when he saw it in a ditch. (Hathaway's lawyer has raised the defense that the anti-bestiality law only applies to sex with live animals.)

But for Alcohol, There'd Be Little News of the Weird: Twice in October, motorists were arrested for DUI after driving up to the security guard house at the nuclear power plant in Braidwood, Ill., by mistake. According to police, Lloyd Kuykendall, 38, drove up and handed the guard $1, thinking it was a toll booth, and 10 days later, Stanislaw Drobrzawski, 51, tried to align his car with the guard house, thinking it was a gas station pump. And in Des Moines, Iowa, in October, Michelle Marie Engler, 45, was arrested for public intoxication at the Big Tomato Pizza restaurant after demanding to know why her food was taking so long. (An employee explained that she hadn't ordered yet.)

Bright Ideas: Sarasota, Fla., dermatologist Michael Rosin was sentenced to 22 years in prison in October for subjecting numerous patients to unnecessary, frightening cancer surgery so that he could bill them (and Medicare) for millions of dollars. An FBI investigation had revealed that Rosin had once detected aggressive cancer from a slide that contained not a skin sample but chewing gum and another time from a slide that contained plastic foam.

@ 2006 Chuck Shepherd


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