News of the Weird 

Lead Story: Brian Blair, now a county commissioner in Tampa, asserted in a 2002 lawsuit that he had been forced into retirement from his previous career as a professional wrestler after he tripped over a tray of dishes and hurt himself at a Carrabba's Italian Grill restaurant. Blair announced in August 2007 that a settlement had been reached with Carrabba's, and thus he would not explain (according to a deposition cited by Carrabba's attorneys) how the "career-ending" injury allowed him to keep lucrative wrestling dates in Japan months after he fell, or how he registered a .089 blood-alcohol reading that evening even though he admitted to only one sip of wine, or how a sober professional wrestler accustomed to being thrown across a ring could be hurt so badly by a simple fall, or how a politician who generally abides a pro-business, anti-lawsuit philosophy could have initiated such litigation.

Unclear on the Concept: The Federal Communications Commission famously imposed heavy fines for "indecency" against CBS for the brief, inadvertent glimpse it offered of Janet Jackson's right breast during the 2004 Super Bowl. The same indecency-concerned agency, however, issued a routine official notice in July listing call letters of TV stations it had recently approved, including, for a proposed station in Honolulu, KUNT-TV. (The applicant, headquartered in Skokie, Ill., withdrew the requested letters when the Star-Bulletin of Honolulu publicized the FCC's notice.)

Serena Yen, a member of the 24 Hour Fitness gym in Houston, complained to KTRK-TV/Channel 13 in July that she had been inadvertently shut inside recently at about midnight while using an upstairs exercise machine, when employees locked up for the night. A spokesman at the company's headquarters said that "24 Hour" does not refer to the hours of operation.

The government of China, which claims control of Tibet despite the region's vigorous culture of independence, announced in August it would henceforth require Tibet's "living Buddhas" (special clergy believed to be continuously reincarnated) to get permission from China's religious affairs officials before submitting their souls to be embodied in the future. The government acted, it said, because the reincarnation process needs to be managed better.

As urban sprawl gobbles up land that previously surrounded farms and ranches, some new homeowners are getting feistier about rural noises and smells that disturb their enjoyment of country life. Kimber Johnson paid an extra $80,000 to get the premium view for her land near Phoenix, but complained in July about a farm's routine summer buildup of manure 300 feet away, lasting until the corn crop is picked. The problem also exists in the French village of Cesny-aux-Vignes, where in August the mayor simply banned all complaints from urban newcomers about braying donkeys and loud farm equipment. (Occasionally, the newcomers win, as in Washington County, Minn., in June when the sheriff cited farmer Karyl Hylie for having a cow guilty of "excessive mooing.")

The Continuing Crisis: Just before Patricia Nilsen committed suicide last year, she cashed out her estate and left the money (about $300,000 in CDs) to famous 1960s singer Connie Francis, a move that was, said Nilsen's relatives, an abrupt departure from her previous plans. The relatives accuse Francis of manipulating Nilsen, but Francis said she hardly ever spoke to or wrote her. Francis described Nilsen as a huge fan who wrote her frequently, perhaps giving Nilsen, said a relative, "the insane delusion" that Francis was her best friend (though there was no formal evidence of mental illness). Francis offered to split the proceeds with the family and to donate to Nilsen's favorite charity, but the family refused, and Francis recently filed a lawsuit in Palm Beach, Fla., to prevent the family from holding up her money.

Brand-New Fetishes: Verle Dills, 60, was arrested in Sioux Falls, S.D., in July after police found numerous homemade videos of Dills having sex in public with "traffic signs." And Jeff Doland of Uniontown, Ohio, was arrested in July, caught in an Internet sting after he flew to Miami thinking he had arranged to pay a "mother" to let him photograph her two adolescent daughters while she periodically pushed them underwater (because he "liked watching the bubbles").

Least Competent Criminals: Jazmine Roberts, 19, was apprehended by a Neiman Marcus security guard in White Plains, N.Y., in August and held for police after she allegedly walked out of the store with a $250 pair of jeans and raged against the guard. According to a police report, Roberts was under the impression that once she walked out the door, she was immune from arrest, telling the guard, "It's too late. I already left the store."

Recurring Themes: Occasionally, motorists who are involved in collisions (especially inebriated ones) continue to drive on, claiming not to have realized for a while that their victim is dead and stuck in the car's windshield. In July in Green Bay, Wis., Steve Warrichaiet, 50, was arrested on several charges in the injuring of one pedestrian (found on the street) and the death of another (lodged in the windshield as Warrichaiet drove home). In August, Tony Martinez, 54, was arrested in Perris, Calif., on several charges in connection with the death of a motorcyclist, whose body was lodged in Martinez's rear window as he drove home.

The Classic Middle Name (All New!): Arrested recently for murder and awaiting trial: Earl Wayne Reynolds (Spotsylvania County, Va., August); Donald Wayne Booth (Austin, Texas, August); Dustin Wayne Nall (Arlington, Texas, August); Christopher Wayne Hudson (Melbourne, Australia, June); Earl Wayne Flowers (Taylorsville, N.C., April); Randall Wayne Mays (Payne Springs, Texas, May). Sentenced for murder: Patrick Wayne Schroeder (Pawnee City, Neb., August).

© 2007 CHUCK SHEPHERD

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