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Daily Variety reported in December that John Kricfalusi, creator of The Ren & Stimpy Show, was threatening legal action against the producers of Comedy Central's South Park for ripping off a cartoon character. According to Kricfalusi, South Park's Mr. Hankey the Christmas Poo, a festively dressed singing and dancing piece of excrement, closely resembles his character Nutty the Friendly Dump.

A police officer's dream: In a police brutality lawsuit that went to trial in New Haven, Connecticut, in December, West Haven police officer Ralph Angelo claimed that the plaintiff himself, Vincent Morrissey, had provoked Angelo by taking a swing at him. When Morrissey's attorney asked Angelo to demonstrate to the jury how hard Morrissey had swung at him, Angelo popped the lawyer on the chin, sending him staggering and forcing an immediate recess.

A December New York Times story profiled 55-year-old bank vice president Rosemary Dunne, who for 13 years has been a "groupie" of prominent opera tenor Richard Leech. She has had a front-row seat for each of his 74 Metropolitan Opera performances since 1992 and has traveled to most of his out-of-town and international engagements, all at her own expense. She has given him many gifts, including scrapbooks documenting his appearances, but claims she is not romantically interested in him. She calls her obsession "my Valium. I save on therapy."

Not My Fault

Dallas monsignor Robert Rehkemper resigned in August in the wake of a $120 million judgment against the diocese for serial acts of pedophilia committed by one of its priests, but claimed the priest and the diocese weren't entirely to blame: "I don't want to judge [the kids' parents] one way or another, but it doesn't appear they were very concerned about their kids." He also said he thought that a child of six or seven should know that sex with a priest is wrong and report it.

In August TV personality Jenny McCarthy told reporters how she became a Playboy Playmate: She had intended to be a model, but as she was walking around Chicago, "I went, 'Jenny, no, no.' All of a sudden my body started walking there [to Playboy]. That's exactly what happened. A larger force, and I call it destiny, brought me in the door, moved my mouth, took the robe off, and did it."

In November the city of Pittsburgh agreed to forgo an appeal and pay a $1.5 million judgment to motorcyclist Henry F. Jodzis Jr. for injuries he suffered in 1979 when, fleeing police after running a stop sign, he smashed into a police car being used as a roadblock. The jury found the Pittsburgh police had violated their own rules on roadblocks.

In November a court in London, England, awarded Peter Lawrence, 39, about $1.6 million for head injuries he suffered in a 1991 motorcycle accident. Because of damage to the part of his brain that governs emotional control, he cannot stop making impulsive, offensive sexual advances to women, which has resulted in the loss of his job and his wife.

Chutzpah

According to a report in the Washington Post in November, armed robbers in the Nigerian city of Onitsha are so bold, and the police so outmanned, that the robbers often notify victims of their intentions in advance, to encourage them to be away from their houses for the robberies. A few days after the police announced a crackdown, one gang of 50 armed robbers cordoned off a street and looted every apartment building on the block.

To help the government's case against him, Saber Abu el-Ulla, accused of firebombing a bus in Cairo, Egypt, played himself in a reenactment of the crime in September. A jovial el-Ulla acted out the entire attack, including firing at the tourist passengers and hurling three Molotov cocktails down the aisle of the bus. Said el-Ulla, "I have always wanted to be an actor."

Koose Munusamy Veerappan, 47, wanted in connection with more than 130 murders and 200 elephant killings in the southern Indian states of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, announced in August that he would surrender to authorities in Madras, but only on the condition that he be given a subsidy of about $143,000 and an immediate presidential pardon.

Welsh welfare recipients Shaun and Julie Doran complained to reporters in November that the free house built for them by the government is "too white" and therefore too difficult to keep clean. The Dorans and their nine children were given the $200,000 house near Llandeilo, Carmarthenshire, and also receive about $450 a week in welfare benefits. Complained Julie, 34: "White everything. It is driving me mad."

Adult Behavior

Malaysian education officials confirmed a report in September that a teacher in Malacca had held down a fifth-grade boy who was shirking his homework and ordered the 21 girls in the class to slap him on both cheeks.

In July two volunteer firefighters in the Plains, Ohio, who were playing hide-and-seek with neighborhood kids, got stuck 15 feet up in a tree. Ten of their colleagues responded to the 911 call.

Zero Tolerance

Items recently declared drug contraband in schools, earning suspensions for the students in possession: cough drops, in Belle, West Virginia, in November; lemon drops, in Colorado Springs, Colorado, also in November; Certs, in Manassas, Virginia, in September; and a gift-wrapped bottle of Bordeaux wine brought as a Christmas present for an eighth-grader's French teacher, in Cobb County, Georgia.

No Longer Weird

Adding to the list of stories that were formerly weird but now occur with such frequency that they must be retired from circulation: the emphysema patient who can't stop smoking even though he's hooked up to an oxygen tank, with predictable results, as happened to Robert Auger of Bridgeport, Connecticut, in November; and the gasoline thief working in the dark who believes the best way to illuminate an area is with a match or lighter, with similarly predictable results, as happened to Timothy D. Compton, 18, in Glenoma, Washington, also in November.

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 Belshwender.

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