(NOTE: Chuck Shepherd needs to revisit the roots of "weird" and engage in two more weeks of reflection. Before he left, he picked out some golden oldies to tide you over.)
As of May 1999, the city-supported Icelandic Phallological Museum in Reykjavik was closing in on its goal of housing at least one sample penis from every mammal native to Iceland. Only "man" and one species of whale were missing, and curator Sigurdur Hjartarson had solved the first problem with a letter from an 83-year-old former Lothario promising his organ upon his death (in an erect state if doctors can act quickly enough).
A BLOW FOR JUSTICE
Vincent Morrissey's police brutality lawsuit went to trial in New Haven, Conn., in 1997, and the alleged perp, West Haven police officer Ralph Angelo, was on the witness stand, claiming that Morrissey himself had provoked the encounter by swinging at Angelo. Morrissey's attorney, openly skeptical of Angelo's version of the incident, asked Angelo to demonstrate to the jury just how hard Morrissey had swung at him. Before the lawyer could clarify what he meant by "demonstrate," Angelo popped the lawyer on the chin, staggering him and forcing an immediate recess.
In Milwaukee in 1997, Gary Arthur Medrow, 53, was charged with 24 counts of impersonating a police officer in connection with his unique obsession. What Medrow does, according to police (who have arrested him various times over the last 30 years for the same thing), is telephone a woman and try to convince her to lift another person in the room and carry her or him a short distance, sometimes telling the woman that he's a police officer and that it's an official request.
A MATTER OF LIFE AND BREATH
A 49-year-old woman in Scotland passed away in 1999, only the third starvation death among the world's alleged 5,000 disciples of Australian Ellen Greve who follow a no-food, no-water, "breatharian" diet. Greve sells her philosophy ("liberation from the drudgery of food and drink") to Westerners in part as conferring a spiritual connection with third-world hunger.
IT'LL BLOW OVER
Ms. Cathomas Starbird, a member of the Sausalito, Calif., school board, was sentenced to 15 days in jail in 1999 for assaulting a female friend who had joined her and her husband to celebrate the husband's birthday. At the couple's houseboat after dinner, Ms. Starbird became furious at her friend, jumped on her and bit her on the face because she had refused to engage in oral sex with Ms. Starbird's husband.
MY TWO DADS
Ms. India Scott of Detroit dated both Darryl Fletcher and Brandon Ventimeglia starting in 1993 and the next year gave birth to a boy. Neither man knew about the other, and she told each he was the father. For two years, Scott managed to juggle the men's visitation rights, but in March 1997, when she announced she was marrying a new boyfriend and leaving the area, both Fletcher and Ventimeglia separately filed for custody of "his" son. Only then did the men find out about each other. In May 1997, they took blood tests to settle the paternity once and for all. (The test revealed that the actual father was yet another man.)
Featured at the Donn Roll Contemporary Museum in Sarasota, Fla., in 1996 was Ms. Charon Luebbers' Menstrual Hut, a 6-by-6-by-5-foot isolation booth meant to symbolize the loneliness that society has forced upon menstruating women. Accompanying it were 28 canvases created by Luebbers' pressing her face into whatever discharge was present in each of the 28 days of her cycle for one month, to show the contrast.
WILL WORK FOR WHISKAS
A 1998 Los Angeles Times report described the unusual, sustained success, in turbulent economic times, of the Cat Theater of Moscow, Russia, whose 300-seat shows remained sold out weeks in advance. Despite conventional wisdom that cats are untrainable, proprietor Yuri Kuklachev had them climbing poles, walking tightropes, pushing toy trains, leapfrogging over human backs and balancing atop tiny platforms.
Ronnie Darnell Bell, 30, was arrested in Dallas in 1998 and charged with attempting, all alone, to rob the Federal Reserve Bank. (In the movie Die Hard With a Vengeance, knocking off the New York Federal Reserve Bank required a small army of men and truckloads of weapons.) According to police, Bell was initially confused because there were no tellers, so he handed a security guard his note, reading, "This is a bank robbery of the Dallas Federal Reserve Bank, of Dallas, Texas, give me all the money. Thank you, Ronnie Darnell Bell." The guard pushed a silent alarm while an oblivious Bell chatted amiably, revealing to the guard that only minutes earlier he had tried to rob a nearby Postal Service office but "they threw me out."CIRCULAR LOGIC
Author-athlete Sri Chinmoy sponsored an endurance race for runners in New York City in 1998, won by Istvan Sipos of Hungary, who finished the 3,100-mile course in 47 days (running from 6 a.m. until midnight). Four other runners competed on the concrete grounds of a Queens school, circling the facility about 115 times every day (only prizes: a trophy and a photo album). Said one runner, "To me, what the race is all about is the blossoming of the human spirit," but according to the wife of another, the runners are "nuts."
CHEAPER THAN A BROADWAY SHOW
Scripps Howard News Service profiled former lawyer James Kelley of Washington, D.C., in 1997, one of a small group at his local church who are enthusiastic Episcopalians but who do not believe in God. Said Kelley, "We all love the incense, the stained glass windows, the organ music, the vestments, and all of that. It's drama. It's aesthetics. It's the ritual. That's neat stuff. I don't want to give all that up just because I don't believe in God."
A SPORTING CHANCE
In January, Fort Worth, Texas, murder defendant Robert William Greer Jr. agreed to plead guilty to a 1988 killing provided that the judge kept him in the local jail for two more weeks before sending him to the penitentiary so that he could be assured of seeing the Super Bowl on TV. (Greer thought TV privileges in prison were less certain.) Greer was excited about the prospects that his favorite team, the Minnesota Vikings, would go all the way. Two days after his guilty plea, the Atlanta Falcons beat the Vikings to knock them out of the playoffs, but the guilty plea stood.