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News of the Weird
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Being Like Mike Not All It’s Cracked Up to Be

Allen Heckard filed a lawsuit in Hillsboro, Ore., in June against Michael Jordan and Nike founder Phil Knight for $416 million each, charging that they are responsible for his “pain and suffering,” and his “defamation,” in that nearly every day for 15 years, people have mistaken him for Jordan. Heckard admits to being a pretty good basketball player (though 6 inches shorter than Jordan) and to wearing Air Jordans, and in fact curiously told KGW-TV that, all in all, being recognized as Jordan was a “positive” thing. He said he arrived at the “416” figure from multiplying his age by seven (though he appears to be in his 30s, not 59). (Needless to say, Heckard filed the lawsuit without benefit of a lawyer.)

Government in Action

Are We Safe? (1) The Washington Times reported in June that a retired New York City police officer had nonchalantly passed through the main security checkpoint at Department of Homeland Security headquarters by showing as his only ID, a long-obsolete Mexican consulate card. (2) Also in June, Delaware governor Ruth Ann Minner complained that Homeland Security’s secret telephone hotline to governors, intended for emergency communication, was often tied up by telemarketers, and recommended that the department enter the number onto the government’s Do Not Call registry.

In June, federal judge Fernando Gaitan Jr. ordered Missouri to suspend executions until substantial changes are made in its procedures, including specifying exactly which lethal drugs are to be used and in what quantity. Gaitan also pointed out that the doctor overseeing the state’s executions is dyslexic and may inadvertently be transposing the dosage numbers.

In April, a dead, decaying cow got caught on a tree branch at a dam near West Milford, W.Va., and remained there for “several weeks,” according to an Associated Press report, grossing out neighbors, while five government jurisdictions declined repeated requests to move it. It was outside West Milford city limits; the state Department of Natural Resources handles only wild animals; the state Environmental Protection people found no ecological danger; the state Agriculture Department called it a local issue; and a regional Water Board also declined. Finally, on May 13, workers from the state Division of Highways, along with local volunteer firefighters, removed it.


Police Blotter

From the May 25 Washington Post Crime Report: “10:55 p.m. May 8. A man directed a driver into a parking space, then grabbed her when she got out of the car. He said, ‘I’m not going to hurt you. You’re a unique person, and I’m a unique person.’ He put a ring on her right index finger and started to chant, then took property from her pocket and fled on foot.”


News That Sounds Like a Joke

(1) In a fund-raising project in May, parishioners at the Levenshulme Baptist Church in Manchester, England, staged a car wash, using the church’s leftover holy water. (2) In May, for the second time in two months, prisoners being moved by Chicago police in the department’s new, high-performance transport vans escaped when the vans overturned and the roof’s air-escape ventilation hatch opened.



Cliches Come to Life

(1) Runway model Tatyana Simanava, 21, was hospitalized in May after she turned the wrong way upon emerging from the rest room of the luxury motor home she was riding in through Brooklyn, N.Y., and fell out the back door into traffic, suffering a broken arm and wrist. Newspaper stories described her as blond. (2) Joseph Zachary, 25, was arrested in Los Angeles in May after allegedly stabbing a man in an altercation; Zachary was dressed as “A Nightmare on Elm Street” villain Freddy Krueger, with knives attached to his gloved fingers. (3) The charismatic Swedish career criminal, Jan-Erik Olsson, 64 (whose 1973 bank robbery, and accompanying devotion by his hostages, originally inspired the term “Stockholm Syndrome”), tried to turn himself in to police in Helsenborg in May, but one officer apparently found him too likable and encouraged him to stay on the run.


Great Art!

Conservative legislators in Ottawa, as has happened in similar cases, became enraged in June after learning that the Canada Council for the Arts had given $9,000 (Cdn) to performance artist Jess Dobkin to stage Lactation Station, a bar serving human breast milk from six contributors in a setting similar to a wine-tasting.


Major Multitasking Drivers

(1) Lance Kocses, 30, was cited by police for causing a $5,000 accident in Seminole, Fla., in May; according to a deputy, Kocses was distracted in making a left turn because he was eating a bowl of Frosted Flakes. (2) According to a lawsuit filed in June in Minneapolis, the reason Minnesota Timberwolves basketball player Eddie Griffin drove his SUV into the plaintiffs’ parked car was that, at the time, he was watching a pornographic video and masturbating.


Creme de la Weird

A June Associated Press account of a deposition by Michael Jackson, given for an upcoming trial in a lawsuit by a former business associate, reports that Jackson carried no money and got none from his business manager and that his only source of cash was from leasing the cows that grazed on his Neverland Ranch. Lawyer: “So all your cash, whenever you need cash to shop or whatever, comes from the cows?” Jackson: “Yes, believe it or not.” Lawyer: “I don’t, but that’s OK. I don’t have to.” Jackson: “I’m telling you.”


Least Competent Criminals

(1) On June 26, outside the Community Bank in Miami, two men robbed a Brinks armored truck guard and made a clean getaway, and police have no leads. However, the one bag the men grabbed contained only the bank’s deposit slips. (2) Adam Curtis Hunter, 18, was arrested in Cookeville, Tenn., in June after smashing his car into a house and passing out nearby. When police arrived and found marijuana and drug paraphernalia, and discussed citing Hunter for driving while intoxicated, Hunter objected. According to the police report quoted in the Cookeville Herald-Citizen, Hunter said they won’t find marijuana “in his blood because he did not smoke it, he just sold it.”


Recurring Themes

News of the Weird reported in 1996 on the contracts sold by British insurance executive Simon Burgess, e.g., the policy that would pay about $160,000 in the event the insured were abducted by an alien, with double indemnity if the insured were also impregnated. In June 2006, three sisters in Scotland revealed they are renewing their 6-year-old policy from Burgess that would pay them about $1.84 million in the event any of them gives birth to Jesus Christ, to cover the cost of raising him. č