News of the Weird

Lead Stories
*One of four annual Pennsylvania rattlesnake-bagging tournaments was held in Curwensville in June. (Amateurs in teams of two pay an entry fee and race the clock in an eight-foot-by-eight-foot cage to bag five rattlesnakes; one person holds the bag above knee level while the other puts the snakes in, always tail first.) Entry fees and admissions benefited the local fire department. Said a spectator, "It's a lot like going to a NASCAR race ... like waiting for a crash." Some people do get bitten (there's a three-second penalty if the bite draws blood), but, said one contestant, "Why do something sissy, like play golf?"

*Restaurant openings: La Nouvelle Justine, an S-M theme restaurant that offers diners mild spankings, food served in dog bowls, and the opportunity to command and be commanded as they eat, opened in May in New York City.

Great Art
*Ming-Wei Lee's recent performance-art exhibit in a New York City gallery featured him simply eating dinner with a new guest each night. "Both of us are performing," he said. "Both of us are participating. The food acts as a medium for conversation. For me, art is about process."

*During the summer the Institute for Contemporary Arts in London featured a functioning toilet entitled "The Great Flood" by the highly touted sculptor Sarah Lucas. The piece sold for about $20,000 last year, and the buyer loaned it to the ICA under the proviso that it be plumbed to work. Visitors are allowed to pull the chain but not to use the toilet (although two visitors during a Berlin show did, in what the ICA curator said was "the ultimate involvement of the audience").

*In February, after his conviction in Nashville, Tennessee, for drug trafficking, Clemmie Jones, age 35, complained to a federal judge about the circumstances of his arrest. Jones had been the object of a manhunt about which sheriff's deputies had grown so intense that they had t-shirts made with photos of Jones on the front and his wife on the back, and were wearing them when they collared him. Said Jones to the judge, "I felt as though I was being targeted."

*In July police in Lexington, Kentucky, were searching for Delbert Buttrey, age 47, who they believe kidnapped a transient couple from Indiana, took them to an isolated spot, and forced them to perform oral sex on him while Buttrey's girlfriend snapped photographs. After that, according to police, Buttrey took the couple home with him and forced the man to mow his lawn.

*An August Associated Press feature on Fowler, Michigan, pedicurist Jim Rondy, age 26, reported that he makes more than $100,000 a year working exclusively on milk cows. He tends cows at 90 farms, making $10 a head, trimming their hooves and removing mud and manure.

Thinning the Herd
*In March a 36-year-old man choked to death on a six-inch tropical fish he had popped into his mouth while showing off for friends in Bayou Vista, Louisiana. And in July a 22-year-old man, described by his grandmother as "smart in school," died in a bungee-cord accident off a railroad trestle in Fairfax County, Virginia. (Said a police spokesman: "The length of the cord that he had assembled was greater than the distance between the trestle and the ground.")

-- By Chuck Shepherd

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Chuck Shepherd