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Friday, June 6, 2014

Chuck Shepherd's News of The Weird

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What’s in a Name             

Vanellope, Rydder, Jceion and Burklee head the latest annual list of the most common baby names on the Social Security Administration register of first-time-appearing names. There were 63 Vanellopes (girls), but only 10 each for Rydder and Jceion, the most popular debut names for boys. Other notables were Hatch (eight times) and Psalms (seven). (In other “name” news, among the finalists in April’s “Name of the Year” contest sponsored by deadspin.com were the actual monikers Curvaceous Bass, (Dr.) Eve Gruntfest, Chillie Poon and the winner—Shamus Beaglehole.                             

 

Editorial Privilege

To celebrate today’s 25th anniversary of the weekly distribution of News of the Weird by Universal Uclick, Chuck Shepherd recalls a few of his favorite stories (among the more than 25,000 covered).

■  (1989) In the mid-1980s, convicted South Carolina murderer Michael Godwin won his appeal to avoid the electric chair and serve only life imprisonment. In March, while sitting naked on a metal prison toilet, attempting to fix a TV set, the 28-year-old Godwin bit into a wire and was electrocuted.                

■  (1991) In March, Florence Schreiber Powers, 44, a Ewing, N.J., administrative judge on trial for shoplifting two watches, called her psychiatrist to testify that Powers was under stress at the time of the incidents. The doctor said Powers was unaware of her actions “from one minute to the next,” for the following 20 reasons: a recent auto accident, a traffic ticket, a new-car purchase, overwork, husband's kidney stones, husband’s asthma (and breathing machine that occupies their bedroom), menopausal hot flashes, an “ungodly” vaginal itch, a bad rash, fear of breast and anal cancer, fear of dental surgery, son's need for an asthma breathing machine, mother’s and aunt’s illnesses, need to organize her parents’ 50th wedding anniversary, need to cook Thanksgiving dinner for 20 relatives, purchase of 200 gifts for Christmas and Chanukah, attempt to sell her house without a real estate agent, lawsuit against wallpaper cleaners, purchase of furniture that had to be returned, and a toilet in her house that was constantly running. She was convicted anyway.                               

■  (1994) In Toronto in March, Sajid Rhatti, 23, and his 20-year-old wife brawled over whether Katey Sagal, who plays Peg Bundy on “Married With Children,” is prettier than Christina Applegate, who plays her daughter. First, the wife slashed Rhatti in the groin with a wine bottle as they scuffled, but she dressed his wounds and the couple sat down again to watch another episode of the show. Moments later, the brawl erupted again, and Rhatti, who suffered a broken arm and shoulder, stabbed his wife in the chest, back and legs before they begged neighbors to call an ambulance.                                    

■  (2004) The New York Times reported in February on a Washington, D.C., man whose love of music led him, in the 1960s, to meticulously hand-make and hand-paint facsimile record album covers of his fantasized music, complete with imagined lyric sheets and liner notes (with some “albums” even shrink-wrapped), and even more incredibly, to hand-make cardboard facsimiles of actual grooved discs to put inside them. “Mingering Mike,” whom a reporter and two hobbyists tracked down (but who declined to be identified in print) also made real music, on tapes, using his and friends’ voices to simulate instruments. His 38 imagined “albums” were discovered at a flea market after Mike defaulted on storage-locker fees, and the hobbyists who found them said they were so exactingly done that a major museum would soon feature them.              

■ (1988) And finally, there was ol’ Hal Warden, the Tennessee 16-year-old who was married at 15 and granted a divorce from his wife, 13. Hal had previously been married at age 12 to a 14-year-old (and fathered children with both), but the first wife divorced Hal because, she told the judge, “He was acting like a 10-year-old.”

 

© 2014 CHUCK SHEPHERD