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Thursday, Feb. 19, 2009

Life Imitates Low Art

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In a moment reminiscent of the Three Stooges, inmates Regan Reti, 20, and Tiranara White, 21, played the fools while trying to escape from custody. In January, Reti and White, who had been booked separately for different crimes on New Zealand's North Island and were handcuffed together for security at Hastings District Court, dashed out of the building and ran for their freedom. However, when they encountered a streetlamp in front of the courthouse, one man went to the right of it while the other went to the left, and they slammed into each other, allowing jailers to catch up and re-arrest them. (A courthouse surveillance camera captured the moment, and the video has been a worldwide sensation.)

 An Industry Still Thriving

 (1) Drug officials in California's Mendocino, Humboldt and Trinity counties (north of San Francisco) estimated in January that two-thirds of the area's economy is based on illegal marijuana farming (illegal under federal law, but permitted for medical use by the state). One federal agent told MSNBC, "Nobody produces any better marijuana than [they] do right here." (2) In January, the director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime acknowledged that during the bleak banking days of September and October 2008, with panic over the shortage of cash in the economy, often the main source available to some banks was drug dealers' steady deposits of money to be laundered.

 Bright Ideas

  • London's Gymbox in Bank athletic club, recognizing that lifting iron weights can be a boring way to exercise, recently introduced "human barbells," consisting of five men of various sizes (including two dwarfs) that customers could use for weights instead of the iron. One advantage of the humans is that, on request, they shout encouragement to the customer with each lift. The largest of the five is a 37-year-old, 340-pound man.
  • Walter Tessier was charged with one of the pettiest of petit larceny counts in January as sheriff's deputies in Amsterdam, N.Y., said he tried to defraud a Price Chopper store for less than $11. Tessier had purchased a $10.99 lobster but later returned it, claiming that it had turned "bad." In exchange, the store was going to allow him to take some crabmeat. However, employees discovered that the lobster had in fact been eaten, and that Tessier allegedly reconstructed its empty shell to make it appear whole. Tessier then ran from the store but was arrested later at his home, where he had just finished eating the crabmeat.

 The Continuing Crisis

  •  Community Property: As part of a highly contentious divorce, New York surgeon Richard Batista, who in good times had donated a kidney to his wife, demanded in January that she either give it back or compensate him with $1.5 million in consideration of the rarity of his kidney match.
  • Episcopal priest Gregory Malia, 43, of Wilkes-Barre, Pa., buys top-dollar champagne at New York City nightclubs, and often leaves five-figure tips or treats his favorite waitresses to shopping sprees, according to a December New York Daily News report.  “I work hard. I make good money. How I spend it, that is my business,” said Malia, who is a hemophiliac and owns a pharmacy devoted to blood-disorder medicine. Waitresses interviewed by the Daily News said "Father Greg" is a sweetheart who never does anything inappropriate, and noted that he is exceedingly generous, whether alone or with business clients. "A bad night for him is (a tip of) $5,000," one waitress said.

 Family Values

  • In January, the sheriff in El Dorado, Kan., asked for help from the public in locating a missing boy named Adam. According to the sheriff, Adam's parents, Doug and Valerie Herrman, only recently reported him missing, even though they had not seen him since he ran away in 1999, when he was 11. The Herrmans' attorney said that his clients were nonetheless "very worried about him."
  • Late last year, Jack Burt, 5, of a rural area near Darwin, Australia, admitted to his dad that he had been kicked off the school bus for bad behavior, including hitting the driver in the head with an apple core. The father tried to use the episode as a teaching opportunity, according to the Northern Territory News. For the five-day suspension, Dad would make Jack walk the two-and-a-half-hour, 7-mile distance to school and back each day. On the first day after the suspension, Dad proudly helped Jack aboard the bus, hopeful of having instilled a new maturity. However, three stops later Jack was kicked off again, this time for fighting.

 Recurring Themes

 In January, John Brady, 49, was arrested and charged on New York's Staten Island with telephoning women at random and instructing them to perform rectal exams on themselves, claiming that he was doing research on the digestive system. At least one woman complied.

  2009 Chuck Shepherd