The Odd Truth: An Ooompa Of A Lie

The Odd Truth is a collection of strange but factual news stories from around the world compiled by's Meredith Stoffel.

An Ooompa Of A Lie

RENO, Nev. — A man who long claimed to have played one of Willy Wonka's Ooompa Loompas in the original 1971 motion picture now admits he was lying.

Ezzy Dame, a high-fashion hairdresser and art enthusiast, confessed in an interview with the Reno Gazette-Journal. He said the false claim seemed harmless at the time but grew into a beast of a deception.

"It was not for fame or glory," said Dame, 57, of Reno. "I never made a profit or earned a financial gain from this."

Dame said he was 23, 4 feet tall and weighed 90 pounds at the time. He was looking for an acting job in Los Angeles, but parts for little actors were rare. He said his agent told him to pad his resume with an acting credit from Mel Stuart's 1971 film "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory."

The movie was Dame's favorite. He watched it religiously, partly because it portrayed little actors in a positive way. And he needed to watch so he could embellish his story.

"I never intended to harm anyone or my community by this little white lie. It was a little white lie that became my haunted nightmare."

Two stories were published in Reno newspapers in 2003 with Dame commenting on the role he played as an Oompa Loompa.

A third story, published July 16 in the Reno Gazette-Journal, shined the spotlight brighter on Dame, as he watched and commented on Tim Burton's remake, "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory," and compared the two films from an Oompa Loompa's perspective.

That's when the claim came to the attention of Rusty Goffe, credited in Stuart's film as an original Oompa Loompa.

"There were only 10 original Oompa Loompas," Goffe of England wrote in an e-mail to the Gazette-Journal.

"Six English guys, one English girl, one Turkish, one Maltese and one German. Unfortunately, six of them are now dead. And the girl is in a retirement home here in England. She is very old and now blind so I do like to keep her privacy. All are in poor health. I hope you understand."

"I guess Ezzy is a nice guy," he wrote. "But we have to be loyal and truthful to the fans."

Thief Leaves Wallet Behind

COLUMBUS, Miss. — It wasn't hard for police to track down the man they say robbed a Trustmark Bank this week. The suspect apparently left his wallet and identification at the scene of the crime.

Terrell Green, 26, of Jackson, was charged with Wednesday's robbery.

Police Lt. Tom Thompson said a man walked into the bank wearing a white T-shirt, blue jeans and sunglasses, and handed the teller a note from his wallet demanding money.

When the teller asked what she should do with the money, the man handed her a white pillowcase into which she placed seven $100 bills, 17 $50 bills and numerous smaller bills and a dye pack, Thompson said.

The man took the pillowcase and left, authorities said.

Police set up checkpoints to search for the suspect but had to look no further than the bank counter, where the suspect's wallet was found with his identification inside.

Following information from the wallet, Thompson said investigators went to the suspect's mother's home and arrested Green as he was walking out the front door.

Thompson said Green was being held without bond pending an initial court appearance.

Ill-Tempered Elephant To Move

SEATTLE — Elephant experts are getting ready to send an ill-tempered 38-year-old pachyderm to Tacoma, where she'll join two other females not known for their social graces.

The move is expected to ease tensions at Seattle's Woodland Park Zoo, where Bamboo's intolerance for younger elephants and their calves has forced handlers to separate the herd at times.

At Tacoma's Point Defiance Zoo, Bamboo will live with two fellow Asian elephants, 39-year-old Suki and 41-year-old Hanako.

She'll be shipped south in a special air-conditioned tractor-trailer, probably arriving by Labor Day.

The Tacoma zoo is a national leader in handling elephants considered too dangerous to be kept and trained using traditional methods.

The Tacoma zoo's first "troubled" elephant, Cindy — who died in 2002 — had a history of grabbing and biting people.

Suki moved in after throwing a handler against the wall and trying to stomp him, and Hanako was sent from the Washington Park Zoo in Portland, Ore., because she was unpredictable and moody.

Officials believe Bamboo will be more comfortable at the Tacoma zoo, "with Asian elephants her age and disposition," Woodland Park curator Nancy Hawkes said.

Point Defiance elephant caretakers have been visiting Bamboo in Seattle, hoping she'll recognize them once she arrives in Tacoma.

Officials also have been swapping elephant droppings to get the future roommates accustomed to each others' scents — smell is an elephant's most important sense.


CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — Ever wonder if your pal on the other end of the phone is really paying attention?

Researchers are developing software for cell phones to determine how engaged phone-talkers are.

The developer says people are more likely to be attentive if they know they're being monitored.

That's where the Jerk-O-Meter comes in. The device measures levels of stress and empathy in a person's voice. It also keeps track of how often someone is speaking.

For now, the Jerk-O-Meter is set up to monitor the user's end of the conversation. If the talker's attention strays, a message pops up on the phone. It says, "Don't be a jerk!" or "Be a little nicer now." A score closer to 100 percent would prompt, "Wow, you're a smooth talker."

The project is being developed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

McDonald's Diet

RALEIGH, N.C. — Out to prove the documentary "Super Size Me" wrong, several dieters have actually lost weight by only eating at McDonald's.

One North Carolina construction worker dropped 37 pounds during her 90 days of McDonald's-only diet. Merab Morgan says the problem isn't what is on the restaurant's menu, but rather what people choose to order from it.

In the documentary, filmmaker Morgan Spurlock put on 30 pounds and saw his health deteriorate after eating five-thousand calories a day of nothing but McDonald's food.

Man Bites Mailman

HOUMA, La. — A mail carrier got bitten — by a barking man, police said.

Mark D. Plumb, 20, of Butler, Mo., was arrested and charged with simple battery after he ran barking from a house and bit the letter carrier on the shoulder, police spokesman Lt. Todd Duplantis said.

Plumb said he bit the carrier as a joke, and has no history of criminal activity or mental illness, police said.

Plumb was released from the Terrebonne Parish jail after posting $165 bond.