The Odd Truth, Aug. 18, 2004

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

Hep Cat Hangout

NEW YORK - Dressed in a tuxedo, Simba sat at the front of one of Manhattan's newest dining establishments and nodded at people who greeted him. Then he yawned, began to roll on the floor and lick his paws. That's acceptable behavior at the Meow Mix Cafe, a new eatery designed especially for cats and their human owners.

Simba, an 8-month-old kitten, was joined by about two dozen other tabbies, Persians and Burmese for a feast at Tuesday's grand opening of the cafe, which is owned by the Meow Mix Company, a Secaucus, N.J.-based cat food maker.

"Why not take your cat out for dinner?" asked Simba's owner, Leah Thompson, 19. "There's always things for dogs, but never cats."

The midtown restaurant serves Meow Mix packets for its feline customers with corresponding dishes to satisfy human palates. "Deep Sea Delight" mackerel for cats is paired with tuna rolls for cat owners; "Upstream Dream" salmon for felines corresponds with mini crab cakes for humans.

Meow Mix president and CEO Richard Thompson said the feline-friendly restaurant has two main rules: no dogs and no catnip, which must be checked at the door.

"Our goal is to keep cats happy," Thompson said. "The idea is that you can bring them and start socializing them."

It's The 'Pits'

BATTLE MOUNTAIN, Nev. - For the third year in a row, this northern Nevada town turned the pungent press it received after being designated the "Armpit of America" into a tourism success.

About 1,500 people came to Battle Mountain last weekend for the annual Armpit Festival. Sponsored by Old Spice, it featured such events as wet T-shirt and armpit beauty contests, boxing matches and bed races.

"It was a hometown kind of thing," said Battle Mountain Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Sarah Burkhart. "Everybody looked like they were having a good time."

Battle Mountain, located 220 miles east of Reno along Interstate 80, was originally designated the "Armpit of America" in a December 2001 Washington Post Magazine piece written by Gene Weingarten.

Since then, the town has debated the merits of holding an event that draws attention to the negative moniker, with those who feel bad press is better than no press at all holding the upper hand for now.

"Right after it happened everybody got defensive, myself included," said Ruby Bryant, a 35-year resident, told the Humboldt Sun.

"But you can't keep going that way. You have to get over it. They've really turned it into a positive."

Would You Like Pot With That?

AMBLER, Pa. - The secret at one McDonald's wasn't just in the sauce. The manager at a McDonald's in Montgomery County, Pa., has pleaded guilty to selling pot along with Big Macs.

Authorities say word about Denise Stilwagon's $10 bags got out and she sold some of the illegal weed to an undercover detective.

Stilwagon was sentenced to time already served plus four years of probation.
Her boyfriend and supplier, James Harry, has also pleaded guilty and was ordered to serve 90 days in jail.

As Yogi Bear Pulls Out His AA Card

BAKER LAKE, Wash. - When state Fish and Wildlife agents recently found a black bear passed out on the lawn of Baker Lake Resort, there were some clues scattered nearby — dozens of empty cans of Rainier Beer.
The bear apparently got into campers' coolers and used his claws and teeth to puncture the cans. And not just any cans.

"He drank the Rainier and wouldn't drink the Busch beer," said Lisa Broxson, bookkeeper at the campground and cabins resort east of Mount Baker.

Fish and Wildlife enforcement Sgt. Bill Heinck said the bear did try one can of Busch, but ignored the rest.

"He didn't like that (Busch) and consumed, as near as we can tell, about 36 cans of Rainier."

A wildlife agent tried to chase the bear from the campground but the animal just climbed a tree to sleep it off for another four hours. Agents finally herded the bear away, but it returned the next morning.

Agents then used a large, humane trap to capture it for relocation, baiting the trap with the usual: doughnuts, honey and, in this case, two open cans of Rainier. That did the trick.

"This is a new one on me," Heinck said. "I've known them to get into cans, but nothing like this. And it definitely had a preference."

That Tutu That You Do

ATHENS, Greece - A tutu-clad Canadian who jumped into the Olympic diving pool after a competition was convicted Wednesday of interrupting the games and sentenced to five months in jail. He was released pending an appeal.

Ron Bensimhon, 31, of Montreal, jumped off the 3-meter springboard at the diving venue Monday night wearing a blue tutu and white tights with polka dots.

"I didn't think what I did was so serious. I won't do it again," he told the judge.

Bensimhon had what looked like an advertisement for an Internet casino written across his chest but denied staging the stunt for money. He told the court he wanted to honor legendary Greek marathon runner Spyros Louis, who won gold in the first modern Olympics in 1896.

The incident prompted organizers to tighten security at Olympic venues with police officers dressed as volunteers.

In March, Bensimhon disrupted the world figure skating championships in Dortmund, Germany, when he skated onto the ice and donned a tutu as defending champion Michelle Kwan was about to perform. Painted on his chest was the name of a Web site.

After that event, Bensimhon was almost immediately released because his infraction was deemed only disorderly conduct and not an offense meriting arrest.