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The Odd Truth, Aug. 22, 2003

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The Odd Truth is a collection of strange but factual news stories from around the world compiled by CBSNews.com's Brian Bernbaum. A new collection of stories is published each weekday. On weekends, you can read a week's worth of The Odd Truth.

'Star Wars Kid' Wants Life Back

NEW YORK - An up-and-coming teenage Internet star from Quebec, Canada, doesn't want his newfound fame.

Ghyslain Raza videotaped himself pretending to wield a light saber like a character from "Star Wars" for a school project.

But that private moment went public - very public - when classmates found the tape and uploaded it onto an Internet file-sharing site.

Now Ghyslain is known far and wide as the "Star Wars Kid." The video's been downloaded hundreds of thousands of times. Web sites are dedicated to the youth.

Ghyslain says he wants his life back. His parents are suing the parents of the teens who put the video on the web. They say their son has been humiliated.

Ghyslain's supporters are raising money for him. Some have started a petition to get him into the next "Star Wars" movie. A spokeswoman for Lucasfilms won't say whether George Lucas is considering the request.

Oops! He Was Alive After All

HANOI, Vietnam - An elderly Vietnamese man who spent seven hours in a drawer at a hospital morgue in Ho Chi Minh City was found alive by relatives who had come to bury him, an official said Friday.

Nguyen Van Quan, 73, was admitted to the Nguyen Tri Phuong hospital last week after complaining of a tight chest, said Thu Ba of Ho Chi Minh City's Health Department.

By the time Quan arrived at the hospital, his whole body was dark purple. He had experienced heart failure, his blood pressure was zero and no pulse was felt, she said.

Hospital staff tried unsuccessfully for 30 minutes to resuscitate him, Ba said.

Quan was sent to the hospital morgue at 11 p.m. on Aug. 15 and was discovered seven hours later by his daughter and son-in-law, who had come to take him home for his funeral, the English daily Vietnam News reported.

"I was shocked and frightened when I saw the blanket that covered my father moving as my husband and I stood in front of the drawer he was in," Nguyen Thi Gai was quoted as telling the paper. "When the morgue's officials pulled back the blanket, my father's eyes moved, brightening with joy."

Quan was sent back to the intensive care unit where he had fallen into a coma and was breathing through a respirator on Friday, Ba said.

The newspaper quoted a morgue official as saying that only one of the two air conditioners was running at the time Quan was there, which likely kept him from freezing to death.

The incident is being investigated, Ba said. Hospital officials declined comment.

Expensive Britches Burgled

BRADSHAW, W.Va. - Bascom Horn lost his pants - and $7,600 - as he slept.
Someone slipped into the 86-year-old man's house through an unlocked door Wednesday and stole his pants and the cash he had stashed in a pocket.

"I took my britches off and put them on the chair when I went to bed last night," Horn said. "They was there last night at 10 p.m., but when I woke up at 7 a.m., my britches were gone. I had $7,600 in there. They took my pocketbook and my operator's license too."

Horn's house sits along the West Virginia-Virginia border, so he called both the West Virginia State Police and Buchanan County, Va., sheriff's department.

A report by Buchanan County Deputy Steve Blankenship said Horn had apparently left a door unlocked so someone could come in and clean his house.

More Than A Tree Grows In Brooklyn ...

NEW YORK - More than a tree grows in Brooklyn: There was a whole crop of marijuana growing in a national park.

Two men were arrested Wednesday after they were caught tending to more than 200 plants in the northern section of Floyd Bennett Field in the Gateway National Recreation Area, Capt. Martin Zweig of the U.S Park Police said Thursday.

The U.S. Park Police got a tip about the plants about a week ago, he said. They were between 8 feet and 10 feet high, and he estimated the street value in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The suspects, whose names were not released, were charged with felony marijuana possession and criminal trespassing. One man was taken into custody, while the other tried to hide and flee but was caught about 35 minutes later, Zweig said. The second man was also charged with resisting arrest.

The field was the city's first municipal airstrip, but is now used for recreational purposes.

Zweig said the plants were uprooted and were being held as evidence.

"We had to use a front-loader to actually eradicate all the plants that were back there," he said.

While there have been other instances of marijuana cultivation in other parts of Gateway, this was the largest, Zweig said.

Fake Lawyer Defends His Service

SANTA ANA, California - Harold David Goldstein claims he was performing a public service - by giving free legal advice. Problem is, he's not a lawyer. The Orange County, California, man has been convicted of posing as a lawyer and representing unsuspecting clients in criminal and civil cases. He says he was taking on clients other lawyers didn't want. Goldstein contends he has plenty of legal experience, 12 years of writing appeals while in prison on various fraud charges. He now faces up to another five years behind bars.

If This Garbage Truck's Rockin', Don't Come' A' Knockin'

ROCHESTER, New York - There was some dirty business on the garbage truck - but it had nothing to do with trash. Two Rochester, New York, sanitation workers are now out of a job - after picking up a hooker. City officials say the two men were fired earlier this week, after investigators concluded they had sex with a prostitute in a garbage truck while on duty. The unauthorized pick-up was reported by a man who was walking by with his four-year-old niece. Rochester Mayor William Johnson says hiring the hooker was "probably the most expensive sex act" the two city employees ever committed.

Boat Flies Out Of Lake, Lands On Highway

DAVIDSON, North Carolina - All Lucas Croft saw early this morning was a boat in the air. Had he seen it an instant later, he wouldn't be around to talk about it.

Croft was driving down Interstate 77 in North Carolina when a boat went airborne out of Lake Norman and sailed over the highway.

A witness says the boat hit the bank of the lake, sailed over the guardrail and landed in the median of the highway.

Croft says the boat bounced off the hood of his car - but he kept on driving at first. When he realized his hood was dented and his tire had blown out, he pulled over.

Croft says he was lucky because if he had reached the scene a half-second later, the boat would have crashed through his car.

Three people in the boat were taken to hospitals.

Investigators are trying to determine how the boat became airborne.

British Beggar Banned After 97 Arrests

MANCHESTER, England - After arresting a beggar 97 times, authorities in Manchester on Thursday won a court order barring him from soliciting spare change anywhere in the city center.

Leonard Hockey, 51, was warned that he faces up to two years in jail for contempt of court if he is caught begging in Manchester again. His lawyer, Ben Taylor, said the case "will open the floodgates to other local authorities bringing injunctive proceedings against beggars."

"My client is now prevented from begging in the Manchester city area but there is nothing from stopping him begging elsewhere, though I would not advise this as it is a criminal activity," said Taylor, who is advising Hockey to appeal.

Begging is banned in Britain under the Vagrancy Act of 1824, but there is no provision for a jail sentence.

Garage Sale Fantasies And Flea Market Dreams ...

PHOENIX - A Mesa man has achieved what some garage-sale and auction-goers only dream of.

Neil King, 40, spent $75 on the contents of a broken-down trailer filled with garbage bags of what appeared to be old clothes and plain junk at a public storage auction two weeks ago.

But among the mess, King found artwork by the Flagg family, a group of well-known and eccentric Scottsdale artists that could be worth as much as $1 million.

The contents included a carved wooden Indian that is well-known to many Scottsdale residents.

Dee Flagg - who sported a handlebar mustache and wore Western garb - would drive either a Rolls Royce or a 1914 fire truck around town with the Indian he carved as his passenger.

And Dee Flagg was not the only notable member of his family.

His brother, Monte, often dressed like Buffalo Bill Cody and painted whimsical portraits of Indian children.

The auction was held because attempts by workers at Scottsdale Storage Max had been unable to contact Irene Flagg, Dee's sister and another of the Flagg children, or other family members, workers said.

Irene Flagg had rented space for the trailer at the storage company since 1993, but stopped making payments earlier this year.

In addition to the carved Indian, King said he has found hundreds of sketches, paintings, lithographs and sculpture dating from 1890 and created by every Flagg family member.