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The Odd Truth, Dec. 30, 2003

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.


Where Are They Now Department

DURHAM, N.C. - Being Tammy Faye Messner is no drag and she doesn't care that some people think she should be living a less colorful life.

The interdenominational minister — known for heavy makeup and behavior that some find loopy — continues to do things her way.

The ex-wife of PTL founder Jim Bakker is now promoting a new self-help book, "I Will Survive ... And You Will, Too!" and beginning next month she'll appear on the WB reality show "The Surreal Life," co-starring with former rapper Vanilla Ice, porn star Ron Jeremy and others.

And Friday night, in Durham, she'll host Drag Bingo in Durham to raise money for Alliance of AIDS Services Carolina.

She says she's been around a lot of drag queens, and "they do a better job of me than I do."

The Odd Couple

WASHINGTON - President Bush and New York Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton are finally on the same ticket — as the most admired man and woman in America, according to a poll.

When people were asked to name the man they admire the most, Mr. Bush was picked by 29 percent. Secretary of State Colin Powell and Pope John Paul were named by four percent and former President Clinton was named by three percent, according to the CNN USA Today-Gallup poll.

When it came to most-admired woman, Sen, Clinton was named by 16 percent, while talk-show host Oprah Winfrey was picked by seven percent, first lady Laura Bush by six percent and national security adviser Condoleezza Rice by four percent.

Help Wanted

JOHNSTOWN, Pa. - Hoping to stop state Rep. Gary Haluska from winning a sixth term, local Republicans have taken the unusual step of placing a classified ad in a newspaper seeking state House hopefuls.

Republicans have about a month to gather the 300 signatures on nominating petitions, spurring county GOP Chairman Robert A. Gleason Jr., to cast a wide net for candidates.

Enticements include $62,000 a year, leased car, mileage paid and a pension. The hardest part of the job may be unseating Haluska, a Democrat who has held the seat since 1994.

While it's not unusual for party leaders to solicit people to run, canvassing through the classifieds isn't a typical tactic, said G. Terry Madonna, a pollster and political science professor at Millersville University.

"I've never seen that, but nothing surprises me anymore," Madonna said.

Father And Daughter Off To Iraq

POINT PLEASANT, W.Va. - If West Virginia National Guard Sgt. Shari Wright gets homesick while serving in Iraq, she won't have to look far for support.

Her father, Sgt. James Gheen, also serves in her unit, which will be deployed in January.

"I think it will bring us closer together," said Wright. "Whenever we get lonely or miss home, we can talk to each other."

Gheen, 40, and Wright, 23, both of Middleport, Ohio, are members of the 3664th West Virginia Army National Guard maintenance unit and are undergoing training at Fort Dix, N.J. In Iraq, Gheen will help repair vehicles while Wright will serve as an administrative clerk.

Ed Norton Sanitation Facility?

WESTBROOK, Conn. - Jackie Gleason got a bus depot when he died, so why shouldn't Art Carney get a sanitation facility?

Carney, a Westbrook resident who played Gleason's sewer-working sidekick Ed Norton on "The Honeymooners," died last month. Since then, one local resident has been lobbying to name the nearby waste and recycling center after the Emmy-winning actor.

Richard Fleming said the Ed Norton Sanitation Facility would be a fitting memorial to the television star. He has begun a letter and e-mail campaign to persuade people to support the name change.

But First Selectman Tony Palermo, who received one of Fleming's e-mails, said he's not convinced. He wants to talk it over with other town officials and Carney's wife, Jean.

"I don't know if naming the town dump for him is appropriate," he said. "I mean, he did a play a character that became one of the most popular characters in American history, but he did other things, too. He was very good to us here in town, so I'm not sure."

Barbie's At It Again

San Francisco - Is this really Barbie?

Photographer Tom Forsythe had used the fashion dolls in a work entitled "Food Chain Barbie" to criticize what he calls "America's culture of consumption and conformism."

One photo depicted Barbie naked in a blender, wrapped in a tortilla and sizzling on a wok.

Mattel was not amused and sued Forsythe in 1999, alleging copyright infringement and dilution of copyright. Mattel said the pictures could confuse consumers into believing it was behind the works.

A Los Angeles federal judge had dismissed the suit. Mattel took the case to the San Francisco-based appeals court, which agreed with the L.A. judge.

Not Just A Girl's Best Friend

MURFREESBORO, Ark. - Arkansas park officials say the nation's only diamond field open to public prospecting yielded a 2.1 carat diamond on Christmas Day.

Fifty-five-year-old Harold Lay found the stone at Crater of Diamonds State Park Christmas morning.

The diamond was dubbed the "Christmas Star" by park workers. But an announcement by the state Parks and Tourism Department says Lay called it his "fried-chicken diamond" because that was the lunch he brought with him that day.

The gem was one of five found by Lay on Christmas Day. Over the years, he has unearthed more than 300 diamonds at the park, including one of 5.7 carats that he found in June 2000.

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