The Odd Truth: July 6, 2005

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

'Steel' Devotion

PITTSBURGH - The body of rabid Pittsburgh Steelers fan James Henry Smith, who died Thursday, was laid out this week in what his family said was his favorite spot — a recliner with the Steelers on the television.

Smith, 55, of Pittsburgh, died of prostate cancer. Because his death wasn't unexpected, his family was able to plan ahead for the unusual viewing.

Mourners stood before a small stage erected in the viewing room of the Samuel E. Coston Funeral Home, on which funeral director Roland Criswell had placed furniture, much as it was arranged in Smith's home on game day.

Smith's feet were crossed; a pack of cigarettes and a six-pack of beer were at his side. A continuous loop of Steelers highlights was playing on TV nearby, as Smith was reclined with a television remote in his hand and a Steelers blanket across his legs.

The reaction of Smith's loved ones varied.

"I couldn't stop crying after looking at the Steeler blanket in his lap," his sister, MaryAnn Nails, 58, of Pittsburgh, told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "He loved football and nobody did (anything) until the game went off. It was just like he was at home."

"I saw it and I couldn't even cry," said longtime friend Mary Jones of Wilkinsburg. "People will see him the way he was. This is just a celebration."

Man's Flashy Ties Banned

KENAI, Alaska - A window clerk at the Soldotna Post Office is looking a tad bit more conservative these days and that's upsetting many town residents.

Customers have written letters of protest to Soldotna Mayor Dave Carey after postal clerk Steve Adams was banned from sporting his colorful, sometimes clashing, ties at work because they didn't conform with dress code regulations.

"There's a huge uproar in Soldotna," Adams said. "This is much more than a tie. It's community flavor. What's the big deal?"

Carey, who also is known for his brightly colored, sometimes goofy ties, wrote Adams a letter of support.

"In an age in which many bureaucrats try to make humans into robots, your care for customers is a most pleasant experience," Carey wrote. "Your ties are always uplifting."

Margaret Merrill, postmaster for the Soldotna Post Office, said she is simply enforcing the rules.

"He has been informed that sooner or later he is going to have to conform," Merrill said. She said the decision was not based on customer complaints.

Adams now wears a plain blue tie with the Postal Service logo while he helps customers mail letters and parcels. But he has more than 100 pieces of colorful neckwear on a display rack at home and still has a license plate on his truck that says "TIE GUY".

"Maybe I need to change my license plate to X-TIEGUY," he said.

No Tiny Tuna

DEWEY BEACH, Del. - Fisherman Dan Dillon went out to sea in search of shark. He returned empty handed, at least as far as sharks are concerned.

Dillon, however, did reel in an 873-pound bluefin , the biggest tuna on Delaware record.

"I'll have fish stories forever now," said Dillon, 39, a commercial real estate executive from Herndon, Va. The monster fish was caught 40 miles off the southern Delaware coast.

Dillon used an 80-pound test monofilament line on an 80-pound class reel, using a bluefish fillet as bait.

Measuring 9 feet, 7 inches in length, 80 inches in girth, the fish outweighed the state's previous record catch by more than 500 pounds.

"I'm a big person and it makes me look small," said Dillon, who is 6-foot-2 and 170 pounds.

McDonald's Makeover

CHICAGO - McDonald's wants its employees to get a new look.

The fast-food chain wants a high-profile designer to make its 300,000 workers look stylish and trendy.

Tommy Hilfiger and Sean "P-Diddy" Combs are said to be among the top choices to design the uniforms. Other possible designers include Russell Simmons' "Phat Farm" label, Ralph Lauren, Giorgio Armani and American Eagle.

A company spokesman says the change is about "taking the contemporary look and feel of our restaurants."

Currently, McDonald's uniforms vary among its franchises nationwide. But recent styles include a white "business style" collared shirt with small breast pocket, dark polyester pants and a belt.

Teen Nudist Camp Lawsuit

RICHMOND, Va. - A federal appeals court has reinstated a lawsuit challenging a 2004 Virginia law requiring parental supervision at a nudist camp for juveniles.

The American Association for Nude Recreation contends the law violates its speech rights and crimps its ability to spread its nudism philosophy.

The group claims it had to cancel last summer's camp because only eleven of the 35 young people who signed up would have been able to bring a parent.

The court ruled that the suit can go forward because it appears the law places unconstitutional limits on the association.

Belly Dancing For Seniors

LA VERNE, Calif. - Belly dancers are shaking things up for some Southern California senior citizens. The Grapevine Restaurant in La Verne has gotten a temporary ok for belly dancing on its patio Friday and Saturday nights. Dozens of seniors from neighboring mobile home parks showed up at a recent City Council meeting to express their concerns. Eighty-four-year-old Helen Thompson says she doesn't want the belly dancing and doesn't care for the food at the restaurant, either. But 70-year-old Evelyn Gonnella says she's looking forward to the belly dancing and plans to take some friends to the restaurant, too. After three months, the city will consider complaints and decide if the belly dancing will continue.