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The Odd Truth, June 16, 2003

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

Will Work For Pizza

PORTLAND, Oregon - In a tactic that recalls the hiring of unemployed men during the Depression to wear sandwich-board advertisements, a Portland pizza chain has employed homeless people off the street to promote the product.

"I think it's a fair trade," said Peter Schoeff, a 20-year-old homeless man hired to spend 40 minutes holding a sign that read: "Pizza Schmizza paid me to hold this sign instead of asking for money."

Paid in pizza, soda and a few dollars, homeless employees hold signs meant to be humorous, said Andre Jehan, founder of Pizza Schmizza, a 26-restaurant business in Oregon and Washington.

"I got tired of not being able to make eye contact with these people," he said. "I thought, `What skills could they have?' Holding a sign was an obvious one."

From the sandwich board on, companies are forever searching for creative means to reach customers.

An ad agency in London, Cunning Stunts Communications Ltd., has recruited students to wear temporary tattoos on their foreheads while hanging out at bars or trendy stores. Sony Ericsson, the cell phone company, has hired models to lounge at tourist attractions and play with mobile phones to make the gadgets look attractive.

But Gary Ruskin, director of Portland-based Commercial Alert, an advertising watchdog group founded by Ralph Nader, said homeless people are being exploited unless they receive minimum wage. He complained their involvement only contributes to ad clutter.

Waffle House Funeral

JEFFERSON, Ga. - The place Lawrence "Tuna" Clark called his "office" — the Waffle House on Highway 129 — became the site of his funeral as waitresses, cooks and customers remembered the good deeds the longtime regular did for them.

Clark, who died June 6 after a long illness, ate at the restaurant at least once a day and befriended many of the restaurant's employees, who called him "the Waffle House taxi service" because he drove them to work when they had no transportation.

Clark's jacket was slung over his favorite chair, and black coffee, milk and cigarettes sat side by side on the counter, the way he always placed them.

The 67-year-old bachelor's ashes were placed on the hood of a Chevrolet parked in his favorite parking space. Large boards displaying family photos were covered with funeral wreaths and loose flowers.

Clark's niece Joyce Bicksler said that in his last days, he told her he wanted to be memorialized at the restaurant.

"He wanted people to remember him as he was. He didn't want to be in a casket," Bicksler said. "He wanted to be here."

Waitress Terri Treadaway said Clark drove her to the Waffle House every day for three months when her car was broken.

He was known for ordering scrambled eggs on lightly toasted bread, but he would eat just about anything on the menu.

Clark also was known at several other Waffle Houses, in part because he continued to help employees after they got transferred or moved.

"You could go from Braselton to the South Carolina line, and people in Waffle House will know him," Treadaway said.

Airline Flushed In 'Blue Ice' Suit

SANTA CRUZ, Calif. - A Santa Cruz man won a suit against American Airlines alleging that one of the company's planes released two chunks of toilet waste, known euphemistically as "blue ice," onto the skylight his boat.

After the chunks came crashing down and damaged his boat, Ray Erickson tracked down the plane — American Airlines Flight 1950 — and sued in small claims court.

He received the court's ruling in the mail Friday. A judge ordered the airline to pay him $3,236 — almost the entire amount Erickson had sought.

Mike Fergus, a spokesman for the Federal Aviation Administration, was surprised at the decision.

"I'll be darned," said Fergus, who hadn't heard of any similar suits succeeding before.

The airline has 30 days to appeal the ruling. Airline officials could not be reached to comment Saturday.

David Nelsons Caught In Terror Dragnet

LOS ANGELES - David Nelson is not an easy name to have these days, even if you're a former child star.

The nationwide dragnet for terrorists across the country has caused men with this name to be pulled off airplanes, questioned by FBI agents and harassed when traveling by air.

Even the former child star of ABC TV's "The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet" was stopped by a ticket agent at John Wayne Airport in Orange County in December while en route to visit his daughter in Salt Lake City.

Now a Newport Beach film producer, 66-year-old David Nelson told the Los Angeles Daily News that after airline ticket agents stopped him, two police officers quickly recognized him, and he was allowed to board his flight.

A so-called "no-fly" list was introduced after the September eleventh terrorist attacks and is meant to prevent potential terrorists from boarding planes. The TSA gets names from law enforcement officials and hands the list over to airlines to screen passengers.

A spokesman for the Transportation Security Administration would not say whether the name David Nelson was on the list.

Amusement Park Bans Penis-Shaped Lollipops

COPENHAGEN, Denmark - A Danish amusement park on Monday banned the sale of lollipops molded in the shape of male genitalia.

The four-inch multicolored lollipops were sold for 20 kroner ($3) under the name Dillermaend, Danish slang for the male organ.

The Bakken amusement park, nine miles north of Copenhagen, ordered Flemming Barfod, the maker of candy, to stop producing and selling the sweets.

"We considered it tasteless," said Tina Baungaard-Jensen, a spokeswoman for Bakken, which was founded in 1853 and claims to the world's oldest amusement park.

The lollipops sparked harsh reactions in Denmark, a usually tolerant Scandinavian country of 5.3 million that was the first in the world to legalize pornography in 1969.

The chairman of the Danish Family Planning Association, doctor Christian Graugaard, said the lollipop could be considered "pornographic" and was unsuitable for children.

Some 2.5 million people visit Bakken every year.

Neurosurgeon Accused Of Drugging Colleagues

ATHENS, Greece - A neurosurgeon was accused Friday of heavily sedating two hospital colleagues in an apparent reprisal for being assigned unpopular shifts, authorities said.

The 48-year-old surgeon was arrested late Thursday carrying a box of sedatives.

He was charged Friday with intent to cause serious harm and suspended from the state-run Tzanneio hospital at Athens' main port of Piraeus. His name was not announced.

Police said they were investigating claims that the two colleagues, also surgeons, had been drugged on several occasions. The suspect allegedly slipped sedatives into their coffee at the hospital canteen.

Panayiotis Mellas, director of the regional medical board, said one of the alleged victims had once been taken into intensive care after being drugged.

"His life was in danger. He was in a coma for 36 hours," Mellas said. He did not say when that incident occurred.

Tzanneio hospital said the surgeon had been suspended indefinitely while it investigated his alleged reprisals and whether the doctors' sedation had caused any operations to go wrong.

Movie Gangster Busted In Mugging

RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil - Police arrested an actor from the Brazilian hit movie "City of God" for stealing a purse from a woman, the newspaper O Globo reported Saturday.

Rubens Sabino da Silva, 19, allegedly stole the purse Friday morning from a woman and ran off into Rio's Vidigal slum, the paper reported

The woman recognized Silva later when he came back out of the slum and passers-by chased and cornered him on a nearby beach, until police arrested him.

Silva, who grew up on the streets of Rio, told the newspaper he stole the bag because he was hungry.

"The film 'City of God' made millions and I didn't make one real," he told O Globo.

Silva played a crook in the film directed by Fernando Meirelles and Katia Lund, which depicts drug wars in one of Rio's most violent slums.

All-You-Can-Snort Buffet

MIAMI - City commissioners have voted to toughen licensing laws in cafeterias because police say after dark, the eateries' menus expand from food and coffee to also include cocaine and prostitutes.

Although these cafeterias claim to be food establishments, patrons are showered with attractive women who are paid to flirt with them, sit on their laps and caress them, police said. Police say hundreds of them probably exist.

"You name it, they are doing it," Sgt. Joe Seiglie said. "They have gambling operations, prostitution. Patrons, sometimes owners, sell cocaine and marijuana."

City commissioners unanimously passed an ordinance Thursday to crack down on these cafeterias by tightening the city's liquor laws and closing other loopholes. No one spoke in opposition.

The ordinance restricts the sale of alcohol in cafeterias and coffee shops from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. on weekdays and Saturday, and from noon to 10 p.m. on Sundays.

Police and city officials said the cafeterias attract too much crime, so they should stop operating as bars and just sell food.

Mayor Manny Diaz, who sponsored the ordinance, said the city has to put a stop to these illegal cafeterias because they pose a safety hazard to the neighborhoods and degrade their quality of life.

"The city of Miami has regretfully been a dumping ground for far too long," Diaz said.

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