The Odd Truth: June 30, 2005

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

High-Flying Dinner

LONDON - British balloonist and explorer David Hempleman-Adams has done his most bizarre feat to date — staging the world's highest formal dinner party.
Clad in formal evening wear, Hempleman-Adams, 44, fellow explorer Bear Grylls, 30, and Lt. Commander Alan Veal, 34, ascended to 24,262 feet last week in a balloon above Bath, England.

Grylls and Veal then climbed 40 feet down to a platform with a formally laid dinner table, where they dined on asparagus spears followed by poached salmon and a terrine of summer fruits, all served in specially designed warm boxes.

"Without doubt, this is the strangest record I have ever attempted," Hempleman-Adams said. "It was a fun stunt but was at the same time very dangerous. There were potentially a lot of things that could have gone wrong."

The trio faced extreme cold and risked contracting the life-threatening condition of hypoxia, in which the body is starved of oxygen.

Project director Alex Rayner said the stunt had been verified by officials from the Guinness Book of World Records, who used scientific instruments to calculate the height reached.

The previous record for a high-altitude dinner party was held by adventurer Henry Shelford, who staged his event 22,326 feet up a Tibetan mountain in 2004.

Fish Weighs In At 646 Pounds

BANGKOK, Thailand - This big one did not get away. Thai fishermen netted a 646-pound

believed to have been the world's largest freshwater fish ever caught in Thailand, a researcher said.

The nearly 9-foot-long Mekong giant catfish was landed May 1 by villagers in Chiang Khong, a remote district in northern Thailand, and weighed by Thai fisheries department officials, said Zeb Hogan, who leads an international project to locate and study the world's largest freshwater fish species.

He confirmed it was the heaviest fish on record since Thailand started keeping such statistics in 1981.

The fishermen had hoped to sell the fish to environmental groups, which planned to release it to spawn upriver, but it died before it could be handed over and then was chopped up and sold in pieces to villagers as food.

Hogan, whose work is funded by the World Wildlife Fund and the National Geographic Society, said he is planning to write a paper about the catch for a scientific journal.

"That's the best way to document this kind of thing," he told The Associated Press.

Seniors Unite And Strip For Cause

FARMLAND, Ind. - Seven women who usually gather to play cards are planning to show their neighbors exactly what they're made of.

They want to strip down and pose for a calendar as part of the fight against plans to tear down Randolph County's 128-year-old courthouse.

The women, ranging in age from their early 70s to older than 90, will pose nude with strategically placed miniature replicas of the courthouse in front of them in the fundraiser for the Save the Courthouse Fund.

The Randolph County commissioners voted 2-1 on June 6 to demolish the courthouse in downtown Winchester, about 20 miles east of Muncie, and replace it with a new structure.

Organizers plan to sell the calendars beginning next month for $12.95 each and hope to raise at least $20,000.

The calendar's models are all members of the Farmland Bridge Club in the western Randolph County town.

"We just thought we have great bods so we thought we'd do it," 76-year-old Iraida Davis-Leitch said.

Teen Boy Refused Soprano Audition

BEDFORD, Texas - He can hit the high notes, but a Texas teenager is being denied the chance to audition as a soprano for an elite school choir.

Seventeen-year-old Mikhael Rawls can sing an octave and a half higher than most boys his age. He's also won awards singing as a soprano.

But the Texas Music Educators Association is refusing to allow him to audition as a soprano for the All-State Choir.

Two years ago, the Association enacted a rule that only girls could sing soprano or alto — and boys could sing tenor or bass.

A spokeswoman says it was to keep girls who were auditioning for tenor parts from hurting their voices.

But Rawls says it hurts his throat when he sings the lower parts. He says the policy amounts to gender discrimination.

Bride Calls Off Wedding, Invites Homeless

EVERETT, Wash - When a would-be bride called off her wedding 12 days before the big event, she threw a party anyway and invited the homeless.

Residents of the Interfaith Family Shelter attended the bash thrown by Katie Hosking, 22, a medical assistant, and her parents.

"They had a DJ and really good music. It was a warm, friendly atmosphere. The food was delicious. It was a nice break with people not worrying about anything for one night," shelter manager, Carol Oliva, said.

One homeless woman got her son out of a wheelchair and danced with him. "It was a beautiful sight," said Susan Hosking, Katie's mother. "It was an eye-opener."

The almost-bride would not say what led to the breakup, only that it happened 12 days before the scheduled June 6 date of her nuptials. Her parents knew they'd be stuck with the bill.

More than 50 family members and close friends were joined by about 40 homeless people, shelter workers and volunteers. The shelter staff arranged rides to the venue, a country club.

Instead of a wedding cake, a strawberry shortcake was offered, topping off a menu that included baron of beef, salmon, shrimp cocktail, fettuccine and fruit.

"Oh my gosh, we had so much fun," Katie Hosking said.

Human Ad

SALT LAKE CITY - For $10,000, Kari Smith has gone ahead and had her forehead tattooed with the web address of a gambling site.

Smith, 30, who sold her unusual advertising space on eBay, said the money will give her 11-year-old son a private education, which she believes he needs after falling behind in school.

"For the all the sacrifices everyone makes, this is a very small one," she said. "It's a small sacrifice to build a better future for my son," she said.

"To everyone else, it seems like a stupid thing to do. To me, $10,000 is like $1 million. I only live once, and I'm doing it for my son," she said.

Tattoo artist Don Brouse said he and his staff spent nearly seven hours trying to talk Smith out of putting "" above her face. When he did go through with it, he kept the inch-tall letters close to her hairline, where bangs or a hat could provide some cover.

Smith's eBay auction attracted more than 27,000 hits and 1,000 watchers. Bidding reached $999.99 before, an Internet gambling company in the Mohawk Territory of Kahnawake, Canada, met Smith's $10,000 asking price.