The Odd Truth, June 4, 2004

Brooklyn-based artist Cosimo Cavallaro regards his finished work of art, a bed with more than 300 pounds of sliced ham, at a gallery in New York. (AP Photo/Tina Fineberg)
The Odd Truth is a collection of strange but factual news stories from around the world compiled by's Brian Bernbaum.

Hamming It Up

NEW YORK - An artist best known for decorative cheese has broadened his palette, or palate, to ham. Cosimo Cavallaro, who once repainted a New York hotel room in melted mozzarella, has covered a bed in processed ham. "I feel like I am back in my mother's deli," the artist said Thursday.

His installation in a street-level gallery space of the Roger Smith Hotel in midtown Manhattan involved slicing 312 pounds of ham and tossing the meat on top of a four-poster bed. The installation, which took 3 1/2 hours, will be kept in the air-conditioned room for two days.

According to the artist, no concern about cockroaches has been raised. "They are welcome," he said. "Imagine what this looks like from the point of view of an insect."

At noon, Cavallaro, a burly man with long unkempt hair and a beard, was busy working a chrome meat slicer, similar to one he had used as a youth, working summers in his mother's delicatessen. "I was a good slicer back then," he said looking straight ahead as he flipped a handful of sliced ham behind him onto a growing mound rising from the white sheets.

Sliced ham, Cavallaro said, is "a pure form of America: all kinds of parts, boiled and pressed together."

Despite his training in an Italian art school, he said he had rejected Prosciutto — "It would have been pompous." He also shelved an idea to do ham and eggs as "too pretentious, too thought out."

But he thinks he will always come back to food as a medium. "The smells bring you back to unexpected places," he said. "It's very special."

"I was cloaking myself in cheese. I had started getting comfortable," he explained. "I always need new boundaries."

Wife Nags Rummy About Osama

ABOARD THE USS ESSEX, Singapore - It's literally the first question Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld says he hears in the morning.

Rumsfeld says soon after he wakes up, his wife usually asks him where Osama bin Laden is hiding.

Rumsfeld told U.S. military personnel aboard the USS Essex in Singapore that Joyce Rumsfeld rolls over in bed and says "Where's UBL?"

The defense chief didn't say what he tells his wife. But he admitted on the ship that Pentagon officials don't know where bin Laden is hiding. He says the terror leader is "very busy trying to avoid being caught" - but that there are "a lot of people looking" for him.

'Man's Best Friend' Bitten By Man

BEND, Ore. - A man suspected of assaulting his girlfriend set two fires and bit a dog on the head as he tried to escape from police, the authorities said.

Jeffrey Scott Sernett, 23, of Bend was arrested Wednesday on suspicion of assault, reckless burning, interfering with a police animal and resisting arrest.

The incident started when authorities received a call that a man would not leave a woman's home. By the time police arrived, Sernett had assaulted his girlfriend, Bend Police Lt. Jerry Stone said.

Sernett ran from the home and set two grass fires, which were extinguished with garden hoses, Stone said.

Police late found Sernett hiding in an area filled with empty pipes. Sernett, who was yelling profanities at the officers, refused to surrender.

"He was given several opportunities to come out of the pipe and he basically signaled with his middle finger," Stone said.

A police dog named Amor was sent in to retrieve Sernett and bit the suspect in the leg.

Sernett responded by lifting the dog off the ground and biting him on the head, Stone said.

Sernett was arrested and taken to St. Charles Medical Center, where he was treated for the bite wound and released. Amor suffered a minor head injury.

Sernett was booked in the Deschutes County Jail, where his bail was set at $12,500.

Topless Trouble

NEW YORK - Sixty-five-hundred lap dances? No way, says the husband of a diplomat. Tauhidul Chaudhury claims he was stripped of nearly 130-thousand dollars at New York topless club. He's filed suit against Scores, charging the strip club ran up bogus charges on four of his credit cards.

He's the husband of a senior diplomat at the Bangladesh Mission to the United Nations. That amount of money would pay for 65-hundred lap dances - without tip. Or buy 40 bottles of the most expensive champagne Scores sells. But in court papers, Chaudhury concedes he was drunk and claims Scores' employees took advantage of his intoxicated state. It's the second suit filed against Scores for massive overcharges in a couple of weeks.

A club spokesman isn't commenting on the latest case.

A Million For Your Thoughts?

RIVER HEIGHTS, Utah - Students at a Utah elementary school now know what one million looks like.

River Heights Elementary School has gathered a million pennies over eight years. Students started saving pennies in 1996 as part of a math project by fifth-grade teacher Dave Jorgensen.

He wanted to show students what a million of something actually looked like.

"That number is thrown around so much - a million people, a million dollars. It's such a common number," Jorgensen said. "But it's really a huge number."

Jorgensen first thought he would just build a box to hold all the pennies. But 1 million pennies weighs about three tons.

Plastics Resources, a Logan-based company, gave the school a box capable of holding a cubic yard, which is about the amount of space a million pennies would take up.

The $10,000 - the equivalent of 1 million pennies - will be donated, school officials said.