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The Odd Truth, May 27, 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.

Another Record Broken

EAST LANSING, Mich. - East Lansing High School sophomore Joe Kavanagh always wanted to break a world record, so he gathered 800 sets of black glasses with fuzzy eyebrows and mustaches.

About 800 students and faculty members who donned the disguises Thursday in an effort to break the Guinness World Record for Most People in One Place at One Time Wearing Groucho Marx Glasses.

The previous mark was 522 people. Participants at the 1,180-student school had to wear the glasses for 20 minutes to break the record.

"I didn't think that many people would actually do it," Kavanagh said. "I'm relieved and excited."

Kavanagh compiled signatures and photographs of the event, which he will send to Guinness representatives in the hopes of making the record official.

Million Dollar Nickel

CONCORD, N.H. - The American humorist Franklin P. Adams once declared, "What this country really needs is a good five-cent nickel."

Now, how about a nickel that's worth a million dollars?

A nationwide bounty hunt is under way for a 90-year-old nickel.

It's a 1913 Liberty Head nickel, one of five that were created under questionable circumstances.

Bowers and Merena Galleries of Wolfeboro, New Hampshire, is offering the million-dollar reward.

The Liberty Head Nickel was minted from 1883 to 1912, when it was replaced by the Indian or Buffalo Nickel.

Five Liberty nickels were minted illegally in 1913, possibly by a mint official.

As one story goes, the still-missing coin may have been owned by a North Carolina dealer killed in a car crash in 1962.

Bull Storms China Shop

LONDON - A bull's charge into an antique center was a scary encounter for shoppers and a costly smash up for exhibitors, the center's owner said Tuesday.

Police killed the bull Monday after it stormed into the BG Antiques Centre in Lancaster in northwestern England.

"I'm prepared for all the bull in a china shop comparisons," said Alan Blackburn, the center's owner. "But what we have to remember is that a woman was injured and for the other customers it was a frightening ordeal."

The injured woman, who was not identified, was treated at a hospital for shoulder bruises and discharged.

"I have spoken to her husband and she is in considerable shock. But we are delighted she is not seriously injured. It could have been a lot worse," Blackburn said.

He said the bull destroyed hundreds of items.

"Some quite expensive furniture was damaged," Blackburn said.

"There will have been between 100 and 200 people in the center at the time and we were able to evacuate them. But it must have been terrifying, seeing a huge bull run riot."

Lancashire police said the bull had escaped from a local cattle market.

Woman's Phone Number Mistaken For God's

PINELLAS PARK, Fla. - Dawn Jenkins isn't in the new Jim Carrey comedy "Bruce Almighty," but her phone number is — and that's become a problem.

In the film, Carrey stars as a mortal who receives the powers of God. The character of God tries to reach Carrey's character by repeatedly leaving a phone number on his pager.

But instead of the usual 555 prefix used by most television shows and films, God's number is a common exchange — one too common for Jenkins' liking. It's her cell phone number.

She's been getting about 20 calls per hour, with callers asking for God before hanging up.

"What am I to do?" Jenkins wrote on an Internet forum. Reached by telephone by the St. Petersburg Times, Jenkins declined further comment, saying only she wants to hire an attorney. Officials from Universal Studios did not return telephone calls from the newspaper Monday.

Jenkins isn't alone in her plight. The number on Carrey's character's pager matches the number of a South Carolina woman who declined to give her name, but said she's been "getting aggravated to death" by the incessant calling.

It also matches the number for a call center to a group of five Colorado talk-radio stations. Ron Nickel, senior vice president for the Radio Colorado Network, was worried about what would happen Tuesday, the first regular office workday since the movie's release.

"My receptionist is going to go crazy," Nickel said.

Michael Jackson Loves Taco Bell

SOLVANG, California - Reclusive pop star Michael Jackson, wearing a red-and-blue Spider-Man mask, popped into a congressman's field office seeking an answer to a critical issue.

"How come Solvang doesn't have any fast-food restaurants?" the costumed Jackson asked Steve Lavagnino, deputy director in the new office of Rep. Elton Gallegly, a Republican from Santa Barbara.

According to Lavagnino, the discussion about two weeks ago went like this:

After Jackson was told the only chain restaurant was a Subway sandwich shop, he said, "I love Taco Bell."

Solvang, about 140 miles north of Los Angeles, is a quaint village that bills itself as "the Danish Capital of America."

The 44-year-old singer then pulled his webbed-crusader disguise off his face and apologized for disturbing Lavagnino, although Jackson didn't know what kind of office he'd wandered into.

"I've seen you on TV," said Lavagnino, whose father, Larry, is the mayor of nearby Santa Maria.

"Don't believe everything you see on TV," replied Jackson, who isn't registered to vote in Santa Barbara County, but his sprawling Neverland Ranch is nearby.

After a few more pleasantries and an autograph, Jackson rode off in a black Bentley. Lavagnino's boss didn't believe his tale until he faxed him the signature.

"Elton laughed," Lavagnino said Monday. "It's very hard to top that visit. My first week in the office and I get the most famous person on the planet."

Jackson later was seen at a Taco Bell/Pizza Hut drive-through window in nearby Buellton.

Big House Wedding

SAN ANTONIO - Convicted murderer Diane Zamora can marry a man who is serving time at another Texas prison, a Bexar County official said.

The county clerk's office mailed 25-year-old Zamora and her prospective groom, 27-year-old Steven Mora, a marriage certificate application Thursday. If the application is accepted, both inmates would marry stand-ins in separate ceremonies, officials said.

The two prisoners wrote the county clerk office earlier this year asking for permission to get a marriage license.

County Clerk Gerry Rickhoff said he had never dealt with such a request before now.

"This is the first time this office has had a request like this from two people in prison, one serving a life sentence," Rickhoff said.

The county clerk office got legal approval from Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott.

Zamora and her ex-boyfriend David Graham, a former cadet at the Air Force Academy, were convicted of capital murder for their role in the 1995 slaying of 16-year-old Adrianne Jones. Both are serving life terms.

Zamora is at the Mountain View Unit near Gatesville and won't be eligible for parole until 2036.

Her fiance, Steven Mora, of San Antonio, is serving a four-year sentence for threatening someone involved in one of his previous cases for theft, auto theft and arson. He's housed at the Ramsey Unit near Houston.

Mora is expected to be eligible for release in March.

Slot Machines To Take $1,000 Tokens

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. - The cost for the most expensive slot machine tokens in Atlantic City may soon double.

The Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa, scheduled to open this summer, has been given temporary approval to offer machines that accept $1,000 tokens. The most expensive token now in use in Atlantic City is $500.

The $1,000 coins are in limited use in Las Vegas but will make their debut in Atlantic City at the Borgata.

"There will be some players that will love to give this machine a shot," said Paul Tjoumakaris, the casino's vice president of slot operations.

Of the casino's 3,640 slot machines, two will accept the $1,000 tokens, two will accept $500 tokens, 10 will take $100 denominations and 16 will accept $25 coins.

The top payout for the $1,000 machines is $1 million.

The Casino Control Commission approved the new tokens in time for the Borgata's scheduled opening in late July. The commission will hear public comment on the slot machine proposal through July 18 before making a final decision.

Not all casino-goers are enthralled with the idea.

"That's way out of my league," said Rose Heeghan, 72, of Margate. "I don't even play $1 slots."

License To Veil

ORLANDO, Fla. - A Muslim woman is going to court against Florida this week to get her driver's license back. She wants to wear a veil that covers most of her face for her license photo.

Sultaana Freeman sued the state after it revoked her license because she wouldn't replace the photo with one showing her face uncovered. Freeman argues the state is violating her right to freedom of religion by demanding the new picture. The state says that allowing a photo of a hidden face puts public safety at risk.

Freeman's attorney says his client believes that taking a photo of her face uncovered would violate the Quran, the Muslim holy book. He says Freeman received the state's demand that she retake the photo three months after the September eleventh terror attacks.

An assistant attorney general denies any connection between the attacks and the demand for a new photo.

Mayor Bans Office Doors In City Hall

LAS CRUCES, N.M. - It would be hard to break the new Las Cruces mayor's prohibition against closed door meetings in his City Hall office. There isn't a door to close.

Removing the door from the mayor's office was one of Bill Mattiace's first official acts upon taking office in March.

Now, anyone can walk into the mayor's office to chat if he's available. Mattiace said the policy has been working.

"It's definitely a literal example of my intent to promote open government," Mattiace said.

But he admits it took a little time to get used to the no-door policy. Several people didn't want to meet with the mayor unless it was more private.

He said one developer who came into the office looked for a door to close, saying he had something private to discuss with Mattiace.

"I told him there wasn't any door, and if he really needed to say it then he could go ahead and say it without a door," Mattiace said. "He left, and I heard him muttering, 'There's no door, there's no door."'

Mattiace is a relative newcomer to politics. He was elected to the City Council in 1999 and voted mayor in a special March election after former Mayor Ruben Smith left to take a job with the state.

Before that, he was a substitute high school teacher, assistant college tennis coach, sales manager at an automobile dealership and vice president of a travel agency owned by his wife.

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