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The Odd Truth, Nov. 8, 2004

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

Chocolate Highway

GROVELAND, N.Y. - Part of a highway in the Finger Lakes region of western New York State is open again after a chocolate-covered mishap.

Northbound lanes of a highway south of Rochester were closed for five hours last night after a tanker truck crashed and spilled 45,000 pounds of liquid chocolate. State police say there were no serious injuries in the crash.

Troopers say the truck driver swerved to avoid a deer. The truck, from M&M Mars in Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania, rolled over and the tanker split, spilling its load.

A road grader had to be brought in to scrape up the chocolate, which also covered a bridge and a car on another road below. The fire chief says it smelled like a Hershey bar - but no nuts.

Woman Voted Topless

JEFFERSON, La. - When an election worker told Debbie Dupeire that her Bush-Cheney T-shirt was illegal at the polls, Dupeire didn't get mad. She got undressed.

Dupeire ripped off the T-shirt and voted Tuesday in a sports bra, too afraid to lose her place in a long line. Under state law, candidates' names cannot be displayed within 500 feet of a polling place.

"I really thought it was OK to wear my shirt. I didn't go there to cause trouble," said Debbie Dupeire, a 38-year-old makeup artist.

Jefferson Parish Registrar of Voters Dennis DiMarco said he wished someone had seen Dupeire's shirt as soon as she came into the polling facility, and told her then.

Dupeire said she understood the request and is not angry, but thinks Jefferson Parish may need more poll workers.

"I'd been in line wearing the shirt for 15 minutes, and no one said anything until I was about to vote," said Dupeire. "Had they told me before I signed the book, I would have gone out and turned my shirt wrong-side out."

All Hail The Bubble Gum Queen

CONWAY, Ark. - A 12-year-old Arkansas girl is the new bubble gum queen. Kelsey Lea of Conway went to London and blew away the competition. She was already the American bubble gum blowing champ. Over the weekend, Kelsey beat Britain's best, when she blew a 16-inch bubble, but that's not nearly her best. She blew a 20-inch bubble that got her into the American finals for the Dubble Bubble championship, which she won in July. Kelsey says the British bubble gum was a bit of a surprise. It's not as sweet as the American variety and it doesn't have the pink color. She's bringing home some of the U.K. gum as a souvenir.

Chinese Man Pays $215,000 For Lucky Phone Number

BEIJING - A Beijing man has paid $215,000 for the ultimate in lucky cell phone numbers - 133-3333-3333.

The phone number was sold this week at an auction in the Chinese capital, newspapers said Saturday. Nine other "highly auspicious" phone numbers also were sold.

Chinese tradition considers 3 a lucky number and groups of 3's even luckier. Though the number 8 is luckiest, all Chinese cell phone numbers begin with "13," making it impossible to make a number with all 8's.

The reports by the Beijing Times and Beijing Morning Post didn't identify the buyer. Phone calls to the number on Saturday weren't answered.

China uses a single nationwide set of mobile phone numbers, without local area codes, so no other customer can obtain the same number.

Hotels, restaurants and other businesses in China regularly try to obtain phone numbers with groups of 8's. Those that can't wind up settling for groups of other numbers.

Fisherman Charged In Croc Slaying

SARASOTA, Florida - A fisherman was cited for killing an alligator nicknamed Elvis who lived in a golf course community's pond. The man said he stabbed the reptile in self-defense.

Rick Allen Burns, 49, faces up to 60 days in jail and a fine if convicted on a misdemeanor charge of possession of an alligator without a permit.

Five-foot-long Elvis was found dying in October with a hunting knife in its head. A $1,000 reward for information was posted and an anonymous tip led to Burns, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission said Friday.

Residents said Elvis first showed up at their pond about 18 months ago, and had never hurt anyone - or ducks living nearby.

Burns told investigators, however, that he stabbed the alligator after he bit the fisherman's baited hook, then lunged at Burns when he tried to cut the line.

"Some people are not aware of the seriousness of violating Florida's Wildlife Codes and are surprised to find that the FWC takes these situations very seriously," investigator Mike Frantz said in a statement.

Ex-Wife Sells $250 M Divorce Judgement

LOS ANGELES - For sale: One ex-wife's $250 million divorce judgment. All the buyer has to do is find a way to collect from the Saudi royal family.

After battling for more than 20 years to collect the court-ordered judgment, Diana Bilinelli said she has decided to sell it - at a substantial discount - on the chance that others may have better means to track it down.

"It's a dandy investment opportunity," her lawyer, Helen Dorroh-White told the Los Angeles Times.

Bilinelli and her late ex-husband, Sheik Mohammed al-Fassi, split over his plans to take more wives. In 1983 a Los Angeles judge awarded her half his assets, including two Boeing 707 airliners, 36 cars, a yacht, 26 horses, a private zoo and homes in Spain, London and Miami Beach.

Al-Fassi died in Cairo of an infected hernia in 2002 at the age of 50 after claiming he had transferred all of his holdings to relatives, including Saudi King Fahd and his brother Prince Turki.

A court has ruled that Turki is liable for al-Fassi's debt, but Bilinelli's attorneys said they have been unable to find his assets.

"Putting the judgment up for sale is ...the only thing we haven't tried," said Dorroh-White.

Santa Claus Denied Flu Shot

DENVER - Apparently there is no special clause for Santa - at least not for flu vaccines.

Nick Pallotto, 62, who plays Santa Claus in malls, turned up at a flu clinic in Colorado Springs and was denied a shot because he wasn't 65 or suffering from a chronic health problem.

"They asked me if I was 65, and I said, 'No, but I am Santa," he said Saturday.

For the past four years Pallotto has worked for Naturally Santa Inc., appearing as Santa Claus at malls in New Jersey, Denver and will work this year in Virginia.

Pallotto said he gets a flu shot every year because he has so many contacts with children. More than 10,000 kids were on his lap last year.

Under a Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommendation, only hospital workers, people with chronic conditions, babies and people over 65 qualify for a shot because of the nationwide shortage of flu vaccine.

"He does not fit any of the high-risk categories set down by the CDC. We couldn't break the rules just for Santa," said Chris Valentine, spokesman for Memorial Hospital in Colorado Springs.

"Don't quote me on this because I really want a nice present this year," he added.