Lame Time, Last Year

Reeking havoc, Phoenix style, in the 12 months the millennium forgot

Okay, so the much-anticipated Y2K disaster never reared its ugly head.

But here in the Valley, that seemed to be about the only fiasco that didn't materialize as citizens suffered through high-profile headaches such as the alt-fuel mess, the AIMS test, Tempe's United Way brouhaha and the revelation that Scottsdale politico Gary Tredway was actually Howard Mechanic, a fugitive war activist who'd been hiding under an assumed name for 30 years. And who could forget news anchor Liz Habib's "f"-word-laced fly-apart in a Scottsdale bar?

Of course, some of the worst stuff got so buried in the crunch that maybe you never heard about it. Unlucky you.

"And the Joan Crawford Award for Motherhood goes to . . ."

In May, Ruth Ann Burns sued her doctors for malpractice because, she claimed, they had failed to discover her pregnancy in time for her to abort the child. Burns, who lost the suit, said she loved her 2-year-old son anyway, but argued that the doctors' alleged incompetence had forced her to change her career plans.

Snockers up!

Quizzed about some of the more memorable drunken-driving arrests in his 3,000-citation career, Mesa cop Tim Gaffney recalled one driver he'd pulled over who high-fived him while hollering, "DUIs rock!"

Rent-a-copulation

In January, a 20-year-old woman sued the Gilbert Unified School District, charging that administrators had done nothing to break up a sexual relationship she'd had with a high school security guard while attending school six years earlier. Age 14 at the beginning of the two-year-long affair, the woman admitted that she'd had sex with the guard between 80 and 100 times, and court records indicate that her parents were aware of the relationship.

Highway to Hull

During a January fund raiser for House Speaker Jeff Groscost, former state senator Gary Richardson joined state senators Rusty Bowers and David Petersen in mocking Governor Jane Hull by performing a song that suggested the state would be well rid of her when her term expired. Although Groscost defended the musical lampoon as "good fun," an irate Hull countered that the performance "does not show a great deal of class."

"Beam me down!"

After soliciting readers' wishes for the new millennium for its January 1, 2000, issue, the Arizona Republicled off the lengthy front-page roster with a Gilbert man's hope for world peace -- "kind of like they have it on Star Trek."

Why Johnny can't read

Prompted by the discovery of a video in which teenage boys were willingly beating the bejesus out one another -- in the tape, one kid rams a friend's head onto the sidewalk, then kicks him repeatedly in the noggin -- Tempe police investigated a group of students at Marcos de Niza High School who patterned their activities after the movie Fight Club.

Why Johnnywon't read

In May, the Gilbert public library was the recipient of 15,000 books donated via a literacy promotion sponsored by Cracker Barrel restaurants. Among the gift tomes were 11,796 copies of a picture book called What Would Happen If . . .and 1,000 Quick and Easy Pasta paperback cookbooks, as well as several hundred copies of How to Use Microsoft Windows 95.

Who Wants to Throw Up?

When Rick Rockwell of Who Wants to Marry a Multi-Millionaire? infamy performed his standup comedy routine at the Tempe Improv, he was introduced to the crowd by Sheriff Joe Arpaio. After the sheriff complained that the beleaguered bridegroom was getting more attention than he was, Rockwell countered, "Watch out. You're looking pretty good to me right now. It was a pretty rough honeymoon."

Ah, skip it

According to a study involving students who play hooky, Arizona has the worst truancy rate in the country.

"Amen, Baaaaabeeee!"

Life Studios, a Phoenix production company that makes "hip" Christian videos for teens, produced a tape called Awesome Powers: The God Who Loves You. In the tape, a Christlike figure dressed as Mike Myers' mod superspy character is chased by a group of shagadelic teenage models.

The day the court stood still

In February, Peter Gersten, executive director of Citizens Against UFO Secrecy, unsuccessfully argued before a federal court judge that he should be given access to government files on some "mysterious" lights seen in the Phoenix sky in 1997.

Do not pass Peoria, do not collect $200

In January, West Valley activists were outraged over Phoenix-in-a-Box, a Monopoly-like game in which players buy up properties and local landmarks. Although the game was loaded with references to resorts and shopping centers in Tempe, Scottsdale and Mesa, its only nod to the Valley's western sector was an amusement park near Metrocenter.

The worst little ore house

State officials decided against plans to burn up a New River munitions shed containing uranium rods in February after investigators predicted the blaze would trigger radioactive waste that would have "made the whole area a Superfund site."

That's one way to throw him a bone

In February, officials at Mesa Public Schools awarded their Volunteer of the Month medal to a dog that had been especially busy in recent months sniffing out on-campus bomb threats.

Of course, if he'd brought her a dozen tamales instead, he'd have been invited backstage

A Tucson man wearing a tuxedo was arrested after trying to deliver flowers to Linda Ronstadt at a Sundome concert last spring. Bernard Adelmo Ortiz, who had previously served 10 months in prison for attempting to contact the singer, told police Ronstadt "had touched my heart" and his only crime was not knowing any other way to approach her.

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