Lame Time, Last Year

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

Love is a many-splintered thing

Explaining that he had a surprise for her, one night in August, Rafael Rodriguez drove his fiancée to the Phoenix tree-trimming business where he worked, then ordered her to close her eyes. Rodriguez next positioned the fiancée next to him on a moving conveyor belt and fed his body into a wood chipper. Although he attempted to pull his fiancée into the chipper before he died, the equipment jammed and she escaped with minor injuries.

Suture shock

Following a July 14 shootout that required Tempe policeman Wesley Tipton to undergo emergency surgery, doctors at Maricopa Medical Center accidentally left a sponge in Tipton's abdomen.

Cox suckers

Despite paying an extra $1-a-month fee to Cox Communication for an unlisted telephone number, some Valley customers discovered that their numbers and addresses appeared in the phone book anyway and had been released to databases, as well. Although Cox declined to say exactly how many Valley customers had been affected by the "procedural glitch," approximately 11,400 Cox customers in San Diego were involved in a similar situation earlier this year.

. . . and what's the RDA for Vitamin P, anyway?

In February, the Arizona Board of Medical Examiners temporarily suspended the license of dermatologist Bruce O'Dell. The doctor's license was yanked following repeated reports that he'd convinced underage male patients to let him drink their urine for the "vitamins" he claimed would keep him healthy and young.

Drawing a blank

Explaining that a teenager who showed up at school with a holstered gun and ammo hadn't actually threatened anyone, officials at Mesa High School decided against alerting parents of other students. When questioned about the apparent cover-up -- a hotline for emergency school threats had been in place since last year -- spokeswoman Judi Willis said, "If we would have felt that anyone had been in danger, I'm sure we would have proceeded differently."

Sprawl in the family

In August, KAET-TV announced it had decided against airing Subdivide and Conquer, a documentary about urban sprawl in Phoenix and other Western cities. But after providing a take-your-pick array of reasons for the controversial cancellation (the subject had already been done to death, the documentary wasn't "well-rounded" enough, the timing was too close to an upcoming election involving growth issues), program director Joe Campbell did an overnight about-face, announcing, "People have a right to see what it's all about."

"I love the smell of napalm in the evening!"

"I don't think that anyone thought through the initial impact."

So said Phoenix city manager Frank Fairbanks, announcing the cancellation of a training exercise in March that would have dropped soldiers from helicopters into a section of downtown Phoenix in the middle of the night -- an exercise that homeless advocates predicted might have triggered trauma for shell-shocked veterans and mentally impaired transients who live on the streets in that area.

Bra relief

In March, Tempe police recovered a 350-pound bronze statue of a nude woman that had been stolen from a foundry. Discovered inside the home of a young man who claimed he'd taken it as a prank, the $36,000 statue was clad in a bra and vest.

What? Like Jenny Jones, Brett Sommers and Sally Struthers were unavailable?

Keynote speakers at the eighth annual Arizona Family Women's Expo included Ricki Lake, Barbara Eden and Marcia Wallace, who played Bob Newhart's wisecracking secretary on TV.

Plus, it was a lash-minute decision

To lure shoppers to the grand opening of a Goodyear flea market in March, operators flew in über bargain hunter Tammy Faye (Bakker) Messner to greet the crowds. Quizzed about her decision to travel across the country to inaugurate a swap meet, the mascara maven answered, "I like seeing people face to face."

Mary, Mudder of God

For the 38th year in a row, Easter services were held at Turf Paradise race track.

Stain in business

Marketing his brainchild with the catch phrase "Send us your dirty panties!," the owner of a Phoenix lab called Forensex offered customers the opportunity to determine whether their partners were cheating by examining soiled undies for semen residue.

Theregoes the judge

John M. Carpenter, a Phoenix justice of the peace, was removed from the bench following charges that, among other things, he'd used methamphetamine to stay awake while hearing cases.

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