Novelty landline phones in the shape of Garfield, the cartoon cat, have been washing up on the Brittany coast for over 30 years. (The New York Times, March 29, 2019)
Cruella De Vil’s surname is the same in Dutch translation and (coincidentally) is the Dutch verb for skinning an animal.
The Nazis invented Fanta soda, making it from food waste products. The name is short for "Fantasie," German for "imagination."
There are fake Apple Stores in China. They look almost exactly like real Apple Stores, and items on sale may or may not be genuine Apple products. It appears that even the stores' “geniuses” have been duped into believing that they are working at an authorized Apple outlet. (Los Angeles Times, July 20, 2011)
At least six people have been killed after singing "My Way" in Philippine karaoke bars. (The New York Times, Feb. 7, 2010)
The shape of Gumby's head was based on the head of creator Art Clokey's father. (Los Angeles Times, Jan. 9, 2010)
Soupy Sales' father sold sheets to the Ku Klux Klan. (Los Angeles Times, Oct. 23, 2009)
Ayn Rand's nickname was "Fluff." (The New York Times, Oct. 22, 2009)
Cosmetics tycoon Elizabeth Arden put skin creams on her racehorses. (The New York Times, May 29, 2009)
The name of the Micronesian island of Niue means "Behold the coconut!" (The New York Times, March 4, 2009)
In North Korea, every home must have a portrait of Kim Jong Il, and there is a fine for failing to dust it. Foreign vistors are warned not to tear, crumple, or throw away a North Korean newspaper, for it is liable to contain a photograph of Kim Jong Il. Foreigners who descrate newspapers containing a picture of Kim Jong Il are not allowed to leave the country until they write a letter of apology. (Los Angeles Times, 9/23/08)
As part of a Honda ad campaign, a road in Lancaster, Calif., was grooved to play the "William Tell Overture" when driven over at 55 mph. (Los Angeles Times, 9/21/08)
The word “slum” is believed to derive from an Irish expression meaning “it is poverty.” (New York Times, 11/11/07)
Merv Griffin made “close to $70-80 million” in royalties for composing the 30 seconds of music played while Jeopardy! contestants ponder the final question. (New York Times, 8/13/07)
There is a man with Alzheimer’s who is able to give well-received lectures on his landscape photography but is unable to reassemble a sandwich, should one piece of bread fall off. (New York Times, 3/29/07)
An Amish boy was electrocuted when downed power lines got caught in the wheels of his horse-drawn buggy. (2/11/07)
The chef on the Cream of Wheat box is named “Rastus.” (New York Times, 8/1/06)
Former first lady Barbara Bush ate an entire jar of Fluff at one sitting. Fluff is a marshmallow cream product. Mamie Eisenhower’s fudge recipe called for a pint of Fluff. (6/26/06)
A lot of people want a house like Tony Soprano’s. It is alleged that about 250 houses have been built as more or less exact replicas of the fictitious gangster's New Jersey mansion. (New York Times, 8/12/02).
Norman Rockwell’s wife Mary was on tranquilizers, had a nervous breakdown, and killed herself with an overdose of booze and pills (6/3/01).
In 1960 a tourist, celebrating his 60th birthday in New York, was killed by a dumbbell that fell eight stories from the apartment of actress and game show panelist Arlene Francis. (6/2/01)
The Eisenhower White House had a gallery devoted to paint-by-number paintings, displaying works by Nelson Rockefeller, Ethel Merman, and J. Edgar Hoover. Hoover’s painting was a whimsical Swiss village scene. (New York Times, 4/5/01)
In 1937 a supporter of Hitler planted a swatiska of larch trees in a pine forest north of Berlin. Every autumn they form the Nazi symbol in russet against the evergreen background, though the display is visible only from the air. The German government announced it is cutting the trees down (11/30/00).
Tammy Faye Bakker didn’t know what the word “campy” meant, so she had two gay men go through her house, pointing out examples of it (7/27/00).
Sylvester Stallone’s mother has two psychic chihuahuas who say O.J. Simpson is innocent. The dogs don’t like Dr. Laura Schlesinger and “would kill her if they could.” (7/24/00)
A new amusement park ride, “Original Shocker,” simulates execution in the electric chair: “For about a dollar, moms and dads can fry their children in Ol’ Sparky’s oak throne.” (7/19/00)
A gecko can cling to a ceiling with a force of ninety pounds, approximately the weight of Callista Flockhart. (c. 6/15/00)
A TV commercial for Orkin Pest Control simulated a live roach crawling on the TV screen, and two people have asked the company to pay for damage to their sets after they threw stuff at the “insect.” (4/6/00)
Fourth-century AD law enforcement agencies phased out crucifixions because they tended to make the perpetrators look “Christlike.” (Palm Beach Post, c. 12/21/99)
Bankrupt Marineland theme park has been closed for four months — but the dolphins still perform their show routines, three times a day, to empty bleachers. (New York Times, 1/11/99)
Hugh Hefner’s favorite recipe for fried chicken, made aboard his private jet, calls for the ingredients to be mixed in an air-sick bag. (6/12/98)
In 1972 a woman carried her Chihuahua through the streets of Chihuahua, in the Mexican state of Chihuahua. People mobbed her, demanding to know what kind of tiny animal she was holding. They had never seen a Chihuahua dog. (Los Angeles Times, 3/27/98)
Santa’s Village, a Christmas-theme park in Southern California, has been plagued with “Santas” thinking they are the real thing. “We had one guy end up in the booby hatch,” the owner recalled. A frequent visitor was thrown out of the park because he kept telling children that he was the real Santa and the park’s Santa was a fraud. (Los Angeles Times, 2/18/98)
Mattel customers were upset when it was learned that the wheelchair of “Becky,” Barbie’s disabled friend, will not fit into the elevator of Barbie’s Dream House (11/21/97).
According to a drag queen acquaintance, serial killer Andrew Cunanan was intelligent because he knew the difference between the various kinds of cognac. (7/27/97)
In Munich, reruns of Hogan’s Heroes are more popular than Seinfeld. (Globe, 7/29/97).
First century Greek physician Dioscorides described an invention popular in theaters of his time: asbestos handkerchiefs. They were rented to theatergoers, sterilized by throwing in a fire, and rented again at the next performance. (Scientific American, July 1997).
Police in Chattanooga are baffled by two mysterious children, “Scarecrow” and “Barbie,” found in a local hotel. The children say they don’t know their real names or dates and places of birth. Scarecrow appears to be about 5 and has an imaginary wife, “Honey.” Barbie, about 8, also calls herself “Kimberly” and “Gail” — although the boy refers to her as “Alicia.” Asked her date of birth, Barbie said she was born in a month starting with letters MA. Authorities have spoken to a man who claims to be the children’s father and a woman who claims to be their mother. Both seem to be lying. (2/16/96)
“As a precaution, the humane society puts a freeze on black cat adoptions two weeks before Halloween.” (10/30/96)
Queen Nefertiti’s name means “The Beautiful One Is Here.” (New York Times, 10/6/96)
A man who claimed to be Jesus was executed in the electric chair. (10/6/96; execution on the 4th in Columbia, S.C.)
When attorney Melvin Belli divorced his fifth wife, Lia Triff, he claimed she had had extramarital affairs with Bishop Desmond Tutu and Zsa Zsa Gabor. (7/10/96)
Don Featherstone—the man who invented plastic lawn flamingoes—and his wife dress alike every day. (6/20/96)
After Queen Elizabeth learned that a rich vein of gold ran under her Balmoral Castle property, she exclaimed: “There’s gold in them thar hills!” (National Examiner, 1/24/95)
There was no food in serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer’s apartment — only condiments. (National Enquirer, 12/13/94)
In war-torn Rwanda, a troop of baboons have taken over an abandoned two-star safari lodge, have gotten into the liquor, and are wrecking the place. (8/25/94)
There’s a band of homeless South American transvestites living under a bridge in Los Angeles. (5/13/94)
Campaigning for re-election as governor, Ronald Reagan toured South-Central Los Angeles in the same bus used to transport “Lassie” to TV and film shoots. The son of the driver of the bus combed the carpet for Lassie hair to sell at school. (5/9/94)
A “Dear Abby” column consists entirely of letters from readers proposing methods for concealing loose marbles in a medicine cabinet in order to entrap snooping guests curious to know what medication one is taking. Suggested schemes for placing large numbers of loose marbles in a medicine cabinet include bursting a plastic bag of marbles and retrieving the bag with a string; putting the marbles in a “jar” of ice. (4/4/94)
Guatemala has been seized with mass hysteria — possibly fostered by the Guatemalan military for reasons of its own — about Americans stealing Guatemalan children for adoption or, more omniously, for organ transplants. A current urban legend tells of villagers finding a child’s body with several vital organs missing. Stuffed into the cavities were wads of U.S. dollar bills, and along with them, a note saying, “Thank you for your collaboration.” (4/2/94)