Saturday, January 1, 2005

The Best of the Weird News from Florida

I’ve lived in a lot of states, and each one of them has their quirks; where else but in New Mexico would people build a shrine to the image of the Virgin Mary that showed up in a tortilla? Well, in Florida, she showed up in a grilled cheese sandwich. But that story doesn’t even make the top ten for the year’s collection of the silly, the stupid, the errant, and the just plain weird news from Florida.

Only in Florida could tigers and Tigger rank among the strangest news stories.

Tigger was on trial for groping a Disney World visitor and two tigers made the news, one during a highly publicized escape in Palm Beach County and another for attacking its handler when it was startled by a 14-year-old boy.

They were among a whole host of weird stories in Florida this year dealing with animals, politics, dumb criminals and a range of other subjects.

A man who portrayed Tigger was acquitted after his lawyer donned the character’s costume in closing arguments. The man got his job back, but was later suspended when he pushed two co-workers while dressed as Goofy.

The Palm Beach tiger, Bobo, was owned by an actor who used to portray Tarzan in films. When it escaped, authorities searched for more than a day, eventually killing the animal when it lunged at a wildlife officer.

During the search, a woman pulled up with a 5-month-old pig in her trunk and told officers to grab the pig’s hind legs or twist its ears, hoping the squeal would attract the tiger.

They declined and instead charged her with animal cruelty.


A couple of animals helped bring one-hit-wonder Vanilla Ice back in the news. His pets — Bucky Buckaroo the wallaroo and Pancho the goat — escaped and wandered around St. Lucie County before being captured.

Another singer from the past also made the news. Miguel Cancel, who was a teenage heartthrob when he sang for Menudo, is now a member of the Coral Gables SWAT team. He and three other officers were injured when a van they were in tipped over near Yeehaw Junction.


A Bay County couple called police and reported someone broke into their home and stole their marijuana. The thief, though, didn’t take all traces of the pot and the couple was arrested. A police lieutenant said, “They’re America’s dumbest criminals.”

A Callaway woman also landed in jail after she led police to her home. She accidentally dialed 911 and hung up. Police showed up and discovered she was running a methamphetamine lab out of the house.

Two men and a woman ducked into an attic to hide from police, but revealed themselves when they discovered a decomposing body hidden along with them. Police had almost given up their search when they heard a shout: “Get me out of here, there’s a body!”


Plans were announced for Natura, a Christian nudist colony in Hudson. Developers promised a church, family building classes and good times.

“Get set to have a lot of wet and nude fun at Natura. No stupid, soggy, wet, uncomfortable, binding or un-needed swimsuits here!” a Web site proclaimed.

Though wet and topless, there wasn’t much fun when a man and his bare-breasted female passenger drove through a Port St. John home and into a backyard swimming pool.

While that vehicle didn’t float, another proved seaworthy. Eleven people tried to make the 90-mile trip from Cuba to Florida in a 1959 Buick.

They were stopped off the coast of the Florida Keys.

Also in the Keys, a 69-year-old woman opened fire at divers searching for lobsters in a canal behind her home. “They was taking the lobster, and we’re not going to have no more lobsters,” she said. No one was injured.