News you may have missed...
Store devoted to bad taste dies in L.A.
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Many people -- those with excessive
civic pride in other cities -- believe Los Angeles is the home
of bad taste, just as Chicago has its arctic winds and New York
its legions of sharks selling bridges to visiting rubes.
Now these people may have to rethink their opinion of L.A.
A shop specializing in bad taste and selling everything from
sponges shaped like breasts to paintings by serial killer John
Wayne Gacy has quietly shut its doors for lack of customers.
"You've got Bad Taste" in the bohemian Silverlake area has
closed, ending a three-year experiment into what arouses or
"We overestimated people's concept of what bad taste is,"
said John Roecker, an independent filmmaker and co-owner of the
oddity store with Exene Cervenka, singer for L.A. punk band X.
"Some people didn't entirely understand what we were doing.
This was a three-year project that was about challenging
people's individual tastes, and we have a short attention
span," he said.
The store once stocked everything from breast-shaped
sponges ($6) to newspaper heiress Patricia Hearst's "Wanted By
the FBI" rap sheet ($35 framed). Below the Patty Hearst posters
were pacifiers from the 1920s in their original packaging
($10), a Dukes of Hazzard plastic digital watch ($5) and a book
entitled "The Art of Kissing" ($2.25).
Nearby were items such as a 1970s John Travolta doll ($30),
a fake pecan/peanut garland ($9.50), a non-anatomically correct
inflatable "John" doll ($17.98) and two John Wayne Gacy
paintings from the serial killer's hummingbird and monster
periods ($400 and $600, respectively).
"A Gacy painting is much less offensive than, say, a Nike
T-shirt," Roecker insisted. "Why wear advertising for a company
that doesn't care about you? We encouraged people to think for
Part of the store's "adult education program" included
guided tours of its Punk Rock Museum, complete with outfits
worn by rock superstars Blondie and Devo, and its homage to
Greek sculpture -- a cherubic boy fountain with blood-colored
water flowing gracefully from the groin region.
A final lesson in "the tyranny of religious oppression," as
Roecker says, was just to the right of the fountain: a skeleton
of a witch who toured in the early 1900s rested upright in an
open casket, encased in chicken wire.
"This was not a collector's store. Everything was fairly
cheap -- but authentic. The store paid for itself and we only
had a 50 percent markup on items. I couldn't imagine spending
more than $3 for Mr. T. Air Freshener," Roecker said.
Items such as "Beatnik Bandit II" car models from the
1960s, hair dye from the 1940s and an anti-sexual abuse book
and cassette entitled "Sometimes It's OK to Tell Secrets"
usually came from closeout sales at stores taken over by larger
corporations, estate sales or old warehouse stock.
While stepping over the line was daily practice for the
store, there were some items it did not carry. "Nazism is so
white trash, so no Hitler Pez dispensers," Roecker said. "You
can offend people by being more clever than that. Also, no
NAMBLA (North American Man Boy Love Association) newsletters.
And we wouldn't touch any Buckwheat or Mammy products."
When Roecker and Cervenka opened the doors to "You've Got
Bad Taste" in 1995, they wanted it to reflect Silverlake's
bohemian culture. They founded it on the rebellious
"Do-It-Yourself" philosophy that has always fueled punk rock.
Once the store opened it became a community center in
Silverlake. Record stores, avant-garde clothiers, bars and
clubs soon surrounded it, enjoying the cheap rent of the
district sandwiched between Hollywood and downtown L.A.
Even before Details magazine declared Silverlake an
"official scene" in 1996, young actors and movie industry
hipsters traveled from their Hollywood hills homes to mix with
the tattooed, post-collegiate musicians, artists and writers
who live around eastern Sunset Boulevard.
Entertainment industry props people soon saw a trend and
became enthusiastic shoppers: Bruce Lee posters from the store
appeared in "Boogie Nights" and bumper stickers and key chains
debuted in Gus Van Sant's "Psycho" remake.
To foster Silverlake's close-knit but alternative community
feel, "You've Got Bad Taste" regularly hosted daylong concerts
and barbecues with local bands, poetry readings and lectures
relating to cultural events.
But being "different" did carry consequences.
When they assembled a "Scientology Deprogramming" lecture
led by ex-members, the Church of Scientology threatened legal
action. When they put up a "Silverlake Hall of Fame" display
with blowup dolls dressed as local celebrities, an irate
resident put a brick through the front window.
And when white, liberal college types staged a protest over
the store selling "Chop Suey Specs," a product Roecker says
many Asian customers were buying as a joke, he called the local
news media. "We always loved free publicity," he said. "The way
I see it, if you don't like something look at the sidewalk."
But three years after becoming the cultural catalyst for
Silverlake's alternative rock 'n' roll circus, "the scene that
almost never was" crumbled.
While Roecker may have cried foul, citing the community for
not rewarding independent businesses, he and Cervenka decided
to make a quiet exit into relative obscurity, taking with them
the powerful influence of their unique store.
"We discovered 'good taste' is the boring stuff you find at
corporate malls," he said. "In this day and age, people are
still afraid of expressing themselves, right, wrong, good or
bad. We definitely were not. ... I guess people in L.A. do have
bad taste because we ended up closing the store."
Singapore man sentenced for stealing smelly shoes
SINGAPORE, March 5 (Reuters) - A man who stole smelly shoes
because he was addicted to their odour was sentenced to 25 weeks
in jail by a Singapore court, the Straits Times newspaper
reported on Friday.
Lorry driver Zainal Mohamed Esa, 43, did not steal the shoes
to sell, but out of a "burning desire, akin to that of a drug
addict, to sniff used pairs of shoes", his lawyer Rai Ratan Kumar
was quoted as saying.
Zainal, whose obsession was a psychological need, said his
lawyer, kept the shoes until the smell waned and then gave them
to the Salvation Army or tried to return them to their owners.
Police got on the scent of the shoe thief after a tip-off
from a resident living near the site of the thefts.
Zainal had 40 pairs of shoes when he was caught last
November. In January the police caught him again with 28 pairs.
He pleaded guilty to two counts of theft and two counts of
fraudulent possession and is out on bail until his sentence
starts on April 1.
Finnish police probe X-Files link to triple murder
HELSINKI, March 5 (Reuters) - Finnish police said on Friday
they had found a link between the popular U.S. television series
"The X-Files" and a triple murder in a Helsinki shooting club.
Inspector Kari Tolvanen told Reuters officers watched a
dozen episodes of "The X-Files" and other series while probing
the crime, in which a 30-year-old woman stands accused of
shooting dead three fellow members of the club two weeks ago.
"We are looking at certain television series because of what
we found in a search of the suspect's home and because of what
she has said and how she has behaved," Tolvanen said.
The woman, who was identified by witnesses but has refused
to explain her actions, was apprehended while trying to board a
plane at Helsinki airport hours after the shooting.
The bizarre crime took place during a weekend when a
marathon of 12 episodes of "The X-Files", a crime series dealing
with paranormal phenomena, were shown on Finnish television.
Finnish newspapers drew attention to one episode in which
inhabitants of a small town went on a shooting spree after being
hypnotised via electronic devices such as cash dispensers and
The woman faces a life term if convicted, but police said a
court will first establish her sanity.
Brazilians agog over nude pictures of dominatrix
BRASILIA, March 5 (Reuters) - Men's magazine Playboy, which
carries nude pictures of Brazilian sex symbol Tiazinha in its
March edition, said Friday it was rushing the issue to
Brazilian newsstands three days early after some of the
pictures were leaked on the Internet.
Playboy is planning a record 1.05 million initial print run
for the issue, in which the dominatrix -- whose name translates
as "Little Auntie" -- will pose naked for the first time, even
discarding her trademark mask and riding crop in some photos.
The pictures will be published only in Playboy's Brazilian
edition, which normally has a monthly circulation of 300,000.
The magazine has been flagging the event with traffic-
stopping billboards showing a lingerie-clad Tiazinha reclining
under the slogan: "Hi there, nephews!"
Playboy will start distributing the issue Saturday, three
days ahead of schedule, after several Web sites published four
photographs from the shoot, editorial director Ricardo Setti
"We are conducting a technical investigation ... to see if
we can find out how (the leak) happened and eventually pinpoint
who was responsible," he told Reuters. "We may forward the
matter to police."
Tiazinha, whose real name is Suzana Alves, has become a
household name in Brazil for drawing squeals of pain from
teenage boys by waxing their legs on an afternoon TV show.
France outlaws Mitterrand's favourite meal
PARIS, March 8 (Reuters) - Three years after a dying former
President Francois Mitterrand ordered them for a notorious last
feast before his death, France has officially banned the hunting
or sale of the tiny ortolan songbird.
The official state gazette, in its weekend edition, listed
the ortoloan, a sub-species of bunting known to ornithologists
as the Emberiza Hortulana, among protected species.
Until now, the ortolan was in a legal limbo, mentioned
neither on the French list of birds that can be hunted nor on
the list of those that cannot be.
Found in southwest France from where Mitterrand hailed, the
small bird is a delicacy whose taste has been desribed as a
mixture of truffles and foie gras. Purists eat it whole and
still aflame -- beak, feathers, bones and all.
But perhaps most striking part of the culinary ritual is
that it is eaten with one's head entirely covered by a large
napkin in order to enjoy its unique aroma.
These gruesome details fascinated all of France two years
ago when a Mitterrand biographer described the president's last
mammoth meal, a New Year's Eve dinner with over two dozen family
Georges-Marc Benhamou, a confidant of the president, wrote
that Mitterrand got up from his deathbed to consume two of the
birds - and 30 oysters - at a single sitting shortly before he
died from prostate cancer in January 1996, less than a year
after leaving office.
It was not known how much the uproar over Mitterrand's meal
contributed to the official ban on hunting ortolans, but the
Greens party hailed the ban "as the end of an archaic French
Icelandic woman hit twice by same car in 24 hours
REYKJAVIK, March 10 (Reuters) - An Icelandic woman was hit
twice by the same car within 24 hours, Iceland Review said on
The woman, with an unblemished driving record of 20 years,
was driving in Akureyri in northern Iceland on Saturday when a
car came out of a car park and smashed into her vehicle, writing
it off, the review said on its daily website.
After hiring another car, the woman the next day was hit by
the same car as she drove through a green light at a junction,
the review quoted the Icelandic daily Morgunbladid as reporting.
The offending driver said his vision had been impaired by
The north Atlantic island has a population of only 270,000,
and it is possible to drive for hours without seeing another
Wild turkeys terrorize California hikers
SAN JOSE, Calif., March 11 (Reuters) - Wild turkeys have
been terrorizing visitors to one California wilderness park,
charging hikers, chasing cars and blocking trails, the San Jose
Mercury News reported Thursday.
"If you encounter these robust birds, avoid getting closer
than 30 feet (10 metres)," rangers at the Rancho San Antonio
preserve in Santa Clara County warned in a recent newsletter.
"Keep your young children with you. Clap your hands and
make noise to discourage the birds from approaching."
Rangers have reported that the string of turkey incidents
is linked to the February-to-June breeding season, with growing
numbers of male birds showing off for females.
"Gobbling and strutting ... to show off his masculine
vigor, he will sometimes chase, peck, or fly at people," the
park's newsletter warns of the love-struck "tom" turkey.
Wildlife experts have advised visitors to the park to avoid
wearing bright colors or carrying shiny objects, both of which
can attract a turkey's attention. They also suggest coming
equipped with an umbrella, even on a sunny day.
"An umbrella looks like a turkey, and it's bigger than
them," biologist Jodi Isaacs told the Mercury News. "So if you
open and close it, it's kind of like strutting back at them,
and they'll back off."
Once promoted as the U.S. national bird by Benjamin
Franklin, the wild turkey population plummeted to just 30,000
in the 1930s after decades of hunting and habitat destruction.
Since then, however, the gobbler has rebounded, and now about
4.5 million of the birds are spread across every U.S. state
In Santa Clara County, south of San Francisco, a flock of
30 wild turkeys released in 1978 has now grown to an estimated
3,000 birds living in the area's oak woodlands, the Mercury
Death certificates prompt Egypt orphanage probe
CAIRO, March 17 (Reuters) - Suspicious death certificates
led Egyptian authorities to investigate the deaths of 25
children in an orphanage and the possible sale of their organs,
a member of parliament said on Wednesday.
"There were 25 abandoned illegitimate children who died,"
one of 10 MPs who filed the complaint with prosecutors told
Reuters. "We found that their death certificates said they died
one right after another.
"The attorney general is investigating," said the MP, who
declined to be identified.
Police said on Tuesday that the 10 MPs alleged that 25
children at the orphanage in a town in Minufiya province, 60 km
(36 miles) north of Cairo, died in a three-month period and
their body parts were sold. The children were aged up to 13.
They also alleged that the deals involved large sums of
money and took place with the collaboration of powerful figures.
Complaints about the number of deaths at the orphanage were
filed with authorities some time ago, the MP said. "The death
certificates showed dates which were very close to each other,"
The new head of the orphanage, Bahiga Hamam, said on
Wednesday the remaining children were in poor condition when she
took over last month.
"We took over on February 27 after a decision to get rid of
the former management," she told Reuters Television in the
Minufiya town of Shibeen al-Qom.
"The children in the orphanage were very sick and in bad
shape. No blankets, no medical care. Most of the children are
mentally handicapped," she said.
She said the 46 children now at the orphanage were aged from
infancy to 18.
Gay drag "nuns" draw Catholic ire in San Francisco
SAN FRANCISCO, March 17 (Reuters) - The Roman Catholic
Archdiocese of San Francisco has had it with the Sisters of
The "order" of drag performance artists who, clad in nun's
habits and vibrant face-paint, have shocked and amused the city
for 20 years is being damned by Catholic leaders for planning
to stage a public celebration of their troupe's anniversary on
Archdiocese spokesman Maurice Healy said on Wednesday
allowing a group which "mocks the Catholic Church" to close a
public street on the holiest day of the Christian year was just
as reprehensible as "allowing a group of neo-Nazis to close a
city street for the celebration on the Jewish Feast of
"In terms of offensiveness, it's very similar," he told
Troupe member "Sister MaryMaye Himm" responded angrily,
telling the San Francisco Chronicle the April 4 celebration in
the largely gay Castro District would go on as planned.
"We're really appalled at the insensitivity of comparing us
to neo-Nazis, which totally invalidates the Jewish struggle
against the Nazis," he said.
"The comparison is offensive not only to myself but to
Jewish people everywhere, and the Catholic Church should be
ashamed for promoting such an absurdity."
The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence have long been a part
of the San Francisco landscape, appearing at benefits and
protests in their black habits, outrageous makeup and often on
The satirical and sometimes raunchy Sisters this month
secured approval from the city Board of Supervisors to close
Castro Street for a block party on April 4 to celebrate their
20 years of fund-raising for AIDS and other causes.
In an editorial last week in the archdiocese's official
newspaper, Catholic San Francisco, Healy said the prospect of
turning over a public street to the Sisters on Easter Sunday
was "extraordinarily insensitive."
"This group has garnered a reputation for outrageous
behavior by mocking religious life, ridicule of Catholic
institutions and profane references to sacred liturgies," he
While several openly gay members of the Board of
Supervisors have declared they will not be swayed from their
support of the Sisters, Healy said he believed a groundswell of
Catholic outrage would force the celebration to be
"We are at a point in which a major constituency has said
'this is offensive to us and we're asking you to change it',"
Healy told Reuters. "There are legitimate and real grounds for
us to be offended, and for us to say please do not hold this
event on the holiest day of the year."
Last week's edition
Back to the TC home page