5th Annual Uncommon Loon Awards

Smile, Minnesota! Not since the reign of Jesse the Mind have we garnered so many national headlines—for so many wrong reasons. What to do? Give Loonie Awards to every celebrity, politico, and just plain loonatic who has brought us to the brink—and laugh until we cry.


Can we still expect a Michael Graves “Great Poets” plunger?

Most retailers’ surveys simply ask about the selection of bras and the attentiveness of clerks. One of Target’s, sent to customers last June, inquired, essentially, if we were losers. Probing their shoppers’ psyches, Target asked respondents whether they agreed with such statements as, “I am a superior person” or “I could disappear from the face of the Earth and no one would notice” or “Poetry has little or no effect on me.” So many customers complained, however, that the survey was yanked faster than last year’s Mossimo tees.

Reasons we should have seen this coming

Wade Campbell was arrested last summer after allegedly threatening to shoot his son’s St. Paul Little League coach. But there was already plenty of evidence that the disgruntled father had a few strikes against him.

  • When his son was up to bat, just before the incident, Campbell says he swore at the kid and admonished him, “You need to swing.” Ouch.
  • Campbell was convicted of violating an order for protection in 1992 and for disorderly conduct in 2003, the latter for confronting a neighbor who allegedly attacked him with a snowblower.
  • Campbell, in an interview with the St. Paul Pioneer Press, said he practices baseball every night with his son, because he wants to spare the boy the abject shame of non-athleticism. A childhood football coach once told Campbell, “You’re just a piece of sh-t.” “That stuck with me my whole life,” Campbell said. 

Uneasy rider

Among the things you cannot do at the airport: Leave unattended luggage, accept packages from unknown persons, jabber on your Bluetooth (well, it should be illegal), and, it seems, ride your bicycle. Stephan Orsak found that out the Taser way when he cycled up to the Minneapolis—St. Paul International Airport: The 50-year-old was quickly apprehended and zapped by airport police. Asked why the Lindbergh Terminal lacks bicycle access, a spokesperson told the Star Tribune that the airport has run out of room, and, in any case, there hasn’t been demand. We can see why.

The Award for Least-Convincing Excuse goes to…

“[I was] looking for something that my wife accidentally threw in the Dumpster.” — Senator Norm Coleman, explaining how he received a large gash on his forehead

That’s the last time we take medical advice from Stephen King

When Russell Daniel Angus wanted his testicles removed, due to chronic pain, he didn’t consult doctors or surgeons—you know, amateurs. Instead, he hired so-called “professionals,” mysterious men who set up a makeshift operating room in his home last July and fled before the St. Paul man awoke from surgery to find himself bleeding heavily, and indeed sans testicles. Police have had difficulty locating the men, however, as Angus told the cops he doesn’t want the bunglers to get into trouble. Now that takes cojones.

Just exercising his rights

So he barks. So he shouts, “Go, Al!” on the treadmill. So he puts his sweat-soaked towel in his mouth and shakes it like a dachshund. At least Al Franken’s flamboyant workout habits, as tattled to City Pages by fellow dwellers in his downtown condo building, mean the comedian/candidate has no problem with self-motivation.

Clothes unmake the man

Kids today just can’t keep their pants on. Case in point: 20-year-old Keith Bellanger allegedly burglarized the house of Wayne Boniface, in Duluth last September, and, after a tussle with the 69-year-old homeowner, wound up running for cover in more ways than one. “In today’s world,” the 69-year-old Boniface told the Duluth News Tribune, “pants are worn fairly loose. I pulled his pants, and his pants and underpants and shoes came completely off.” When cops asked Boniface whether he could identify the suspect, he replied, “Oh yeah. I believe he’s the only guy running nude in Duluth.” We’re less certain.

Pimp, my ride!

What do you do when your ex-boyfriend/sponge takes your car—again—without permission? If you’re Starsky, Hutch, or, apparently, Blythe Jarrett of St. Paul, you jump on the hood—with your four-month-old baby—and hang on for more than a mile, swerving through traffic and bumping over curbs. Hollywood (and child services) take note.

Nice catch

The leaping fish set to adorn Minnesota’s newest Critical Habitat license plate was rejected by a panel of fishermen last May because it “resembled a walleye but acted like a bass,” according to the Star Tribune. Walleyes, said those who apparently would know, don’t jump so flamboyantly. And so the image that officials believed was just a stylized every-fish has now been redrawn as an honest-to-goodness bass. Next up: Changing “Land of 10,000 Lakes” to “Land of 11,842 Lakes”?

Pardon me!

You know things are bad at the Star Tribune when they feel compelled to cheat to beat the Pioneer Press. But that’s what Par Ridder, the former Pi Press publisher, allegedly did when he jumped to the Star Tribune last spring, taking with him a laptop computer full of confidential information, a USB drive loaded with financial secrets, and, for all we know, the water cooler. In fact, here are our best guesses as to what else Par Ridder might have taken:

  • Joe Soucheray’s Minoxidil
  • Every printing-press font save for Wingdings and Noodle Script
  • Commissary recipe for Tuna Surprise
  • All Christmas decorations, cookies, and Cindy Lou Who
  • The paper’s three Pulitzer Prizes
  • Old Laura Billings columns (hubba, hubba!)
  • Everything not nailed down


Wasn’t this a MacKenzie Brothers movie?

After getting toasty fighting fires, volunteer firefighters in New Ulm can get toasted back at the station house, now that a measure approving brewskis after fire calls passed the City Council. The council president supported the beer break, according to the New Ulm Journal, saying, “I feel these [firefighters] who put themselves at risk in fighting fires are responsible enough to know when they’ve had too much.” But a city attorney expressed concerns that liability and drinking on the job went together like gasoline and matches.

Dead asleep

Winona’s reputation as a sleepy little town was solidified when a local man was stabbed 11 times but told police he couldn’t identify his assailants because he slept through the attack. The 23-year-old claimed, in fact, that he didn’t realize anything was wrong until his grandmother pointed out to him that he was covered in blood.

At least wait until you’ve tasted the lutefisk

American Idol

judge Randy Jackson pronounced Minneapolis “Minne-hopeless” during a round of particularly poor auditions for the TV show held at the Mall of America. And the show’s resident cynic, Simon Cowell, belittled one reject, saying, “You have just summed up Minneapolis for me…useless in everything.”

Exit strategy

Let’s see if we can get this straight: A Wisconsin man attends a darts tournament at the Minneapolis Hyatt Regency hotel, goes out drinking, and later runs down the hotel’s 17th floor hallway, crashes through a double-paned window, falls 16 stories—and survives. And this is surprising because…? Clearly, you people just don’t understand darts.

Sorry, sort of

Rochester City Council member Pat Carr, who told a female employee (cue adult film soundtrack), “Oh, I’d like to spank you some time,” was symbolically paddled by his peers when the council voted to censure him. But judging from his response (“My initials are P.C., but apparently I’m nowhere near P.C.”), it’s debatable whether he understood his offense—at least as questionable as earlier invitations to the same woman to have a beer with him in the parking lot. C’mon, at least ask her to a restaurant.

Red, white, and ewww

It’s time to bring the sweatshops, er, flag home, bellowed Representative Larry Howes as the Minnesota Legislature voted to require that all American flags sold in the state be made not in China or Indonesia but in the good ol’ USA. Curiously, legislators vainly attempted to tack numerous other pro-America amendments onto the measure, including making English the state’s official language and requiring lawmakers to drive American-made cars. Banning Commie-made flags is one thing, but we’ll be damned if we’re driving a Taurus.

Grave offense

What do you want on your tombstone? I’ll have what he’s having, was the apparent answer of a Dawson man whose tombstone etching was allegedly plagiarized. The etching depicts a pastoral, sunlit horizon, a wooden fence, and two deer beside a rural road—an image copyrighted not by the company that carved the man’s monument but a rival headstone maker, who is now suing for infringement, according to the St. Paul Pioneer Press. “I’m walking my way back to heaven” reads the man’s epitaph. Perhaps he’d better run.

Passing the smell test

Cowplop bingo has been put out to pasture. The game, a popular charitable fundraiser in rural Minnesota, involves betting on where—in a field of roped-off squares—a cow will lay its cake. State regulators believe the animal can be influenced to favor one square over another—enough to ban the game. Organizers’ response? B.S.

Six things we learned from Senator Larry Craig:

  1. The term “layover” means different things to different people.
  2. If you drop the TP on the floor, just let it lie.
  3. Whatever airport police officers earn, it’s not enough.
  4. Those two guys in the stall next to you may not actually be checking each other for ticks, as you’d hoped.
  5. We’ve been wasting our time thinking the real airport action was at Chili’s.
  6. The wider your stance, the narrower your views. 

Tim Gihring is Minnesota Monthly’s senior writer.

Badgers Behaving Badly

The long and the sword of it

Remember when you could enjoy porn without a guy attacking you with his three-foot sword? In Oconomowoc, James Van Iveren kicked in the door of a neighbor’s apartment wielding a cavalry sword because he thought he heard a woman being raped—but the sound was from a pornographic movie the hapless tenant was watching. “Where is she?” Van Iveren demanded, according to police, thrusting the sword at Bret Stieghorst while searching for the purported damsel in distress. (Van Iveren claims he never threatened Stieghorst with his weapon: “I had the sword extended. But that was all.”) He would’ve called police but, he says, he had no phone.

The short arm of the law

Brown County sheriff Dennis Kocken gave himself a ticket after accidentally plowing his squad car into a vehicle he was pursuing in a village near Green Bay. (He says he was distracted by a snowblower near the road’s edge.) No word on whether he roughed himself up before throwing himself back in his squad.

Dead man running

Talk about a do-nothing mayor. John Malchine won re-election in the town of Norway despite having died more than two weeks earlier. In fact, he ran unopposed. Residents said some voters may not have realized the 71-year-old had died, or were simply paying tribute to his past service. We suspect Libertarians.

Shoot, now we’ll never get our act on Star Search

Two heads are better than one—except when they belong to Harvey J. Miller and Edwin H. Marzinske, of Dorchester, who were cited for drunken driving after police spotted the two men driving the same truck. Miller, who has no legs, was steering while Marzinske operated the pedals. Miller made the astute, if fruitless, defense that since he doesn’t have any legs he wasn’t really operating the truck. Police pondered the metaphysical possibilities of this argument for perhaps five seconds before hauling the men in.—T.G.