The 2011 Uncommon Loon Awards

A look back in laughter at the mascot-mauling, candidate-crushing, Kardashian-dumping year that was…

➺ What’s Bemidji smoking?

The city of Bemidji has had to replace the street signs for Stoner Avenue so often over the past decade, due to souvenir-seeking potheads, that the expense is starting to add up: some $20,000 (about the cost of nine pounds of Maui Wowie, if that helps some of you put it in perspective). Not a small chunk of change in tough times. So the city sought to change the street name—until huffy residents nixed the notion, insisting that any savings would be blunted by the inconvenience of updating drivers’ licenses and other documents. Dude, we understand how hard it is to get off the couch. Pass the Cheetos.

➺ A brain, er, tree is a terrible thing to waste

Representative Steve Drazkowski of Mazeppa must think that money grows on trees. To help alleviate the state budget deficit last spring, he proposed logging irreplaceable high-value black-walnut trees in two of Minnesota’s state parks. “We can’t afford to watch our state assets rot,” he declared. The idea, which would have netted a whopping $100,000 by some estimates, made it as far as committee discussions before Drazkowski was deemed to be missing the forest for the trees.

➺ Occupied by Jesse

Jesse Ventura knows how to find the spotlight, even if he can’t seem to find a barber. When the Occupy Wall Street movement sprang up in downtown Minneapolis last fall with a morning rally at the Hennepin County Government Center, the long-haired, baseball-capped former guv took over the microphone and declared himself “the face of this movement.” When asked what demonstrations would achieve, however, he responded, “I don’t know.” We know who won’t be asked to head the slogan committee.

➺ They’re not called anchors for nothing

FOX 9 news anchor Alix Kendall wanted to skydive to raise money for victims of domestic abuse. But she probably figured the scary part would be jumping out of the plane. Instead, getting into the plane, she hit her head on the doorway and toppled off the stairs. The ensuing injuries necessitated eight staples, a leg brace, and crutches. This just in: having called the fall an “omen,” Kendall plans to remain grounded for the foreseeable future.

➺ Designed for a good bang

There are plenty of ways to get over a tough breakup: therapy, rebound relationships, Hennessy. But Terry Allen Lester of Waseca had more explosive ideas. He packed gunpowder, BBs, and buckshot into a sex toy, rewired the device, and put it in a box labeled “Christmas Gifts,” destined for his former flame. When the, er, package arrived, the woman sensed trouble and called the cops, landing Lester in prison for up to 10 years. Worry not, Lester, your romantic life may be getting more interesting.

➺ Under where?

It’s not polite to ask about people’s weight, which may be why Stephanie Travetta Moreland got away with hiding a stolen mink coat on her person for three days. Detectives spent those days grilling the Brooklyn Park woman after store employees insisted she’d shoplifted the fur. They even subjected her to pat-downs and metal detector tests. But they couldn’t find a trace of the missing mink—until they threatened to take her case to the Hennepin County Court. At that point, she pulled up her dress and slipped the coat from her underwear. She had simply stuffed the coat down the front of her rather-accommodating drawers. We hope the contraband was later sold at a deep discount.

➺ Can I define anything else for you?

Senator Al Franken doesn’t suffer fools gladly. But he gladly makes them suffer, as when Thomas Minnery, an advocate with Focus on the Family, testified during a hearing last summer on the Defense of Marriage Act. Minnery claimed that a recent study, showing better outcomes for children living in nuclear families, proved that opposite-sex marriages were better for kids. Franken asked him to define nuclear families. “I think that the study, when it cites nuclear families, would mean a family headed by a husband and wife,” Minnery said. Franken retorted, “It doesn’t.” Then he offered the definition of a nuclear family (two people—of any gender—who are married to each other and biological or adoptive parents to all their children), before concluding, “I frankly don’t really know how we can trust the rest of your testimony.” Now that’s a Franken spankin’.

➺ Gopher trap

It’s a dangerous job being a lovable, harmless mascot—at least at those rowdy gymnastics meets. Goldy Gopher was traipsing around a competition at the University of Minnesota when he playfully ruffled the hair of spectator Douglas Dokken. After a few moments of ignoring the antics, the 60-year-old Dokken lost his cool, turned around, and socked Goldy in his perpetually smiling face. Twice. The mask was trashed and Dokken was arrested, though the man inside the costume was unharmed.  Still, it probably gives him no comfort to know that fellow spectators reportedly found the incident “amusing.”

➺ Right wing and a prayer

Bradlee Dean had plenty of controversial bullet points on his resumé even before he stepped to a podium on the floor of the Minnesota House last spring. Wearing a black-and-white tracksuit, his hair in a ponytail, the self-styled youth ministry leader gave the morning prayer—which ended with Dean suggesting that Obama is not a Christian. Only after the prayer (universally panned by legislators, if not the guy upstairs) did the representative who invited Dean bother to learn more about him, including the fact that he’d previously compared President Obama to Osama bin Laden, implied that Congressman Keith Ellison is planning to implement Sharia law, and suggested it would be “moral” to execute homosexuals.

➺ At least he’s honest, sort of

John Rydberg is a sex offender deemed so dangerous that he’s still being held despite having served his sentence. That said, he was pretty upbeat when he appeared before a three-judge panel last spring to argue for his release. He said the number of people he molested was actually far less than the 94 he previously confessed to, explaining that he had given investigators an inflated total because he was afraid that a low number might make someone as scary as him appear to be lying. “What can I say?” Rydberg noted. “I’m a work in progress.”

➺ They win, you lose

After selling out nearly every game of their inaugural season at Target Field, the Twins figured fans wouldn’t mind if the team implemented “demand-based pricing” in 2011—ticket prices would go up whenever the Twins were hot, when pitching matchups were favorable, or even just when sunny weather was predicted for the game. Seems the team was a little overconfident. Ninety-nine losses later, prices had dropped so dramatically that many fans were unloading their tickets on Stubhub for less than a dollar. Given the team’s performance, that seems about right.

➺ Low man on the totem pole

Death by totem pole—there’s an idea Agatha Christie never explored. Police investigators couldn’t wrap their heads around the concept either when they checked into the demise of Linda Muggli. Her husband, sculptor Carl Muggli, told police his wife was accidentally crushed to death when the 17-foot totem pole they were carving fell on her. Police grew suspicious, however, when a review of Carl’s Facebook messages found intimate correspondence between him and an Alabama woman, indicating a more sinister plot. More important, the cops couldn’t re-create the alleged incident. Now really, were they trying hard enough?

➺ 100-percent odds of bad publicity

It apparently wasn’t entertaining enough to watch the state furlough 36,000 employees this summer in the government shutdown. A Republican prankster felt compelled to create a “Budget Acomplished” [sic] betting sheet. The form, to be routed through state Senator David Senjem’s office, would allow GOP legislators to gamble on the outcome of the political gridlock, including the length of the shutdown and details of a budget agreement. After the form was leaked to the media, red-faced GOP officials insisted it was never actually distributed and that no gambling occurred. We bet.

➺ Don’t let door hit you in the rear, Kim

Minnesota native/NBA star Kris Humphries was the envy of his Hopkins homies when he tied the knot last summer with reality-TV star/professional posterior Kim Kardashian. But he didn’t tie it tightly enough—their marriage lasted about as long as a Twitter post, with Kardashian announcing just 72 days later that it was over. It probably didn’t help, leading up to the wedding, that she referred to his home state as “Yeehaw Minnesota” and denigrated his “gross…fungus feet” on her Kim’s Fairytale Wedding show. See you in the rear-view, Kimmy!

Badgers Behaving Badly

Notable nuttiness from next door

➺ Not that we blame the guy

Dancing with the Stars superfan Steven Cowan couldn’t stand to see his favorite show sullied by sub-par stepper Bristol Palin, who inexplicably made the cut week after week. Insisting that her success was due to “f***ing politics,” the Dane County man finally got so incensed that he unloaded a shotgun into his television screen, getting the attention of the police, if not exactly Palin.

➺ But is his refrigerator running?

During the height of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s union-busting last year, the editor of an alternative online newspaper in Buffalo, New York, called the guv up—impersonating billionaire (and Walker campaign donor) David Koch. After duping a receptionist and an executive assistant to get Walker on the phone, Ian Murphy easily got him to reveal his strategy for negotiating with Democrats who had fled the state in protest: withhold their paychecks and use procedural loopholes to push his measures through. When the faux Koch promised to show Walker a good time in California after “crush[ing] these bastards,” Walker said the idea sounded “outstanding.”

➺ He was feeling wounded

After his girlfriend dumped him, Jordan Cardella of South Milwaukee decided that the only logical thing to do was have his friends shoot him. By his calculations, a non-lethal injury would earn him the sympathy he needed to win his ladyfriend back. The plan backfired, surprisingly enough, after his pals shot him in the arm and his ex never visited him in the hospital. In court, where his buddies wound up, the prosecuting attorney called the case the “most phenomenally stupid” thing he’d ever seen.

➺ You mean the song isn’t about psych class?

The varsity dance team at Waunakee High School always strives to put on a good show, so when they performed their hip-hop dance routine—which included the songs “Get Out of Your Mind” and “I Get Crazy”—they made sure to growl at the audience, use makeup to fake black eyes, and wear faux straitjackets bearing the phrase “Psych Ward.” Local mental-health advocates were not amused and demanded a public apology. While the team officially offered one, the head coach petulantly insisted that, despite appearances, “the thought never crossed my mind…[that the song] was about mental illness.” Sounds like someone needs her head examined.

Erin Peterson is a Minneapolis writer.