Uncommon Loon Awards

Now you know: Don’t shoot tame bears, don’t tell your employees to Dumpster-dive, and don’t rent a house to Prince. But for every celebrity, politico, and just plain loonatic for whom this advice comes a little late, we have awarded a 2006 Loonie to help us all remember the wacky year that was.


A little bit country, a little bit lame

Country singer Troy Lee Gentry, who has cultivated a macho image, is best known for his song “Good Clean Fun.” But there’s nothing good, clean, fun, or macho about recent allegations that he killed a tame bear in its pen near Sandstone with a bow and arrow and then tagged the bear as if it were shot in the wild. The bear’s death was recorded on videotape, which was later edited so it would appear that Gentry shot the bear in a “fair chase” situation. Oh for the honest country-boy days of John Denver, er, Henry John Deutschendorf II.

So much for soliciting renters on Craigslist

Would you rent your home to a guy with a pompadour, a pencil-thin mustache, and a symbol for a name? NBA star Carlos Boozer did, charging Prince $70,000 a month to live in his $11.9 million Los Angeles mansion last winter. Boozer ended up suing him for painting the home’s exterior with purple stripes, putting purple carpeting in the master bedroom, and installing beauty salon chairs (no word on their color) in a downstairs bedroom. Prince, U R 2 much.

Tip No. 102: Avoid our overpriced inflight snacks

Talk about your friendly skies. Bankrupt Northwest Airlines, while in the midst of slashing most workers’ pay and preparing to cut jobs, helpfully offered employees some money-saving tips in a booklet entitled “Preparing for a Financial Setback” that management handed out and made available on the Internet. (Insert “Gee, thanks” here.) Among the suggestions, for which the airline later apologized: shop for jewelry at pawn shops, take dates for a free walk in the woods, and “do not be shy about pulling something you like out of the trash.” Like a rotten sandwich, or a broken end table, or hey, look—it’s NWA’s reputation!

All the news that’s fit to steal

So much for a free press. As of last spring, Star Tribune employees were no longer entitled to free copies of their own publication; in a cost-cutting move, vending boxes were set up around the newsroom and workers were offered an electronic version of the paper instead. When employees resorted to theft, they were reprimanded in a memo that found its way into the New York Times, which pointed out the irony of a newspaper trying to sell subscriptions when its Internet version is considered just fine for employees. Couldn’t they just cut costs by making stories shorter? Oh wait, they already did.

In Gil we trust

You might think the office of Representative Gil Gutknecht, of Minnesota’s First District, would be apologetic, or at least silent, after being caught trying to erase a reference on Wikipedia to a 12-year term limit the Republican congressman imposed on himself in 1995. (“If I ever break this contract, throw me out,” he said at the time.) Instead, a spokesperson for Gutknecht questioned the integrity of the Internet encyclopedia itself: “I would encourage people to find a more trustworthy place to do their research,” he said. How about we add “former” to “Rep.” and call it even?

Sure that wasn’t blah blah?

Attempting to cure its image as merely a great place for surgery, Rochester unveiled a new slogan: “Rah Rah Rochester.” Hmm, seems our fun meter is flatlining. Why does forced frivolity always sound so unconvincing? While Sick City may never be Sin City, might we suggest some specificity, like “The Loader-Backhoe Capital of the World” (slogan of Burlington, Iowa)? Or Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin’s mystical: “Where the bald eagle soars and the carp drops.” That we have to see. Besides, isn’t image control without substantive change what they’d call a “Band-Aid approach” at the Mayo Clinic?

A real sex machine

Remember when cars were for driving? Timberwolves player Eddie Griffin was multitasking—allegedly watching a pornographic DVD and masturbating—when he crashed his SUV into another SUV last March, giving new meaning to the term “tooling around.” (Griffin told the Star Tribune that a dropped cell phone caused him to crash.) Apparently seeking to make the matter go away, Griffin offered to buy the other car’s owner “any new car or truck, but not a Bentley.” Would someone buy Griffin a home DVD player, and maybe a clue?


Once bitten, twice tragic

A 9-year-old girl learned the hard way that not all meerkats are as cuddly as the animated ones in The Lion King when she was bitten by one, having reached over a four-foot barrier surrounding a Minnesota Zoo exhibit. Rather than subject their daughter to rabies shots (which nowadays are no more painful than a tetanus shot, though they present a small chance of complications), the girl’s parents forced the zoo to have all five of the possible biters killed and autopsied. Is it too late to inject the parents?

Two writers make a wrong

There’s a long and glorious history of retorts between literati: when Noel Coward remarked to Edna Ferber, who was wearing a tailored suit, “You look almost like a man,” she replied, “So do you.” And then there’s the e-mail exchange between Steve Marsh of Mpls.St.Paul Magazine and Nick Coleman, Star Tribune columnist, which smacked more of illiterati. “You stink,” Coleman wrote, after Marsh disparaged the elder writer in an online forum. “Your blog is a big bad goo.” Marsh replied, “Are you really making fun of Mpls.St.Paul magazine, dude? C’mon, you have more game than that.” Now that the mag has removed Marsh’s blog from its website, can we just say, “game over”?

Have we learned nothing from Paris Hilton?

Step away from the camcorder. As a rule of thumb, do not videotape yourself doing anything embarrassing, incriminating, or, in the case of three burglary-ring suspects in St. Paul, some combination of both. Discovered in a stolen car full of stolen merchandise, the suspects’ video (filmed with a stolen video camera, need we mention?) clearly shows the young men’s faces as they tromp around a basketball court, playing video games, and, in the words of the Star Tribune, “trying to rap.” Ouch. Now let’s see them try to beat the rap.

The mayor, he is a-changin’

Never let it be said that Minneapolis mayor R. T. Rybak is an opponent of change. Apparently, he has a thing for changing clothes in the back of his Toyota Prius, as Star Tribune gossip maven C.J. observed while tagging along on a mayoral ski outing. “I clearly saw gray boxer briefs,” she wrote in her column. “Well-toned thighs, too.” We’ll never ask for more transparency in government again.

A job he can sink his teeth into

For everyone who thinks there’s too much God in government, there’s Jonathan “The Impaler” Sharkey, who ran for governor as head of the Vampyres, Witches, and Pagans Party. A sort of compassionate Satanist, Sharkey wants tax breaks for farmers and better protections for children and the elderly—and he believes God the Father was a terrible parent for allowing his Son to be crucified. Not that the self-described “sanguinary vampire” (and former wrestler) is a softie: he’s advocating execution for terrorists, rapists, child abusers, and many other offenders—by impalement, naturally. But even if his election hopes were dead on arrival this time around, there’s another job he’s dying to try: he’s registered as a 2008 presidential candidate. Perhaps we’ll finally get a one-coven Congress.

Your tagline, our foot

Did we miss a marketing seminar this year? Because that’s when we suddenly noticed the proliferation of Twin Cities advertising declaring popular ownership of things we didn’t realize we owned—as in “Your Guthrie” (for the Guthrie Theater), “Your Music” (for the Minnesota Orchestra), and the variation “My 29” (for WFTC-TV, channel 29). As if Americans need a greater sense of entitlement. We’ll leave “our advertising” up on one condition—one day a month, we get to host Pink Floyd Laser Night at Orchestra Hall, Osmo Vänskä conducting. Hello?

Because putting tacks on his chair would be so analog

It didn’t take long for MySpace, the online social networking site, to become an identity-theft playground. By and large, the ruses are innocuous, as when some joker created a Garrison Keillor profile with links to several hundred mostly young, hot, and single female friends (you go Garrison!). But police recently had to step in when the victim was a teacher at Coon Rapids Middle School and the phony profile, allegedly created by students, contained pornography and demeaning references to religious background and sexual orientation. Remember when computer literacy was considered a good thing?

And he would’ve gotten away with it, too, if it weren’t for those meddling kids

Calling himself the “Earl of Scooby” and the “Fifth Duke of Cleveland,” a 22-year-old sex offender managed to ingratiate himself into Stillwater Area High School, posing as a prospective student (an exchange student, to be sure). Enterprising student journalists uncovered the truth about Adam Gardner, who’d been introducing himself as a 17-year-old British royal named Caspian James Chrichton Stuart IV. The students found the man’s photograph on Florida’s registry of sex offenders and a website in which the royal pain said his goal for the year was “to not make the front page of any paper.” Sorry, your highness.

Death becomes her

Sister Janelle Cahoon has spent her 80-plus years believing in life after death. She just didn’t think it would happen to her before she was actually, well, dead. The Duluth News-Tribune performed the miracle for Sister Cahoon, pronouncing her dead in a story about a documentary film that captured life in her Benedictine community at the College of St. Scholastica—then resurrecting her in a correction. The attention didn’t kill her. “People are very glad I’m not dead,” she says. “That’s good for a person to hear.”

Or a dum-dum or doo-doo one either

“If we’re going to have a zoo, let’s not have a sucky one,” Governor Tim Pawlenty said in regard to the Minnesota Zoo’s state bonding request this year—a comment that made TIME magazine’s weekly roundup of “Can you believe they said that?” quotes from around the country. We’re picturing a new state slogan—“Minnesota: not too sucky.”

We’ll have what he’s having

U.S. Senator Norm Coleman’s family is single-handedly putting the party back in the GOP, what with his wife posing in lingerie for a fashion layout and now his father, who’s in his early eighties, getting busted by police for allegedly having sex in a car outside a St. Paul pizza joint—with a 38-year-old woman who, incidentally, was not his wife. “I love my father dearly,” said Norm Jr. of Norm Sr., adding, “He clearly has some issues that need to be dealt with, and I will encourage him to seek the necessary help.” The Star Tribune account included the senator’s 2002 assessment of his father: “He’s the smartest man I know.”

Photo by Thomas Strand

We’d still prefer the power of super-delivery-time

Actually saving the day isn’t in the job description of Galactic Pizza delivery drivers, who suit up in capes, tights, and other superhero paraphernalia. But mild-mannered Cameron Evans, whose Galactic alter-ego is Luke Pie-Rocker, lived up to his getup when he came to the aid of a pedestrian whose purse had just been snatched. With his cape fluttering behind him, Evans chased the evildoer into an alley, where two other passersby helped trap the thief. Evans retrieved the purse for the damsel in distress, then went on to rescue numerous other citizens from crippling cases of the munchies.

But did he slam for 15 reps?

Life Time Fitness chairman and CEO Bahram Akradi may not be working out enough for true stress management. According to a felony complaint, the exercise guru was tooling his Hummer around the Minnetonka High School parking lot (accompanied by his daughter, a student there) when he cut off a teenage driver, who honked at him. Akradi got out of his car and slammed his fist into the kid’s BMW, leaving a dent, before opening the car door and attempting to drag the student out of the vehicle. (No word on whether he wiped his sweat off the machine before leaving the scene.) After charges were filed, a Life Time Fitness press release characterized them as “insignificant and irrelevant.” Looks like someone may be skipping the “cool down” phase of his workouts.

It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s…grandpa?

Even at 82, Chuck Rollins can still get it up—his ultralight plane, that is. It’s keeping it up that seems to be the problem. Rollins is a legend in southeastern Minnesota—a waterskiing, half-marathon-running daredevil with a long history of plane, car, inline skating, and even bulldozer mishaps. In fact, because he’s lost one hand in an accident and no longer drives, he has to bike or skate to the airport where he keeps the ultralight he takes on short trips. But when Rollins recently attempted to fly farther than he ever has before—some 30 miles—he may have gone too far for local residents. He ran out of gas and crashed in a farmyard, prompting calls for a permanent grounding. “Common sense often takes a back seat in grandpa’s life,” his granddaughter said. “However, he never fails to amaze.” Heads up!

Photo by Greg Helgeson


Osmo Vänskä, the Minnesota Orchestra’s artistic director, charmed audiences with last winter’s program of music by ABBA, the Scandinavian disco fiends. But the super-conductor nearly upstaged the 1970s tunes with a suit that can only be described as definitely not off-the-rack—cream-colored with appliqués of giant flowers and a violin that appeared to be emerging from his backside. Who knew Doc Severinsen was doubling as a fashion consultant?

Tim Gihring (a Wisconsin native) is senior writer for Minnesota Monthly.

On Wisconsin

Natural selection at its finest

What does it say about current sex-education programs that three 20-year-old men from southwestern Wisconsin stopped at Wal-Mart to pick up some condoms—on their way to a cemetery to have sex with a corpse? The corpse in question was that of a recent victim of a motorcycle accident, a young woman unknown to the grave robbers. Her obituary photo evidently inspired the young men to dig up her body, according to the criminal complaint. Rather than mail us your sick jokes about the incident, just send money for a memorial wall—to run the length of the Wisconsin-Minnesota border.

Running on empty

Ten gallons of free gas sounded pretty good to Milwaukeeans who ventured out to the giveaway at a local filling station. But how good a deal could it have been when the line of waiting cars stretched for two miles, provoking fistfights and fender-benders (ironic, considering the event was sponsored by Allstate Insurance company, in acknowledgment of Milwaukee residents’ good driving records)? Maybe they thought it was free beer.

Sympathy for the devil

There are many memorials to Holocaust victims, not so many to Adolf Hitler—possibly because he was the most evil man of the 20th century. But try telling that to Ted Junker, who established a shrine to Hitler this summer on his Wisconsin farm. Junker is a German emigrant who says he volunteered to serve during World War II in the Waffen SS, the Nazis’ dreaded paramilitary unit. He claims Hitler is misunderstood, that he wasn’t to blame for starting the war. How about we agree to disagree, and by disagree we mean launch the memorial into space?

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