Weird News of the Week 2/5/17
February 1, 2004, is a date that will live in skinfamy.
As more than 144 million viewers eyeballed the big, climactic moment of the biggest halftime show of the biggest sports championship game of all time, pop star Justin Timberlake strutted up alongside his duet partner Janet Jackson and belted out, “Gonna get you naked by the end of this song!”
With that, Timberlake tore open the front of Jackson’s leather bustier and out popped her right breast, naked except for a shield-like areola adornment that only served to highlight her visible nipple.
Less than one second later, big game broadcaster CBS cut to a distant overhead shot of the stadium, then went to a commercial. Nonetheless, the then-prominent Iraq War term “shock and awe” may as well have been coined to describe the impact of the incident that would forever after be known as “nipplegate.”
Unclothed female nipples, of course, are forbidden on United States broadcast television. So while millions reeled at the sight of one of music’s all-time most popular superstars being exposed, no small number of them took serious offense. Members of that latter group also immediately took action.
Outraged viewers bombarded the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) with a total of 544,000 complaints, albeit many of them via form letters and mass call-ins organized by watchdog groups such as the Parents Television Council. Congress members on both sides of the aisle bombastically condemned the display.
MTV, the network that produced the halftime spectacular, played innocent and added a new and permanent term to the popular lexicon: “wardrobe malfunction.”
The company said that Timberlake was supposed to pull off Jackson’s strap to reveal a red bra, but that the bra cup accidentally came off and — whoomp! — there it was.
Officially, MTV stated:
“The tearing of Janet Jackson’s costume was unrehearsed, unplanned, completely unintentional and was inconsistent with assurances we had about the content of the performance. MTV regrets this incident occurred and we apologize to anyone who was offended by it… Our goal was to produce an entertaining stage experience with a positive message about empowerment and voting. We are disappointed that this message has been overshadowed by the unfortunate incident.”
CBS also maintained its innocence, stating that its reps had been at every rehearsal and they witnessed no such shenanigans in progress.
The NFL played the flabbergasted card, stating: “We were extremely disappointed by elements of the MTV-produced Halftime show. They were totally inconsistent with assurances our office was given about the show. It’s unlikely that MTV will produce another … halftime.”
America seemed to talk about little else in the days ahead. Late-night comedians joked up a storm. Celebrity-nudity website Mr. Skin experienced what remains the single biggest day for traffic in the company’s 18-year existence.
When Jawed Karim, a software programmer at PayPal, and his friends wanted to create an easy way to upload and share the “nipplegate” video, they ended up inventing YouTube.
Eventually, the Guinness Book of World Records officially recognized the 2004 big game halftime show as “the most searched incident in the history of the internet.”
Janet Jackson ultimately said she herself bore full responsibility. She then went on to spoof the whole affair while hosting Saturday Night Live.
On February 8, FCC chairman Michael Powell deemed Jackson’s reveal “a classless, crass, and deplorable stunt” and launched an official government investigation into the incident.
Media companies panicked. Longer delays were added to live broadcasts. Radio giant Clear Channel dropped perennial FCC whipping boy Howard Stern. “Edgy” content disappeared from broadcast outlets. Massive new penalties, intended to financially cripple violators, were put in place for “indecent” and/or “obscene” transgressions.
After months of controversy, on September 22, the FCC ordered CBS to pay a $550,000 fine. The commission also ruled that Jackson and Timberlake plotted the moment “independently and clandestinely.” Viacom — the parent company of CBS at the time — said it was not guilty and contested the ruling.
Just before Thanksgiving, Viacom cut a deal to pay $3.5 million for outstanding FCC penalties involving numerous violations, including many filed against Howard Stern. Still, the company refused to fork over one cent regarding “nipplegate.”
Seven years of litigation followed, with the Third Circuit court ruling twice that exposure constituted “fleeting indecency” and voiding the fine against Viacom. When the Supreme Court refused to take the case, also for the second time, the matter was finally dropped.
Freedom has been ringing, properly clothed, ever since.
ST. PETERSBURG, FL — Just days before Tom Brady’s seventh appearance at the big game, one of the quarterback’s most devoted fans is wanted in Florida on drug charges related to the synthetic hallucinogen spice.
Victor Thompson, 48, is named in four separate arrest warrants for felony narcotics possession and failure to appear in court, according to Florida court records.
Thompson, who was reportedly found carrying the drug by St. Petersburg Police Department officers and “using and selling narcotics” outside a homeless shelter, has made his bald head a tattooed tribute to Brady’s football career.
Thompson, who moved to Florida a few years ago from his home state of Massachusetts, is instantly recognizable due to his collage of tattoos.
They include a replica of Brady’s football helmet — which is tattooed on his head — New England Patriots logos, Brady’s number 12, the NFL shield, an American flag, and the name of the helmet’s manufacturer, Riddell.
If apprehended, Thompson will be locked up in jail on a combined $13,000 bail.
CLAY COUNTY, FL — The grandfather and caregiver of a 27-year-old disabled Florida man is pleading for the return of his seven-pound dog who was stolen during a bizarre home invasion.
Stirling Simpson says that a burglar broke into the home he shares with his grandson Devon last November, actually hid inside their bathtub for a few hours until the family went to sleep, and then stole Devon’s dog Fonzie.
Deputies have arrested Joseph Thomas Taylor, 23, in connection with the crime, but according to the Clay County Sheriff’s Office there is still no sign of Fonzie.
Police said Taylor crept in through the back door, which was slightly open for Fonzie, at around 8 P.M.
He waited for around three hours, and then while the family slept he grabbed the dog and other items including a television, computer modem, cell phone, and wallet before fleeing the scene.
Devon, who uses a wheelchair, suffers from cerebral palsy, a disorder that affects movement, posture, and muscle tone. Simpson explained that his grandson would take Fonzie for walks in the chair, and said that his grandson and the dog “belong to each other,” adding, “They are just so compatible.”
Taylor was busted after authorities caught him using the a stolen credit card, but Fonzie is still missing.
The family has offered a $300 reward for information.
RIDGECREST, CA — An alleged burglar in California whose luck ran out when he got stuck inside a home’s chimney has been arrested.
Officers from the Ridgecrest Police Department were initially dispatched to a home Sunday after reports of a triggered burglary alarm.
A few minutes later, police got another call — this time from a woman who claimed that her friend was trapped in a chimney at the same address.
When officers arrived, they discovered Keith Schultz, 28, wedged in the chimney.
They also found signs of forced entry and an open back door, leading them to conclude that Shultz’s accomplices broke into the home with him, and then fled the scene when they were unable to free him.
Schultz, who was covered in soot in his mug shot, was eventually rescued from the chimney by firefighters. He was taken to Bakersfield jail and charged with burglary.
LYNWOOD, WA — A Washington man lived the definition of “date from hell” when a woman he met on Craigslist attacked him in a motel room and stabbed him in the lung with a pocketknife.
Police say the the 24-year-old woman has been arrested on suspicion of first-degree attempted murder after attacking her 29-year-old date at the Rodeo Inn in Lynnwood.
The man told police that he and the suspect met on Craigslist through a post he made seeking dating, not sex. Despite that, they ended up together in a motel room.He said that they were getting along well when she asked him several times if he was a serial killer and — after he told her he was not — climbed on top of him and said, “Well, I am a serial killer” and pulled out a pocketknife.
The woman then stabbed him in the chest. He tried to break free, but had a difficult time due to her weight. Finally he managed to escape the room and call police from the motel office.
Police found the suspect in the parking lot, and when they asked what happened, she replied, “I’m a loon.” She reportedly said she had planned to eat the victim’s heart after she stabbed him to death and then leave a note saying she planned to kill again.
A judge on Tuesday set her bail at $1 million. He victim is recovering with a punctured lung.
Sometimes, professional football’s “Big Game” can seem like a precursor for troubled players to commit some very big crimes.
The following five gridiron greats all got blitzed with major charges following at least one appearance at a season-ending NFL championship contest.
It’s also worth noting that, for all his superhuman achievements on the field, O.J. Simpson never actually led his beloved Buffalo Bills — or any other team — to the biggest game of a football player’s career.
JIM DUNAWAYTeam: Miami Dolphins, defensive tackle
Big Game: VII (1978)
Foul Call: Arrested and charged with the 1998 murder of his wife, Nonniel Dunaway
Play-by-Play: Three years after an acrimonious divorce in which Nonniel Dunaway seemed to win big, the 56-year-old mother turned up dead in what had been the family’s swimming pool. The coroner ruled that Nonneil “suffered an open fracture to her skull and was unconscious when she was placed in the water.” Police picked up Jim for the crime.
Penalty: Citing insufficient evidence, a grand jury chose not to indict Dunaway (main photo, above, No. 78). In 2002, however, the couple’s children filed a wrongful-death suit and testified against their own father. The court found Dunaway liable in his ex-wife’s death and ordered him to pay $579,000.
Extra Point: Jim Dunaway played for three seasons on the Buffalo Bills, alongside O.J. Simpson — who similarly was not convicted of murdering his ex-wife, but was later found liable for her death in a civil suit. [Bleacher Report]
THOMAS “HOLLYWOOD” HENDERSON
Team: Dallas Cowboys, linebacker
Big Games: XII (1978); XIII (1979); XVII (1983)
Foul Call: Convicted in 1983 of smoking crack cocaine and having sex with teenage girls.
Play-by-Play: The girls claimed that Henderson threatened them with a firearm and committed sexual assault. Henderson maintained he provided drugs to the teens in exchange for consensual sex.
Penalty: Henderson took a plea deal. He did eight months in a rehab facility before serving 28 months in prison. He says “Hollywood” died during that process, and that his true self — Thomas Henderson — has been clean and sober ever since.
Extra Point: In 2000, Henderson won a $28 million Lotto jackpot. He has been actively philanthropic since then and travels giving motivational talks, particularly to recovering addicts and youngsters at risk of turning to crime. [Los Angeles Times]
Team: New England Patriots, tight end
Big Game: XLVI (2012) – scored a touchdown
Foul Calls: Convicted for the 2013 murder of Odin Lloyd; charged with the 2012 double homicide of Daniel de Abreu and Safiro Furtado; sued for shooting Alexander Bradley in 2013; remains a person of interest in a 2001 Florida shooting of two men
Play-by-Play: Where Aaron Hernandez goes, trouble (to put it mildly) follows. After pleading not guilty to the murder of semi-pro football player Odin Lloyd, evidence continuously stacked up against him. In the course of that investigation, police connected Hernandez to fatal gunshots fired into a vehicle containing Daniel de Abreu and Safiro Furtado. After spending the night in a Miami strip club with Hernandez, Alexander Bradley claims that his “friend” Aaron shot him and caused the loss of his right eye. Odin Lloyd was also Hernandez’s “friend.”
Penalty: In 2015, a jury found Hernandez guilty in the first-degree murder of Odin Lloyd. His trial in the double murder of Daniel de Abreu and Safiro Furtado is scheduled to begin in February 2017.
Extra Point: Hernandez signed a $41 million contract with the Patriots in 2012. He has since been terminated. [Rolling Stone]
Team: Baltimore Ravens, linebacker
Big Games: XXXV (2001) – MVP; XLVII, 2013
Foul Call: Charged in 2000 with the murders of Jacinth Baker and Richard Lollar
Play-by-Play: After attending a “Champagne Blowout” party to celebrate the game at the Cobalt nightclub in Atlanta, Ray Lewis and his pals Reginald Oakley and Joseph Sweeting reportedly got into a brawl outside with Jacinth Baker and Richard Lollar. Lewis and his friends hobbled away from the dust-up; Baker and Lollar lay dead on the ground after being stabbed. All three survivors got arrested and charged with murder.
Penalty: Ray Lewis pleaded his case down to 12 months probation. In exchange for having murder charges dropped against him, Lewis testified against Oakley and Sweeting. The NFL fined Lewis $250,000. Oakley and Sweeting went to trial and were found not guilty.
Extra Point: Ray Lewis maintains his innocence and has been recognized as of the most charitable figures in professional sports. [CBS Sports]
Team: New York Giants, linebacker
Big Games: XXI (1987); XXV (1991)
Foul Calls: Multiple arrests across many years for drugs, DUI, financial misdeeds, and other crimes. In 2009, police busted Lawrence “LT” Taylor for third-degree rape, patronizing a prostitute, sexual abuse, and endangering a child.
Play-by-Play: After decades of problems, Taylor seemed to hit a new low in 2009 when he was caught consuming drugs with and paying for the sexual services of a 16-year-old Bronx runaway. Alas, in September 2016, LT got busted again for drunk driving — again — after sideswiping a mobile home and a police car on a Florida highway.
Penalty: For the incident with the runaway, LT pleaded down to two misdemeanor sex charges and got six years probation. He is also now a registered sex offender.
Extra Point: In 2015, Lawrence Taylor, Jr. — LT’s son — pleaded guilty to statutory rape and child molestation in exchange for 10 years’ jail time. On June 9, 2016, Lynette Taylor — LT’s wife — got arrested for domestic violence after throwing an “unknown object” at her husband’s head. [Sun-Sentinel]