Asking Seattle jeweler Ben Benton if he's got the right time could be a dangerous question. The shopkeeper is ticked off because a city council land-use committee says he needs formal permission to move or sell the clock that's been in front of his family's store for more than six decades. The clock was designated a historic landmark, although no one ever consulted Benton about it. If he moves the clock without the approval of the local honchos, he could face a stiff fine. Benton opposes the clock's designation as a landmark because "it's like taking something without paying for it. The city would like to tell me what I can or cannot do with my own personal property." Maybe Benton should consult a calendar. The state has been doing that since Big Ben ticked his first tock.
From our oldies but goodies file: Two decades ago, Hoosier state prudes found that the Kingsmen's drunken rock and roll classic "Louie, Louie" contained (shudder! gasp!) dirty lyrics, but only if you play the 45 rpm record at 33? rpm. A righteous teenager brought this shocking news to the attention of the Indiana Broadcasters Association. That stalwart group asked radio stations to stop playing the song. Of course, no one questioned how someone listening to the radio could slow down the song. Not content with censorship at the local level, Indiana officials also complained to the Federal Communications Commission. But an FCC spokesman admitted that the agency couldn't find any dirty words. "As a matter of fact, we found the record to be unintelligible at any speed we played it."
The fun is over for the Bergen County, New Jersey, Fun Bus line. Officials voted to suspend the service, intended to transport residents to county parks, when it was discovered that the bus had been running almost empty for as long as three summers. The bus line costs the county $245 a day and runs from June 24 through the end of the summer. The bus picked up its first passenger of the season on July 18. "I would give that old lady $30 a week and tell her to take a cab," quipped one freeholder.
Rest in peace. Julian Dewey Hursey, Jr., has been arrested five times for napping in his pickup truck near the Daytona Beach, Florida, boardwalk. A local ordinance bans sleeping in public between 11:00 P.M. and 6:00 A.M. But Circuit Court Judge Robert Miller ruled that Hursey has the right to sleep wherever he parks the truck, so long as it's parked legally.
Philadelphia judge Alexander Macones dismissed murder charges against three men, including two who had been extradited from other states, because a prosecutor wasn't on time for a hearing. After lunch, the eminent jurist also dismissed murder charges against a Philadelphia man who police said confessed to a killing after being found covered with blood. Assistant District Attorney Roger King was in another courtroom down the hall when Macones turned the alleged murderers loose. "I made sure courtroom personnel told the judge I was busy with another case," says King. But when defense attorneys protested King's absence at the hearing, Macones dropped the charges. "How many bites of the apple does Mr. King want?" the robed idiot mumbled as he turned loose the three altar boys.
How many state workers are there in Massachusetts? It's anybody's guess. The exact figure is rather elusive, ranging from 75,000 to 95,500, depending on who's doing the counting. The question isn't just for trivia buffs. A 1 percent variance in the payroll estimates can mean as much as a $50 million difference in state costs. Surely, someone must know the exact number. "That's something we've always wondered ourselves," says Daryl Delano, chief of economic analysis and information for the US Department of Labor's Boston office. "There are many, many different payrolls around the state and no one has the ultimate responsibility for pulling that information together." Is it any wonder residents call it Tax-achusetts?
Austrian playwright Thomas Bernhard thinks his play is being censored by Salzburg officials. The script calls for 800 flies to sit on a dunghill on the stage. A health official ruled that the flies pose a health risk to the audience. The play could go ahead only if the theater guarantees that all 800 flies would be caught alive after each performance. Everyone's a critic.