2016: The year in weird sh*t

A look back at 12 months of news, Florida-style, courtesy of Sh*t Happened.

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click to enlarge 2016 year in weird - Julio Ramos
Julio Ramos
2016 year in weird

Sure, 2016 was a banner year for weirdness nationwide. And Florida once again stepped it up for the elections, playing its role as spoiler and generally reminding the rest of the country that its future often hinges on what happens in a state full of people who willingly live in an environment that’s home to carnivorous dinosaurs and the sort of cultural inclinations that made Limp Bizkit famous.

But that was just the big stuff. It was also an exceptional year for the kind of odd, absurd, head-shakingly dumb goings-on that define the Florida news cycle on a day-to-day, below-the-national-radar basis. Maybe even more stupidity than usual trickled down from the headlining act. Who knows? But here’s a look back at some of our favorite homegrown bits and blurbs, culled from CL’s own original next-day newsbite delivery vehicle, Sh*t Happened.


A Universal Florida caricature artist who was disgruntled over being fired stabbed his former coworker at Islands of Adventure’s Toon Lounge. Unfortunately, there wasn’t a third caricature artist nearby to capture the event in the light, tragedy-softening style for which it so desperately called. (1/5)

Uh oh: The U.S. Supreme Court has found Florida’s death penalty system to be unconstitutional, in that it puts too much responsibility in the hands of judges and not enough in the hands of juries. That sound you hear is a hot tub limo full of drunken appeals lawyers screaming joyful obscenities through megaphones and into their phones as they plan to rent out Disney World for the weekend. (1/13)

The city of Tampa’s website got a $77,000 facelift. It looks good, but should we argue over the fact that they hired a firm out of Palm Beach rather than a local, or that it closely resembles some templates we’ve seen fleshed out for five grand and a case of local craft beer? (1/14)

The University of Tampa will ban all smoking and tobacco use on campus, including vaping and e-cigarettes, beginning in August. Enjoy finals week, kids; hope that 96-hour spades tournament quashes your stress levels. (1/26)

the American brand most often associated with behind-the-dumpster romance, Waffle House, is now taking Valentine’s Day reservations for its Tampa and St. Pete locations. Sometimes they write themselves, folks. (1/28)


Interesting: The Tampa Bay Times announced it has signed a five-year contract to print the Tampa Tribune and its “affiliated publications.” I think we can go ahead and file that under “Ending Well, Things That Will Be Totally (Not Really).” (2/3)

A custodian at downtown St. Pete’s Chihuly Collection discovered that one of the glass artist’s pieces was missing. The piece, an 8” x 6” hunk of shaped and colored glass worth $25K because humans are inexplicable, was probably stolen on Sunday; police are on the lookout for an inordinately feisty grandmother of dubious aesthetic tastes. (2/9)

You can add the black and white tegu — a South American lizard that grows to nearly five feet long and eats freakin’ anything — to the long, long list of Florida’s potentially disastrous invasive species. Then panic. Like, panic real hard. Then forget about it until next year, when the fire-breathing rodents of unusual size show up. (2/22)

A Tampa fugitive arrested in Ohio reportedly attempted to bite his own fingerprints off while in custody to avoid being identified. It’s not the climate that keeps our region so temperate — it’s the entire population, collectively and constantly beaming with pride. (2/29)


A private two-seater airplane was forced to make an emergency landing on the 12th fairway of a St. Pete golf course. Early reports that the pilot was just a doctor trying to get all of his hobbies in between surgeries turned out to be false, if entirely plausible. (3/7)

A 35-year-old dude thought the public bathroom at the Lakeland Police Department was just the right place to shoot up some heroin. He wasn’t compelled to be there, either, mind you — the guy walked in off the street. I think if you travel 15 more minutes back in time, you’ll find a very stoned conversation about bucket lists that ends in a really stupid dare. (3/14)


The U.S. Department of Education began an investigation of possible civil rights violations within the Pinellas County School District in the wake of the Tampa Bay Times’ “failure factories” report on schools in predominantly black neighborhoods that allegedly were allowed to descend into decrepitude. Oh good — an inept and labyrinthine bureaucracy accused of corruption and leaving behind a group of the people it was created to protect will be looked into by an organ of the federal government. (4/5)

Four Boca Ciega High School students were hospitalized after eating drug-laced gummy candies brought to school by another student. Authorities say the candy most likely contained THC. The teens’ symptoms included stupor and a desire to eat more candy, preferably while watching something from the Criterion Collection. (4/12)

Super-classy Tampa gentleman’s club Thee Dollhouse, sued in January for using performers’ photos in promotional materials without their consent, is now the defendant in another lawsuit, this one a class action brought by dancers and door girls over unpaid wages. It’s almost enough to make you begin to doubt the integrity of the hooting-and-throwing-dollar-bills-at-women-while-they-take-their-clothes-off-to-Bon-Jovi industry. (4/29)


The U.S. Department of Transportation will investigate whether or not TBX’s “Lexus lanes” constitute a civil rights violation. “Oh, that’s classy, exploiting the very system you oppose in order to try and get your way,” said a bunch of people who spend tons of money to find loopholes to avoid paying tons of money in taxes every year. (5/6)

A Daytona Beach attorney was disbarred for, among other things, having phone sex with inmates, trading favors for drugs and generally engaging in the sort of late-to-work, job-neglecting shenanigans that always inevitably come with a fairly serious party habit. It’s called “research,” people. She’s stumbling that mile in the other’s shoes. She’s just quidding the pro quo, you know. (5/10)

Guy who almost certainly got away with murder George Zimmerman spent a few days trying to auction off the gun with which he shot and killed Trayvon Martin, only to be trolled relentlessly... Sucks to be a victim — can’t a guy who shot an unarmed guy, shot at another guy, has been arrested for multiple violent offenses and auctioned off racist artwork just get on with his life? (5/16)

Tampa police seized $500K worth of gross, dangerous not-really-synthetic-marijuana substance Spice from a makeshift lab at a local storage facility. Hey kids, I know you’re gonna do what you’re gonna do — I’d just like to suggest that maybe one of the things you think about not doing is a drug created behind the rusty roll-up door of a U-Stor-It stall. (5/27)

Six classrooms in USF’s Muma College of Business had to be closed through the remainder of the summer semester due to a bedbug infestation. Apparently, someone forgot one of the cardinal rules of business — that BEDBUGS ARE BAD FOR BUSINESS. (5/30)


According to an AP report, Florida Attorney General and noted influence-seeker Pam Bondi “personally solicited” a political contribution from Donald Trump, and her office decided not to join an investigation into accusations of fraud on the part of his Trump University soon after receiving a $25K donation. Wow. Ladies and gentlemen — your dully elected public servants. Maybe quit putting nakedly ambitious and obviously self-interested power-vampires in office, whaddaya say? (6/7)

Tropical Storm Colin did not go quietly... the city of St. Pete announced in the late afternoon that it would discharge “partially treated wastewater” directly into Tampa Bay to ease its own overburdened processing system. Lemme ask you: If you lived right next door to a magic volcano that erupted liquid cat poop every couple of years, how often would you check your umbrella and rubber boots for holes? (6/8)

An estimated 50,000 people attended a vigil in Orlando one week after the shootings at Pulse, celebrating the lives that were lost, comforting one another and showing the world that love can never, ever be broken by terror. (6/20)

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission decided not to have another Florida black bear hunt this year. Because when viewed in hindsight, last year’s hunt reveals itself clearly as a total balls-up that created far more problems than the specious ones it was intended to solve — and it will never be clear whether or not it actually solved anything. (6/23)

The St. Pete Pride Night Parade was both an emotional tribute to those lost in the Orlando shootings and a celebration of love and community. Some reports called this year’s event comparatively somber; whoever wrote those reports was obviously not hanging around with Gay Pride Cat, Bondage Possum Lady or The Mostly Naked Go-Go Dancing Soccer Team. Shit was divine. (6/27)


It’s not often that you read the words “professional wrestler” and “diversity tribute” in the same story — mostly because so much of professional wrestling’s profitability hinges on getting millions of people to hate the other guy — but John Cena’s Fourth of July video for the Ad Council managed to put that shit together like chocolate and peanut butter, while the guy strolled through Ybor City with perfect timing. (7/5)

In the latest edition of Today’s Most Florida Story Ever: “Florida man on ‘Molly’ chased ghosts with machete, endangered kids” — which includes the bonus of a hastily written headline making it sound like the dude chased ghosts with endangered kids. Journalism! (7/29)


The Hillsborough County Commission voted unanimously to back a trial period for a ferry service linking Tampa and St. Pete’s downtowns. What a... wow, that’s really... do they really think... nope, nothing negative or sarcastic to say about it. Use it when it opens, people, or look forward to dying not-so-historic on the fury road. (The fury road in this case being, probably, the Howard Frankland.) (8/4)

The man who assaulted Pinky the Chilean flamingo at Busch Gardens on Tuesday, causing serious enough injury that the bird had to be euthanized, was charged with felony animal cruelty. Now, I’m not saying Joseph Anthony Corrao is some drunken asshole troglodyte, but the Times story certainly has me thinking it very loudly. (8/4)

The Florida Supreme Court permanently disbarred two lawyers found guilty of ethics violations in setting another attorney up to be arrested for DUI in last year’s high-profile MJ-vs-Bubba case. It’s almost as if professionally associating oneself with a shock jock creates its own self-fulfilling sleaze prophecy. (8/26)

Charles “Sugah” Easter — the man in the bikini with the “HOLLA!” forehead tattoo that many in the ‘Burg and Tampa couldn’t decide to classify as “street performer” or “deranged homeless person” — was arrested in Fort Lauderdale for disorderly conduct. Volatile habitual bad actor or victim persecuted for his appearance and lifestyle? The world may never know. (Actually, yeah, we know.) (8/31)


Hurricane Hermine’s outer bands swept through the Bay area, apparently doing the worst of their damage in Largo (where raw sewage flowed up into the streets) and Pasco County, where at least 18 people needed to be rescued from their flooding homes. There were/are also some Pinellas and Hillsborough power outages. But we got off pretty light overall for an area that still hasn’t had a direct hit in nearly 100 years, and our thoughts are with those folks to the north who didn’t get off light at all. (9/2)

Capybara! The world’s largest rodent is all over the internet, and apparently all over North and West Central Florida, as well. Yeah, they’re super-cute, but they’re also an invasive species that’ll eat all your cabbage while breeding multiple litters every year, so c’mon, don’t get one just because you’re a weed dealer and weed dealers are supposed to have weird pets. Cats: still cool. (9/14)

News finally broke that a giant sinkhole had opened up at a Mulberry phosphate plant back in August, sending radioactive water into Florida’s aquifer system. Giant sinkhole. Radioactive water into the aquifer. BACK IN AUGUST. Sooner or later, capitalism always leads to the CHUDs. (9/19)

The passing of the Sewagegate football continued with St. Pete Mayor Rick Kriseman placing two of the city’s top officials in charge of wastewater on unpaid leave. Pity the guy, who quite obviously inherited a problem that didn’t just spring up during his administration, yet seems one extended thunderstorm away from having to go door-to-door in hip waders carrying a five-gallon Home Depot bucket. (9/22)

Three minority Pasco County students created quite a stir by dressing up as Ku Klux Klan members for Spirit Week. Everybody who’s never seen Chappelle’s Show is outraged. The question is, were they making a point, ironically toying with juxtaposed southern racial stereotypes, or just beyond stupid? (9/30)


Clearwater cops and emergency responders rescued a bald eagle that was found injured in the middle of Countryside Boulevard. They speculate that the majestic bird alighted to eat some roadkill, and was clipped by a passing car. They’re calling this speculation “America, pretty much.” (10/6)

A Pinellas County Sheriff’s Deputy was arrested for stealing hydrocodone pills from evidence and pawning his service weapon. Like, he literally went into a pawnshop in New Port Richey, took out his cop gun and said, “how much for this?” Dude, you need that for work. Sometimes the signs that your drug use is starting to get out of control can be subtle. Sometimes, you pawn your cop gun. (10/14)

Amy Schumer addressed that joke in her book about Tampa being full of illiterates during her performance at Amalie Arena. All but nine of the people there had to be reminded what the hell she was talking about. (10/17)

The dude who shot at acquitted killer George Zimmerman in a May 2015 road rage incident was sentenced to 20 years in prison for attempted second-degree murder. Related: George Zimmerman announces new business venture in which he kisses your lottery ticket, or just arranges to be in proximity to someone you don’t like. (10/18)

A story broke about members of University of Tampa fraternity Pi Kappa Phi throwing away whole stacks of copies of campus paper The Minaret, which featured rape allegations against the frat on its cover. If trying to make the news go away by throwing away some newspapers sounds to you like exactly the kind of thing a couple of panicked frat kids might try without thinking it through, you’ll be delighted (though not very surprised) to learn that said kids did it right in front of at least one surveillance camera, too. (10/24)


The Cross-Bay ferry starts today, with much support from people who will probably never use it. Until Friday, though, you have to be a VIP to ride. That includes members of local museums, who received invites to one of the VIP crossing but, when they responded, found the voyages already full. So, you know, it’s off to a great start. (11/1 —Cathy Salustri)

A former employee at a Tarpon Springs elementary school is suing the city over a 2012 incident in which she was injured by an exploding toilet. Listen: No matter how bad your day might be today, chances are extremely low that you will be injured by an exploding toilet. So there’s that. (11/18)

A guy bit off part of another guy’s finger during an argument in a Winter Garden restaurant-lounge. Perhaps “restaurant-lounge” is a bit misleading for a venue called Sip N Chat. Perhaps “bar where the kind of people who might chomp your digit during a disagreement congregate, that also serves food” is a more accurate description. Anyway, Sip N Chat, but do not point at Chester while presenting a counterpoint. (11/25)

A report confirmed that Florida tourism is on pace to make 2016 another record-setting year. Of course! What are Zika, hurricanes, rattlesnakes and increasingly aggressive gators in the face of Disney Princess Central and an economic model for tourism that boils down to gas money and Grandma’s house? (11/28)


A Spring Hill man was arrested for bringing meth and a pipe to his girlfriend — in the hospital where she smoked it while being treated with highly flammable oxygen. That meth is even a thing people look at and go “OK, sure, why not” serves as compelling evidence that maybe the emu and the wildebeest deserve to inherit the whole shebang. (12/8)

A Florida man was arrested in Bradenton last week for claiming to be a dentist and pulling 10 teeth “during house calls” without anesthetic. There are, astonishingly, real dentists who still make house calls. But they come with vehicles in wraps and verifiable credentials and the latest techniques, not with angry, slightly confused eyes and a pair of pliers they introduce as “my assistant, Nurse Grabbenpull.” (12/13)

Details of South Florida... rapper(?) Pitbull’s “brand ambassador” deal with tourism agency Visit Florida came out, including the fact that he was paid a million bucks to basically add a hashtag to his tweets. This is money well spent. No, wait. It’s the other thing. This is like buying a burning trash barge and trying to put it out by dumping buckets of cash on it. (12/16)

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