By now, WorldNetDaily’s annual recap of the funniest stories of the year has become an American institution, ranking right up there with “It’s A Wonderful Life” reruns. That’s hardly shocking, since the tradition dates all the way back to the year 2000.

So without further ado, let’s jump right in and reminisce about the strangest and most hilarious events of 2002.

Breakfast fruits

The year commenced with flaming controversy.

It seems a television commercial by the makers of Minute Maid orange juice was upsetting some viewers who felt the ad portrayed cartoon legends Popeye and Bluto as homosexual chums.

British newspapers like the Daily Star were the first to weigh in on the campaign:

Popeye and Bluto, ‘buddies for life’

“Beefy Bluto squeals with joy as he pushes muscle-bound Popeye back and forth on a swing in a children’s playground. Then the two tough guys lark about on a seesaw before heading off to the beach. Their newfound affection for each other is sealed when they get the words ‘Buddies For Life’ tattooed on their bulging arms.”

While some parents found the commercial offensive, allegedly promoting a homosexual agenda, the juice company assured me Popeye was not “gay,” stating “our product is a product that has broad appeal.”

The breast of the story

Not long after, rookie Attorney General John Ashcroft had his hands full, so to speak, not with enforcing American statutes, but dealing with statues of bare-chested women inside the Justice Department.

According to reports, the man from the “Show Me” state of Missouri didn’t want so much nudity on display, especially when his face was photographed in front of the legal cleavage.

His office ordered giant drapes to be hung in front of the statues, leading many to suggest this had been yet another federal cover-up.

Meanwhile overseas, women were going in a different direction, undressing themselves when they heard an offer too good to refuse.

Police in southern Portugal say a gal claiming to be a doctor would phone others, instructing them to go outside and expose their torsos for – get this – a mammogram by satellite.

The Publico newspaper says the ladies, age 19 to 45, were told to strip to the waist and stand either at their window or on the balcony in the direction of the satellite. They were told the consultation would be free of charge, provided they followed instructions. All fell for the scam, with one so trusting, she bared her entire self.

Later, the women were telephoned the exam “results,” but that’s when the phony doctor graphically described to them her own desires. No word if she said “thanks for the mammaries.”

I’m not exactly sure what the deal was in southern California, but apparently there’s a resident there who trims her greenery into shapes that some feel resemble human anatomy. (Click to judge for yourself.)

Yet Gillian Greensite – yes, that’s her real name – denies there’s any prurient message being sent to neighbors.

“If they want to see phallic, they see phallic,” she told the Santa Cruz Sentinel. “I see trees.”

But are they Ara-fattening?

2002 was a troubling year for the Middle East, with violence surging to new heights between Palestinians and Israelis. That’s why it was such good news to hear a lighter spot in the conflict with the debut of Yasser Arafat potato chips.

Snack attack: Arafat hawking chips

Yes, cheesy snacks with a caricature of Yasser on the package. As Andy Griffith would say, “Gooood cracker!”

According to the Associated Press, “the chips are bagged in Palestinian colors – green, red, black and white – and carry the likeness of a rotund and wide-eyed Arafat, saluting with one hand and holding a Palestinian flag in the other. He’s dressed in his trademark military fatigues and black-and-white checked headgear.”

The Yasser chips were said to be outselling another new brand, The Hero, which brandishes pictures of a schoolboy holding a stone in one hand and books in the other as he confronts an Israeli tank. At least the chipmakers know their market.

For every 50 bags sold, five cents are donated to the “Palestinian cause.” A message on the back of the bags reads: “The more you buy, the more you build.”

It’s not known whether President Bush has tried the Arafat snacks, but the commander in chief got in some trouble of his own this year during snacktime.

In a highly publicized incident, Mr. Bush choked on a pretzel while watching a football game on television, losing consciousness for a brief time. Still, the president was able to joke about the incident.

“My mother always said, ‘When you’re eating pretzels, chew before you swallow,'” he said. Shortly afterward, someone placed a giant pretzel in Bush’s wax portrait at Madame Tussaud’s museum in London.

While presidents are consistent targets for humor, apparently a TV commercial went over the line in making fun of Mr. Bush, and was banned in the UK.

Bush puts video in wrong slot in banned ad (ITV)

The seven-second cartoon hawking a Christmas video showed Bush receiving the tape as he sits in the Oval office.

Exclaiming, “My favorite – just pop it in the video player,” the president is depicted walking across the room and mistakenly inserting the video into a toaster, burning it to a crisp.

The Brits say Bush’s permission would have been needed to run the ad, and even if there had been a similar spot ribbing Osama bin Laden, the ban would still be appropriate, as the broadcast code “does not make exceptions for individuals,” according to the London Telegraph.

Bin Laden dolls often get that personal touch

The president was also honored in the only venue that really matters, the world of action figures.

A Connecticut company came out with a line of hero dolls, featuring likenesses of Bush, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, and the notorious Osama bin Laden. In fact, sales of bin Laden were through the roof, as buyers were believed to be intentionally whaling on them.

Dollmaker Emil Vicale told WorldNetDaily he had thought about other political figures to market, but after seeing a perspiration-soaked Al Gore deliver a speech at the Florida Democratic Conference, Vicale was quick to say he would not be making a Gore doll.

“Absolutely not,” Vicale said. ” I don’t think anyone would buy him. And how do you get him to sweat?”

Chancres aweigh!

Bill Clinton and ‘friend’ (photo:

I hope Bill Clinton doesn’t get sore over this, but just what the heck was that thing on his upper lip?

Kudos to the folks at, the only agency that dared publish this and other “blistering” photos of the ex-president during a tour of the Emerald Isle with U2 lead singer Bono.

I don’t mean to pick on the Clinton family … much, but I found it really freaky that the new-look Chelsea Clinton with straightened hair was dubbed a sex symbol this year, being called “the new JFK Jr.” by Vanity Fair magazine.

I used to think it was kind of cool to say I graduated from the same high school as Vanity Fair Editor Dominick Dunne, but with selections like Chelsea for sex symbol, I’d hate to see what Dunne would consider a fashion flop.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., makes this year’s honor roll, having starred in a mock TV commercial for a “McCain sings Streisand” album on “Saturday Night Live.”

“I’ve been in politics for over 20 years, and for over 20 years, I’ve had Barbra Streisand trying to do my job,” said McCain during the spot. “So I decided to try my hand at her job.”

The off-key lawmaker ferociously slaughtered well-known tunes by the longtime Democrat activist, including “Evergreen,” “People,” and “The Way We Were.”

“Do I know how to sing?” McCain asked. “About as well as she knows how to govern America.”

There’s always groom for J. Lo

2002 was a great year for single guys like me, because with the engagement of singer Jennifer Lopez to actor Ben Affleck, we now know we’re just one more ex-husband closer to having our own chance at the pop diva. J. Lo changes men faster than Mexicans cross the border.

And love was in the air for a few other wedding planners this year.

In something that sounds like fodder for a TV sitcom, a set of twin brothers from Michigan got engaged to a pair of twin sisters, with their marriage planned for the fall of 2003.

Michigan wedding to feature twin bill (photo: Macomb Daily)

The foursome attracts a lot of attention in public, according to the Macomb Daily.

“We get a lot of questions,” Jason Schmelzer said. “The most popular one is, ‘Do we swap?’ No, we don’t swap.”

Perhaps the most jubilant person about the double wedding is the father of the grooms.

“Can you imagine what our grandchildren will look like? They’ll all look alike.”

Meanwhile in Missouri, the Joplin Globe reports a 55-year-old bride-to-be didn’t let little distractions like a bomb threat, assault, and attempted truck theft ruin her wedding day.

She did what any true American would do: She whacked her assailant upside the head with a shovel – then shot him – and still had the poise to say her vows.

Jorge Cecenas allegedly had threatened to blow up a bomb if Charlotte Ann Rourk didn’t give him her pickup truck, a 1996 Chevrolet. That’s when the former school principal’s take-control character kicked in.

“I said, ‘No sir, you go ahead and set the bomb off. My house needs work anyway.”‘

Rourk later explained it was true love that inspired her to save her wedding day.

“Have you ever had anything you really love?” she asked. “Well, I love that truck.”

Saks, lies and videotape

So far as we know, actress Winona Ryder never threatened to blow anything up when she went on her infamous shoplifting binge at Saks Fifth Avenue, but her trial and conviction on charges she stole thousands of dollars worth of merchandise still somehow managed to get explosive media coverage.

Comedian Conan O’Brien was among those monitoring the star’s trial, providing updates in his “Late Night” monologue:

  • “Yesterday, Winona Ryder showed up at her shoplifting trial in a see-through dress that allowed people to see her underwear. Not surprisingly, Ryder’s underwear still had the price tags on them;”

  • “A witness in the Winona Ryder shoplifting trial testified that Ryder was researching a movie role when she was arrested. Not surprisingly, the role was in a movie called ‘The Winona Ryder Story.'”

Is Greta betta?

Greta after eye surgery

I don’t think the fact that Greta Van Facelift has her own TV show is illegal per se, but perhaps it should be.

The reason I say this is because whenever the Fox News host’s image is displayed on the screen, someone undoubtedly makes a remark about her face. It usually sounds something like: “Is she talking out of the side of her mouth, or is she just trying to be a ventriloquist?”.

Her real name, of course, is Greta Van Susteren, and she announced to the world she underwent plastic surgery in January “on a whim” after CNN benched her for a month.

“My only hope is that the swelling is down by the time I have my 30th high-school reunion this summer,” she said. “I’m hoping to make jealous all those guys who would not date me in high school.” Ohhhhh Kayyyyyy, Greta.

This time, the people win

‘Wipe out Saddam’ bathroom tissue

Congratulations are in order for Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, who despite being featured on American toilet paper, overcame a tough challenge from no one to be re-elected in possibly the largest landslide ever – 100 percent of the vote.

How was such an astounding political feat accomplished? It’s tough to say if the Iraqi people are truly united behind their leader to battle the “great Satan” of the U.S., but WorldNetDaily has obtained – by unsolicited e-mail, no less – what is purported to be the official Iraqi voting form used in the election.

I’m not vouching for its authenticity, but I think it speaks to the secret of Saddam’s success. Click here to see the ballot.

Animal magnetism

The dispatches from the animal kingdom were tough to whittle down this year, but here are the highlights.

In Europe, a young mother got plenty of exposure by breast-feeding a litter of puppies after the newborn dogs’ mother suddenly died. Kine Skiaker points out she thoroughly washed herself before she’d begin nursing her own baby son.

“I can accept that some think what I did was nauseating,” she told Norway’s Aftenposten.

Back in the U.S., personal privacy rights have always been a big concern to Americans, especially when it comes to their erosion. But as long as you’re an animal, let’s say a giraffe at the National Zoo in Washington, you have nothing to fear.

When the Washington Post sought the medical records of a giraffe that had died, the paper was rejected by the zoo, with Director Lucy Spelman explaining it would violate – I kid you not – the animal’s right to privacy.

“The core of veterinary medicine [as in human medicine] is the client-patient [keeper or curator-zoo animal] relationship,” Spelman said.

Even animal-rights activists thought the excuse on the giraffe was a stretch.

“It is preposterous for the zoo to make that argument,” said Joyce Tischler, executive director of the Animal Legal Defense Fund. “It is akin to [ex-Enron CEO] Ken Lay failing to provide information to Congress on the grounds that he was trying to protect the privacy of the shareholders.”

Meanwhile in Florida, a new game at restaurants called “Lobster Zone” has been leaving some activists a bit shell-shocked.

The game has customers paying $2 for a chance to use a joystick, crane and claw device to snag live lobsters for dinner.

While many say the game is entertaining, Kristie Phelps of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals doesn’t think so.

“It surely should never be considered fun to pluck animals out of a tank with a joystick-controlled crane,” she told the Daytona Beach News-Journal. “Some things are funny, some things are just callous.”

In Massachusetts, lobsters have a true friend in Arlene Ellis, the wife of New England Cable Newsman Tom Ellis, who went beyond mere words to help the sea creatures this summer.

During a swanky Cape Cod clambake, Ellis grabbed five about-to-be-boiled lobsters out of a pot, threw them in her car, drove to a nearby harbor and returned them to the sea.

“They were saying, ‘Take me back to the beach,'” she told the Boston Herald.

“She was yelling, ‘I’m saving the lobsters, I’m saving the lobsters,'” said a witness to the chase that ensued. “But the funny part was, her husband Tom was sitting at a table with about ten people eating his lobster and pretending nothing was going on. It was the most bizarre scenario ever.”

It didn’t end there, though. Some 90 minutes later, Ellis returned with a fistful of dollars and caused another scene, going table to table offering partygoers cash for their crustaceans.

Flush to judgment

If one thing is for sure in life, it’s that people make mistakes. Some people complain about the mistakes, others don’t.

In a mishap which long predated Trent Lott’s praise of Strom Thurmond at the South Carolinian’s 100th birthday party, actor James Earl Jones was mistakenly honored in a Martin Luther King, Jr. tribute as James Earl Ray, the man who assassinated the 1960s civil-rights leader.

“There’s no point in getting too sensitive about it,” said Jones, who admitted it happens quite frequently.

Then there’s this: A U.S.-bound passenger filed a complaint with Scandinavian Airlines System over her seating on a Boeing 767, and this had nothing to do with legroom.

When the woman was using the plane’s restroom, she pushed the toilet’s flush button while still seated on the throne. Suddenly, the high-pressure vacuum flush kicked in, sealing her to the seat for the remainder of the flight.

“She could not get up by herself and had to sit on the toilet until the flight had landed so that ground technicians could help her get loose,” a spokeswoman for SAS told Reuters. “She was stuck there for quite a long time.”

I’m not dead yet!

In Scotland, an 87-year-old man nearly had the life shocked out of him when he was told by his friends and neighbors that he was already dead.

Jimmy Cornet: Dead or alive? (photo: Edinburgh Evening News)

Apparently, rumors had been spreading through town that Jimmy Cornet had passed away. When startled friends – who thought they might have seen a ghost – gave Jimmy notice of his demise, Cornet promptly posted a message in the window of a local news vendor, reading “James Cornet would like to inform the public that he is not dead or ever has been!”

“I’d also like to know how I died, as nobody seems to know this either,” he told the Edinburgh Evening News.

Perhaps the older we get, the more ornery we become.

A 105-year-old woman who incessantly complained about the food she was served at her nursing home’s dining hall was recently banished to her room to eat in solitude.

Borgen Olsen had a habit of squawking before even tasting her meals, disturbing fellow diners and spoiling their appetites. Needless to say, her granddaughter wasn’t thrilled about the resolution.

“It’s like being punished in a kindergarten,” Ida Olivia Stangeland told the Norwegian Faedrelandsvennen.

But if anyone had a justifiable gripe this year, it’s the Danish patient who, while undergoing a mole-removal from his backside, was set on fire when he passed gas.

The surgeon was using an electric knife when the 30-year-old man broke wind, igniting a spark.

“When I woke up, my penis and scrotum were burning like hell,” the scorched victim told Danish newspaper BT.

“No one considered the possibility the man would break wind during the operation, let alone that it would catch fire,” said the surgeon, Dr. Jorn Kristensen. “It was an unfortunate accident.”

The patient is suing the hospital for pain and suffering, as well as loss of income. I hope he’s awarded a large vat of salve.

We all scream for ice cream

Finally, unless you were paying close attention, you may have missed a series of events that left a bad taste in some people’s mouths. Here’s the scoop.

  • Ramsey, N.J.: An ice-cream vendor took a beating when a competitor thought she was trespassing on his turf.

    According to the North Jersey News, witnesses say a man left his Mister Ice Cream vehicle to punch and kick a woman driver inside her Good Humor truck.

    A kinder, gentler ice-cream man

    “He had heavy sandals on and began hitting her on the head with the sandals,” said Police Director Joseph Delaney. “He threatened her not to be there, that it was his territory. I can understand competition, but this is a little much.”

  • Brunswick, Ga.: Fatcat ice-cream vendor Angela Hand was ticketed three times for playing her truck’s music too loudly. Her plight became the subject of a local morning radio show, as host Joe Willie Sousa tried lending Hand a hand.

    “One woman called in and said anybody that would ticket the ice-cream man would probably kill kittens,” he told the Florida Times-Union.

  • But the case that takes the cake – maybe an ice-cream cake – is the controversy in Hartford, Conn., where noise disputes all spring and summer led to an alleged baseball-bat beating by a Mister Softee driver, and a free-speech battle in state court.

    ‘Tough guy’ Mister Softee

    “Mister Softee tried to kill me!” 64-year-old Wilbur Troutman exclaimed to the Hartford Courant.

    Luis Amaro, 51, a part-time Mister Softee driver, was accused of charging out of his truck and swinging a bat at Troutman, a neighborhood activist who for months had led a crusade against company songs like “The Entertainer” and “Turkey in the Straw,” which he claims had been played too loudly.

    “This guy follows our trucks everywhere, taking pictures and intimidating our drivers,” franchise owner Felix Rios said.

    “I can’t stand it anymore,” said Hyacinth Yennie, a community activist who helped lead the legal charge against Mister Softee. “Every night, it’s the same songs, over and over. It drives you crazy.”

    The whole issue culminated in a First Amendment court case, where a state judge ruled Hartford’s five-year-old noise ordinance was invalid because it had never been approved by the state’s Department of Environmental Protection.

    For his part, Troutman – known from here on out as “The Silencer” – said he’s been deluged with requests to appear on television and radio programs, even solicited by the producers of “The People’s Court.”

    ”You would be surprised at the number of people around the country who are angry at Mister Softee,” Troutman told the New York Times. “Mister Softee is to noise what cigarettes were to secondhand smoke 15 years ago.”

    And that’s a wrap for 2002.

    As we bid farewell to the year gone by, let us look ahead to days upcoming with smiles on our faces and irreverence in our hearts, hoping that Michael Jackson keeps a tight grip on his dangling children, even if he can’t keep a hold on his dangling nose – or what’s left of it.

    If you’d like to sound off on this issue, please take part in the WorldNetDaily poll.

    Previous columns:

    Funniest news stories of 2001

    2000: All the news that’s fun to print

    Related stories:

    Minute Maid: Popeye not ‘gay’ in O.J. ad

    McCain sings Streisand on ‘Saturday Night Live’

    Bin Laden beats ‘Bush’ in doll fight

    Fox’s Greta: The eyes have it

    Wipe out Saddam with new toilet paper

    87-year-old: I’m not dead yet!

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