Wolf Files: Top Weird Stories of 2003

— In a year America spent searching for Saddam Hussein's hideout and details of Jennifer and Ben's not-so-secret wedding, thank goodness there are folks in Washington who haven't forgotten the importance of UFO law.

Here's a rundown of 2003's top weird news from The Wolf Files: 1. French Fried Patriotism: Congressional lawmakers marked 2003, by finally putting "Freedom" on the menu — of its cafeteria.

To protest France's opposition to U.S. policy in Iraq, Congress banned "French"-named food from its dining hall and introduced "Freedom Fries" — the first junk food that allowed Americans to declare their patriotism and clog their arteries at the same time.

Taking a cue from lawmakers, Americans found all manner of novelty items to express themselves, plastering Saddam Hussein's face on garbage pails, ash trays, and the popular "wipe out terrorism" toilet paper.

Freedom Fries even inspired one ice cream company to offer flavors such as "Iraqi Road," "Cowardly German Chocolate" and "I-Hate-the-French Vanilla."

When the Army finally roused a scraggly-faced Saddam from his spider hole, doctored pictures circulated over the Internet of the deposed Iraqi leader getting a "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy " makeover. [Next: Arnold Schwarzenegger]

2. Arnold’s Political Theater: The political clout of Hollywood stars has never been more apparent. Ronald Reagan, Sonny Bono, Fred Grandy, and now Arnold Schwarzenegger have proven that you don't need to win Oscars to win elections.

With Arnold's success, other stars must be looking for second careers in politics. But before you start saying Senator Kutcher, rest assured that some celebrities have political careers shorter than Gary Coleman.

Shirley Temple Black complained that no one took her seriously when she ran for Congress. Would-be New York governor and radio shock jock Howard Stern proved that his financial statement was the only private part he wouldn't expose.

Other political road kill: Star Trek's George Takai, The Munsters' Al "Grandpa" Lewis, the Dead Kennedys and Nancy Kulp, better known as Miss Hathaway on The Beverly Hillbillies.

Check out The Wolf Files rundown of the unlucky stars of political theater. [Next: Pampered Pigs and Pet Tigers]

3. Pampered Pigs and Pet Tigers: Man's new best friend doesn't necessarily walk on four legs. He might slither.

Exotic animals remain one of the fastest-growing segments of the pet industry, with Americans purchasing everything from pythons and miniature donkeys to tarantulas and giant African roaches.

And, of course, Americans insist on babying their pets, no matter what they are.

If you need hoof moisturizer for your pot-bellied pig, a cashmere sweater for your ferret, or a leather leash fitted to take your bearded dragon for a walk, all these items are available from online pet suppliers.

If you want to feel like a mommy kangaroo or possum, you can even purchase a "bonding pouch" that allows you to carry your pet marsupial around just like his biological mother would.

The danger of exotic animals came into national focus after Las Vegas entertainer Roy Horn of Siegfried & Roy in October was mauled by one of his legendary white tigers.

Only a few weeks before, New York City police had to evict a 425-pound tiger and a 5-foot-long alligator from a Bronx apartment after resident Antoine Yates was hospitalized with animal bites.

While lethal, a tiger's bite could be no worse than having to change its litter box — especially when the alligator starts to complain. [Next: Extraterrestrial Lobbyists] 4. Extraterrestrial Lobbyists: Just like everyone else, alien abductees now have a special interest group fighting for their rights in Washington.

In the years to come, lawmakers will need to be informed on extraterrestrial issues, says Michael Salla, a political science professor who founded exopolitics.org.

If a flying saucer crash-lands, who owns it? What will be done with the technology? Who will protect the whistle-blowers if the government is withholding evidence of a close encounter?

"So many people have stepped forward," says Salla, who has taught at American University. "They deserve some protection. There's so much at stake." [Next: J.Lo and Ben]

5. Bad Luck for Bennifer: J.Lo and Ben's on-again, off-again wedding plans proved once again that a lot of Hollywood love stories are significantly worse than Gigli.

But the couple better known as "Bennifer" should take heart: no matter what the future holds for them, they could never be considered the worst celebrity couple ever.

Who would that be? Drew Barrymore and Tom Green? Lisa Marie Presley and Nicholas Cage? Julia Roberts and Lyle Lovett? Robin Givens and Mike Tyson?

Who could forget Carmen Electra and Dennis Rodman? The Baywatch babe and the rainbow-haired basketball star tied the knot in 1999 to cap off a night of heavy drinking in Las Vegas. Rodman sought an annulment 10 days later, claiming he didn't even remember the ceremony.

At least that union outlasted the 8-day marriage of Dennis Hopper and Michelle Phillips.

And you can't have this conversation without mentioning Joan Collins and Elizabeth Taylor, who have been married a combined 13 times (if you count Richard Burton twice) and Ernest Borgnine and Ethel Merman, two of the loudest people in Hollywood history, who stayed married for a whole month in 1964. [Next: Dating Science]

6. The Weird Science of Dating: Thanks to the increasingly high-tech world of dating, we now know for certain what many people always assumed — blondes have more fun.

Blondes on Internet dating service Match.com get 14 gentlemen e-mailers while redheads averaged 11 and brunettes got a measly nine.

In 2003, dating became increasingly high-tech, as the world welcomed cell phone dating services — a romantic way to find a lover while shopping for groceries or waiting for a bus.

How do you find true love? Pick up your phone, punch in the age, hair color, body type and special interests of the person you are seeking.

It might sound like any other dating service, but here's the difference: The cell phone matchmaker has the technology to locate where you're calling from and provide a list of potential matches. The girl of your dreams might be sitting in the bar with you, calling the same cellular dating service.

And even if your cell phone can't find you a true love, you can count on it to deliver the next best thing — pizza. [Next: Nude Holiday Options] 7. Naked Holiday Options: Anything you can do, I can do naked — thanks to the fast-growing nudist recreation industry, which is allowing folks to play tennis, Jet Ski, and golf in the raw.

Nude recreation and tourism has grown into a $400 million business, more than doubling in size in the last 10 years, according to travel industry estimates. It now includes several nude cruises, nude flights to Mexico, and clothing-optional condos and luxury resorts in nearly every tourist destination.

Nudist recreation might seem out of step in these conservative times. But advocates say the time is right for letting the breeze blow through your legs.

"I think Americans are waking up to the peace and serenity that comes with taking off your clothing. For one thing, nobody has a pocket for a cell phone or beeper," says Carolyn Hawkins of the American Association for Nude Recreation, which boasts more than 50,000 members and 260 clubs.

"In a room of naked people, you don't know who's a judge, and who's a secretary. It's really leaving all those distractions that divide people behind." [Next: The Spy Who Gonged Me]

8. The Spy Who Gonged Me: Leave it to former Gong Show host Chuck Barris to break the CIA's legendary code of silence.

Barris — the master of schlock TV — had been claiming for years that he was a hired assassin for the CIA, killing 33 enemy agents in dangerous assignments all over the world.

As a matter of policy, the CIA never reveals who it employs in its cloak and dagger games. Most people just sloughed off the game show host's wild claims as a lame attempt to spice up his autobiography. After all, this is a guy who hosted a TV talent show that featured a 300-lb. stripper who sang "I Gotta Be Me" and a banjo-playing vampire known as "Count Banjula."

But in January, however, when George Clooney turned the outlandish TV producer's secret life into Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, the CIA was not amused and the famously stoic agency issued this historic statement:

"Chuck Barris never worked for the CIA. The notion that he worked for the CIA as an assassin is utterly ridiculous. Mr. Barris used to host The Gong Show … And he may have spent too much time next to the gong." [Next: First Family Bad Boys]

9. Oh Brother! Another First Family Bad Boy: The White House has a tradition of making a tabloid superstar out of a president's ne'er-do-well brother.

Jimmy Carter's brother Billy, a self-described "redneck philosopher," cashed in on his notoriety with "Billy Beer" — a controversial brew that went down as well as a scrumptious "Nixon Burger" — another First Brother's failed get-rich-quick scheme.

Likewise, Roger Clinton tried to leverage his White House connection into a singing career and invitation to every party in Hollywood. He did manage to earn the Secret Service code name "Headache."

This year, it was Neil Bush who provided further proof it might be politically advantageous to be an only child.

When the president's 48-year-old brother was in Hong Kong and Thailand on business trips, mysterious women would knock on his hotel door and have sex with him without any conversation, he admitted in divorce proceedings.

Bush didn't know if the women were prostitutes, according to his sworn statements. He didn't speak to them or know their names.

"You have to admit it's a pretty remarkable thing for a man just to go to a hotel room door and open it and have a woman standing there and have sex with her," said his ex-wife's lawyer.

Bush agreed: "It was very unusual."

But perhaps it's not so unusual for a president's sibling, proving once again that two brothers can be as different as … well … brothers. [Next: Dead Man Sparkling]

10. Dead Man Sparkling: Is your wife a real gem? Even if she's not, she can be, when she dies.

Thanks to LifeGem funeral company in Chicago, the cremated ashes of your loved ones can now be turned into diamond jewelry.

For decades, scientists have been able to manufacture artificial diamonds from carbon in a laboratory. LifeGem promises that the diamond pendants, necklaces and rings made from your deceased loved ones have "the same brilliance, fire, and hardness as any high-quality diamond you may find at Tiffany's," according to company literature.

In March, the company delivered its first order, when the remains of a 27-year-old woman who died of Hodgkin's disease were transformed into six precious stones and delivered to her family and friends.

These sparklers aren't cheap. A .25-carat diamond — the smallest LifeGem sells — has recently been marked down from $3,950 to $2,095. Even at the reduced price, that's more than twice the cost of a natural diamond, so don't get the idea that you're worth more dead than alive.

You're still only worth something to the people you love.

Buck Wolf is entertainment producer at ABCNEWS.com. The Wolf Files is published Tuesdays. If you want to receive weekly notice when a new column is published, join the e-mail list.

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