The Really Truly Most Fascinating People of 2012

I read that Barbara Walter’s was going to let us know who the 10 most fascinating people of 2012 were. I did not see the list, but I suspect that it has the usual line up of over-exposed celebrities and politicians with perhaps an everyman hero and murderous dictator thrown in to prove Ms. Walter’s broad-mindedness and general all-around gravitas.

It made me think that I should a do a list of some truly fascinating people. Because I didn’t know Barbara was going to do this, I didn’t start preparing until this week, so it’s an abbreviated list. In 2013, I am going to keep my eyes out for fascinating people right from the start, but here’s my offering on short notice.

7. All the Turkish guys who are going to France for mustache transplants. A doctor based in Paris says that he performs 50-60 procedures every month. As I live in a land of relatively clean-shaven men if you don’t count the Hollywood affinity for beard stubble this seems odd. But “thick, handsome mustaches” are symbols of “masculinity, virility, wisdom and maturity.” I am having a hard time understanding how wisdom and mustaches go together especially as I consider some of the lunatics who have sported them. And then there’s this: “According to one research paper, mustaches with dropping sides signify a considerative, nationalist bent, left-wingers favor mustaches like Stalin . . .”

6. Guarding the dress. In the spring I happened upon a story about a wedding dress with a 1.85 mile train. It was “unveiled” in Bucharest where its length was demonstrated by a model in a hot air balloon, which was “mostly ignored by unimpressed bystanders.” Me too. The fascinating part for me was the heavily armed police with bullet-proof vest guarding the “three miles of taffeta and 18 feet of lace.” Who would try to steal this? Why?

5. The CIA agent who is having trouble at work. Let me just say that I have always wanted to be a spy . . . until now. It turns out that CIA officers tend to be jerks. Anyway the lady agent “whose persistent pressure to track Al Qaeda couriers helped lead the way to bin Laden’s compound” is having trouble at work. She has been passed over for promotion after alienating her coworkers. Apparently after the raid she was awarded a special honor along with a few coworkers to which she responded that “only she deserved the award, since everyone else tried to get in her way when she knew she was right.” So there.

4. The murderer who tried to frame a cat. If anyone wrote this story as fiction, they would be laughed out of the publishing industry. A man in Granite City, Illinois, was planning to force his victim into a hot tub, then toss in a radio and a cat so it would look like the cat accidentally electrocuted the victim. The problem is obvious. It is nearly impossible to set this up without some help. I mean you have to get the victim into a swimming suit or whatever, then get him to stay in the hot tube while you grab the radio and the cat. The man he recruited wasn’t keen on helping even after our murderer offered to disguise him “using makeup tricks he learned in college.” Of course dead cats tell no tales so the makeup wouldn’t have been critical. Still, it was a thoughtful gesture. Unfortunately the recruit was not impressed and spilled the beans — or should I say kibble —  to his parole officer.

3. The “nearly 2 dozen” kindergartners suspended for “allegedly” exposing themselves. Seriously? As a five-year-old, I didn’t consider clothing to be mandatory but I was not “exposing” myself. This incident is more mystfying that fascinating and goes to show how silly zero-tolerance and grown-ups can be sometimes.

2. Argentina’s lawmakers. Whenever I see the words “sex” and “slaves” in the same headline, I am going to read the story. Call me a thrill-seeker if you must, but I cannot help myself. So I read a story about an Argentinian mother who’s daughter was kidnapped and sold to a brothel and how this mother posed as a pimp to go to houses of ill-repute and look for her. (I predict a Lifetime movie in the near future.) Anyway, the poor girl was never found, which is truly tragic. The fascinating part of this story comes near the end of the article: “Argentina outlawed human trafficking in 2008 . . . ” Does this mean that human trafficking has been legal in Argentina all this time?

1. The man who fell from the sky. As a writer, I occasionally come across a story that inspires me to write, and this was one of them. It happened in London in September when a neighborhood woke up on a Sunday morning to discover an unidentified young man laying crumpled in their street. It turned out that he’d fallen from a jet as it lowered its landing gear on the way into Heathrow. Mercifully, he was already dead when he fell, but tragically he probably died of either oxygen starvation or hypothermia within an hour of taking off from Angola. He was an African man in his 20s, but no one knows who he was or where he came from or why he stowed away on the plane. This is a story that should be told. No human being should die alone and anonymously. This is one reason I like fiction. It gives writers a chance to imagine and create lives and celebrate the spirit of truly fascinating people.

Next week I will not be writing a blog due to the holidays. But the following week I am gearing up to list my favorite reads of 2012, which will (hopefully) come to an even 10. Well, I better get busy reading. Happy Holidays!

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