Crazy Lives

The crazies

The Wikipedia pages for these guys make for enthralling reading:

Randal Tye Thomas (August 23, 1978 – January 13, 2014)—This guy is the youngest mayor in Texas history. In college, he started newspapers, owned vending machines, was a member of the Electoral College during the 2000 election, and was elected mayor of Gun Barrel City, Texas at age 21. From there, his life spiraled out of control. Within a year, he was indicted by a Grand Jury for “misusing city equipment for personal gain and perjury”–he’d lied about how long he’d actually lived in the city he was now mayor of. Later that week, he downed some Xanax and got really drunk at home and called 911 on himself. The police arrived and tried to calm him down, but he insisted they arrest him, so they did. (Listen to ‘This American Life’ segment for additional details). The rest of his life is pure Greek tragedy, involving his resignation, leaving down, and winding up dead from drugs and alcohol a decade later.

Liev Schreiber  (October 4, 1967 – present)—This famous actor had a strange upbringing because of his mother. Wikipedia describes her as a “far-out Socialist Labor Party hippie bohemian freak who hung out with William Burroughs” and a “highly cultured eccentric who supported them by splitting her time between driving a cab and creating papier-mâché puppets.” She bought him a motorcycle on his 16th birthday to ‘promote fearlessness.’ She also briefly made him take a Hindu name, wear yoga shirts, and forbade him to see color movies. As a result, his favorite actors growing up (in the 1970s) were Charlie Chaplin and Basil Rathbone. Other eccentricities documented in his early life include his grandmother being lobotomized, nobody in his family knowing why they named him Liev, and that his father kidnapped him from his mother after she freaked out on LSD and went to live in a commune. It makes you wonder how Liev Schreiber feels about all this.

Lawrence Richard Walters (April 19, 1949 – October 6, 1993)—’Lawnchair Larry’ was a truck driver who one day decided to float 15,000 feet in the air sitting in a lawn chair tied to 45 helium-filled balloons. He brought along a pellet gun (to shoot down the balloons when he wanted to come down), a CB radio, sandwiches, beer, and a camera. After 45 minutes in the sky, he shot some balloons before dropping his gun. During his descent, the balloons got tangled in some power lines and caused a 20 minute blackout in the Long Beach, CA neighborhood where he landed. When asked by the press why he did it, he responded by saying, “It was something I had to do. I had this dream for twenty years, and if I hadn’t done it, I think I would have ended up in the funny farm.”

Emanuel Bronner (February 1, 1908 – March 7, 1997)—You might know this man as the maker of Dr. Bronner’s Castile soap, the brand of soap products with insane ramblings on the label that are available in health food stores the world over. What you might not know is that Bronner was a German Jew who left Nazi Germany in 1929 when he saw the way politics were moving. He was unable to convince the rest of his family that was a good idea. Tragically, his last contact with his parents was in the form of a censored postcard saying, “You were right. —Your loving father.”

His Wikipedia entry is surprisingly dismissive about one episode in his life, saying that “he was arrested for giving a speech at the University of Chicago because he had no permit authorizing him to do so and was committed to the Elgin Mental Health Center a mental hospital in Elgin, Illinois, from which he escaped after shock treatments. Bronner believed those shock treatments caused him to go blind.” The full story, gleaned from the source material, is that Bronner “began spending more of his time trying to save mankind, sending letters to world leaders and speaking against Communism and fluoridation and for one God. He was proselytizing his message of peace in his heavy German accent and organizing students at the University of Chicago in 1946 when he refused to leave the dean’s office and was arrested. Bronner began spending more of his time trying to save mankind, sending letters to world leaders and speaking against Communism and fluoridation and for one God. He was proselytizing his message of peace in his heavy German accent and organizing students at the University of Chicago in 1946 when he refused to leave the dean’s office and was arrested. He was taken to a mental hospital in Elgin, Ill., placed in straitjackets and given shock treatments, which he later claimed caused his blindness. After six months, he stole $20 from a purse, escaped from the grounds and bought a newspaper to search the classifieds for someone looking to share a ride. Bronner picked Los Angeles because no one knew him there. On the way, the driver stopped in Las Vegas to do a little gambling, and Bronner decided they had become good enough friends for him to confide he had escaped from a mental hospital. They weren’t that good a friends, it turned out, and the driver dumped Bronner in Las Vegas.” A crazy life indeed.

John Harvey Kellogg (February 26, 1852 – December 14, 1943)—This is the man that Kellogg’s cereals came from. In life, he ran a sanitarium using holistic methods, with a particular focus on nutrition, enemas, and exercise. “Kellogg made sure that the bowel of each and every patient was plied with water, from above and below. His favorite device was an enema machine that could rapidly instill several gallons of water in a series of enemas. Every water enema was followed by a pint of yogurt — half was eaten, the other half was administered by enema, ‘thus planting the protective germs where they are most needed and may render most effective service.’ Obviously, he was a freak but considering he lived to be 91 when the life expectancy was about 50 he might’ve been on to something.

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