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Touched by a Seinfeld
A Gipple Lawsuit? Laughter in a Medical Journal? Sometimes, the Only Thing Weirder Than Seinfeld's Plots Was Its Real-life Effects on Ordinary People
After Cassill, a Tallahassee, Fla., high school student, crashed his Mustang convertible into a tree in December 1996, he fell into a coma from which nothing, it seemed, could awaken him. Except the show about nothing, that is. At Dan's hospital bedside one Thursday night seven weeks after the crash, his mother, Deby, 50, a postdoctoral fellow in biology, turned on Seinfeld, Dan's favorite show. "His eyes just flew open," she recalls, and he watched raptly. The episode, ironically, showed Kramer renting a video about a comatose woman. Afterward, Dan uttered his first words: "Where am I?" Today, partly disabled and still working toward his high school diploma, the 18-year-old former honors student has a wish: "I would really love to meet Kramer," he says. "He's what keeps me waking up in the morning."
The day after watching the March 18, 1993, episode, in which Jerry dates a girl whose name he can't remember, Mackenzie, 55, discussed the show with a woman colleague at the Miller Brewing Company in Milwaukee. She didn't get the show's joke about the girlfriend's name rhyming with a female body part, so Mackenzie showed her the dictionary definition of the part in question (it rhymes with Dolores). Offended, the woman complained to supervisors. Days later, Mackenzie, a $95,000-a-year manager, was sacked. He sued, and last October a Milwaukee court awarded him $24.7 million. A happy ending? Hardly. While Miller appeals the verdict, the only job Mackenzie could land was as a trial consultant for one of his lawyers ("You're branded if there's any hint of sexual harassment," he says). Nearly broke, he and his wife, Bonnie, the parents of two grown sons, had to put their Delafield, Wis., house up for sale. Mackenzie can empathize with Seinfeld's decision to call it quits. "He's tired, and I can appreciate that," he says, "because I'm tired too, from this trial."
Drs. Stephen Cox and Andrew Eisenhauer
Can Seinfeld be hazardous to your health? Richard Digangi, 64, a Burlington, Mass., retiree, would laugh so hard during nightly reruns of the show that he'd faint. "On one occasion," says Eisenhauer, 46, who, along with fellow cardiologist Cox, 35, and neurologist Kinan Hreib, treated Digangi at Burlington's Lahey Clinic last year, "he passed out while eating dinner, and his face ended up in his food." The problem, says Hreib, is that "laughter drops the blood pressure," and their patient already had narrowing of the carotid arteries, which carry blood to the brain. So in a February 1997 procedure, Eisenhauer and Cox opened one of Digangi's arteries. The result: no more "Seinfeld syncope" (or fainting), the term the doctors later coined in a letter to a medical journal. So how is Digangi doing? Fine, says Eisenhauer, except "he's upset that Seinfeld's going off the air."
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