Last year, TV newswoman Bree Walker won the hearts—and respect—of viewers as a noon co-anchor of WCBS-TV in New York (PEOPLE, Nov. 30, 1987). In a field where looks are at a premium, the veteran reporter had landed a major TV job despite a rare hereditary deformity of her hands and feet called syndactylism. Said Walker, who refused to handicap her ambitions: "We have to reach a point where having a physical difference doesn't matter."
UPDATE: Although Bree and husband Robert Walker, an independent film producer, were aware that their children would run a 50 percent chance of inheriting syndactylism, they decided to start a family. Andrea-Layne Walker, born Aug. 12, does suffer from the same condition that afflicts her mother and grandmother Yet neither Bree nor her husband regret their decision to have a child. Now living in Los Angeles, where she co-anchors the evening news on KCBS-TV, Walker says, "I don't think anyone in my life judges me by the way my hands and feet look."
She knows that her daughter will someday feel some of the same hurt she experienced as a little girl when her friends started painting their fingernails and wearing pretty shoes. "I hope I'll be able to prevent her pain by anticipating things that might happen," says Walker. "Though that's probably a foolish thing to say." But when Andrea is frustrated by some simple task, Walker will be ready with "the two most important words—'You can.' "
Last spring while Late Night's David Letterman was away in California, Margaret M. Ray broke into his New Canaan, Conn., house and made herself at home (June 13). She raided the fridge and tooled around in Dave's Porsche until the cops picked her up for failure to pay a $3 toll. Saying she was Mrs. Letterman, Ray, 36, who has a history of mental problems, insisted the child in the car (her son, Alexander, 3) was Dave's son. Letterman declined to press charges. But days later, when Ray returned to the house, he prosecuted.
UPDATE: At a September hearing, Ray was ordered to undergo psychiatric treatment at Fairfield Hills State Hospital and forbidden to visit Letterman's home or the NBC studios in New York. But Ray is not currently registered as an inpatient at the hospital. Her whereabouts, and those of her son, are unknown.
In April conservationists and bird-watchers across the land held their collective breath as Molloko, the baby California condor, slowly worked her way out of her egg at the San Diego Wild Animal Park to become the first of her rare species bred and hatched in captivity (May 16).
UPDATE: No longer a scrawny ball of feathers and skin, Molloko has turned into one big bird. "She's fully grown, about 18 lbs., with a wingspan of up to nine feet," says Bill Toone, curator of birds at the park. One of only 28 of her kind believed to be in existence, Molloko spends her time in a huge cage with three other young condors, feeding on the dead rats, rabbits and fish dropped in through a tube. Since hatching, Molloko (a Native American word for condor) has been handled by humans only once—when park vets took a blood sample to determine that she was, in fact, a female. With no California condors known to exist in the wild, she will be kept at the park for breeding. But puberty is still five or six years away.
As star witness for the prosecution in the bribery trial of former Miss America Bess Myerson, zaftig Sukhreet Gabel soon proved a bundle of contradictions more fascinating than the case itself. For nine days this fall, the 39-year-old former aide to Myerson at New York's Cultural Affairs Commission swept into Manhattan's federal court house, kissed her ailing mother, Judge Hortense Gabel—then took the stand to testify against her. Judge Gabel, 75, is accused of reducing alimony payments for Myerson's lover, Carl Capasso, in exchange for Myerson giving Sukhreet a job (June 29, 1987).
UPDATE: Sukhreet, who takes medication to control depression, claimed at one point in the trial that her mind was "like Swiss cheese." Yet the former aide, who holds two master's degrees and speaks five languages, is proving an articulate media darling with a sense of humor. In mid-December she was invited to host a party for flamboyant gossip columnist Michael Musto at El Morocco. Clad in a zebra print dress to echo the famed bolte's striped banquettes, Sukhreet crooned "Let the Punishment Fit the Crime." "I sang in court, why shouldn't I sing here," she said. Still, Sukhreet says that she wants her mother's name to be cleared and insists their relationship "couldn't be better." Unemployed since the Bess Mess, she's planning to write a book about "corruption, federal witnessing and depression." After the trial, she says, "I'm ready for emotional reconstructive surgery."
During the finale of the 1988 Miss California Pageant, Michelle Anderson, the reigning Miss Santa Cruz, reached into her bra and pulled out a banner that read PAGEANTS HURT ALL WOMEN (July 4). Anderson had been plotting the protest for months, even taking time off from college to perfect her image. She made her point but angered officials and wounded fellow contestants.
UPDATE: After the pageant Anderson became a talk show fixture. Detractors sent insulting letters. "You have truck-driver hands," wrote one man. But she also received an award from one women's group, a backstage pass from the Grateful Dead and a proposal of marriage. Still, Anderson—who is writing a book about her experience and who has gained 20 lbs.—has some remorse. "People took me into their hearts, and I wasn't who I said I was," she says. "I have to ask myself who I was to do this to them."
After a secret marriage, students Scott Swanson and Carolyn MacLean ran away from evangelical Wheaton College outside Chicago, hoping to "leave materialism behind" and seek perfect love. Fearing foul play, Chicago police called a nationwide search. Finally Swanson and MacLean emerged from hiding in San Diego (Aug. 15) to face bewildered family and friends.
UPDATE: In September, driving to pick up Scott from his job at a Chicago lawn-care company, Carolyn had an auto accident. Blood tests showed she was legally intoxicated—and pregnant. Just weeks before entering a court-ordered alcohol program, she suffered a miscarriage.
Going AWOL got Scott booted out of ROTC, and he may be asked to repay his $16,000 ROTC scholarship. More likely, he will have to spend four years as an Army private.
On a happier note, the Swansons and MacLeans have welcomed back the prodigals. In November Scott and Carolyn renewed their vows in a New Jersey church. But says Scott of their refugee interlude: "I'd do it again. It's like deciding to sail around the world. It's a good thing we did it now instead of getting frustrated in our 40s that we were never fulfilled."
Last summer an arsonist terrorized the hamlet of Jefferson, N.H., setting barns and homes aflame (Aug. 29). Townsfolk began regarding each other with suspicion: To avoid detection, the culprit had to be a local who knew his neighbors' habits.
UPDATE: In October police arrested Lance Lalumiere (left, with his brother Michael), a dishwasher and former volunteer firefighter, and charged him with torching Michael's cabin. Lance, 22, was later indicted for 16 of the 25 fires. Police found crude maps and a propane torch in his car, but Lance pleaded not guilty. The arrest shocked area residents. "He's not smart enough to do this," said one, though there have been no fires in Jefferson since the arrest. Says another: "The town will never get over this."
Annette Heunis and Jerry Tsie were a modern-day Romeo and Juliet—a white woman and a black man in love in South Africa (June 20). Annette, a 19-year-old shop clerk in Odendaalsrus, defied her parents to flee with Jerry, 21, a security guard, to Bophuthatswana, a black homeland where mixed-race couples are allowed to live together.
UPDATE: Today, Jerry and Annette live in a sparsely furnished concrete house. Annette worked at a liquor store but quit after a run-in with drunken customers. Jerry sometimes teaches martial arts or works as an extra in action films. But though Annette is now of legal age, they can't afford to marry. Still ostracized by her family, Heunis was distraught to learn her father suffered a heart attack last month. "I cannot stand it anymore here," she says, yearning to emigrate. "It all seems too difficult."
The Del Rubio Triplets (Sept. 5), three miniskirted, middle-aged blonds with questionable musical ability, had been playing everything from Carmen Miranda's "Cuanto Le Gusta" to the Doors' "Light My Fire" on the California nursing-home circuit for 14 years without much fame or fortune. Then last summer, Millie, Elena and Eadie were booked by professional party host Allee Willis. That gig led to TV work and a record contract—for their album, Three Gals, Three Guitars.
UPDATE: Is Del Rubio fever sweeping America? "It's an absolute stampede wherever we perform," says Millie. The trio were on Pee-wee's Playhouse this month and have just shot a film called Medium Rare. Their album is going to a second pressing. "Best of all," says Millie, "we did a Pontiac commercial, and we just got our first residual check for $2,000"—which can bankroll a lot of bouffants.
Last fall 3-year-old Kendall Denee Barker (Sept. 26) triumphed over 60 other tots at the Little Miss of America Pageant, Tiny Miss Division. After her coronation, the winsome blond boarded a bus back to Krebs, Okla., with her winnings, including a mink jacket and a gold necklace.
UPDATE: Krebs declared Sept. 25 Kendall Denee Barker Day. Kendall, now 4, later appeared on several Oklahoma radio and TV shows. "I guess she's pretty famous around here," says her mother, Libby. There was a chance at national celebrity when Geraldo called to book Libby and Kendall for his program, but that fell through when Libby learned she would have to discuss the pros and cons of baby beauty pageants. (She couldn't think of any cons.) Next month Kendall will cash in on one of her uncollected prizes—a meeting with "two top Hollywood agents." Those closest to the throne say success hasn't spoiled the reigning Tiny Miss. "Every once in a while I'll hear her say to some little friend, 'I was in a pageant in Hollywood,' " says Libby, "but other than that, it's not on her mind at all."
When Susie Carter (Aug. 22) started Alaska Men magazine, she was just hoping to help a few neat guys find romance-not an easy task in a state that has eight eligible men for every single woman. But Carter's quarterly, full of photos and addresses of available hunks, more than did the job. Sales boomed. One couple even announced their engagement in the magazine.
UPDATE: Alaska Men's readership is up to 200,000. Carter (in Los Angeles, below) is cutting TV and book deals and franchising her concept: Aussie Men will hit the stands soon, and others may follow. Carter's son Ephraim, 19, is among the 30 or 40 men already fixed up by the magazine. "A girl from Florida started writing, and they hit it off," says Mom, who has closed her daycare center to become a male-order mogul. "I can't believe I'm actually getting paid to do something I love," she says. "That PEOPLE story has made all this possible."
It took two years of gritty detective work for documentary filmmaker Errol Morris (Sept. 26) to complete The Thin Blue Line, his compelling movie arguing the innocence of a Texas inmate named Randall Adams, above. Since 1977 Adams has been imprisoned—and once was nearly executed—for the 1976 murder of a Dallas policeman. Morris' film, pieced together from nearly 200 interviews, concludes with a near confession by Adams' accuser, David Harris. "I won't be satisfied until Adams is not only out of jail, but exonerated," Morris declared when the movie opened to favorable reviews.
UPDATE: Morris' determination began to pay off this month when a Texas judge recommended that Adams be granted a new trial because the film discredited much of the original testimony. Though David Harris, on Death Row for another murder, has said that he was alone in the car from which the officer was shot, Judge Larry Baraka declared that this confession did not prove Adams' innocence. However, Baraka did agree that some of the witnesses had committed perjury and that Adams did not have effective counsel during the 1977 trial. After the hearing, Adams was led back to jail to await a higher court decision on Baraka's request for a new trial, while Morris joined the rest of the Adams family in a champagne celebration. "This is the first step," he says, "the beginning of an end."
When the world first learned of him, Walter Hudson (Oct. 26, 1987) was grotesque. Weighing an estimated 1,400 lbs., the 43-year-old Hempstead, Long Island, man had not been out of the house for 18 years. Comedian-turned-nutritionist Dick Gregory volunteered his help.
UPDATE: Walter Hudson is now less than half the man he used to be. After 15 months on an 1,800-calorie-a-day liquid diet, he currently weighs 510 lbs. In September he was able to walk outside the house, which "felt like I had been let out of jail," he said. But due to a disagreement over the diet strategy, Gregory is no longer in the picture. Hudson is now reducing with the help of a psychologist. His target weight is 190 lbs., and his goal is to help other obese people shed pounds. "I want them to have special treatment so they won't be laughed at," he says. "Everyone deserves respect."
Robert Chambers, a handsome prep school grad with a troubled past, confessed to police that he had "accidentally" killed pretty Jennifer Levin, 18, during early-morning "rough sex" in New York's Central Park. The "Preppy Murder Trial" (April 11) became one of the most sensational crime stories of the year. In a surprise move, Chambers pleaded guilty to first-degree manslaughter—a charge that carries with it a term of five to 15 years. Had he been found guilty of murder, he might have faced life in jail.
UPDATE: Shortly after Chambers, now 22, began serving his sentence, a TV station aired a videotape of him clowning at a slumber party 16 months after his arrest. Strangling a doll, he says, "Ooops, I think I killed her," as his girlfriend, Shawn Kovell, and several other scantily clad young women laugh. Meanwhile, Jennifer Levin's parents sued Chambers for wrongful death, and in September the New York State Supreme Court granted them a $25 million uncontested award.
Visited regularly in prison by Kovell, Chambers is described by one former inmate as "carefree—he's happy because he got off. He laughs about it."
Last spring U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye joined the chorus calling for the release of David Sohappy, a Yakima Indian serving a five-year sentence for conspiracy to catch and sell salmon illegally (March 28). Sohappy, who lives in Cook's Landing, Wash., said he was exercising his Native American fishing rights under an 1855 treaty. Prosecutors said the treaty allowed fishing for personal purposes only. Last Christmas the government offered to release Sohappy if he apologized, but he refused.
UPDATE: Sohappy and his son David Jr., imprisoned in the same case, were released in May but were soon embroiled in an eviction battle. While a San Francisco court decides whether the government or the tribes can claim the land under the Sohappys' modest home, Sohappy Sr. and wife Myra, above, fish and practice their tribal religion as before. Says David: "It feels all right being out."
After a long and frustrating search, Jean Strauss was finally reunited last August with Lenore Love, the woman who, alone and far from home, gave birth to her in 1955 and then put her up for adoption (Sept. 5). At an emotional reunion in Minneapolis, Jean found that she had a whole new family: her natural mother plus four half brothers and three half sisters.
UPDATE: In the few months since she first laid eyes on them, Jean has seen quite a bit of her newfound relatives. In September brothers Mike and Jim came East to visit Jean and her family in Massachusetts, where her husband, Jon, (top, with Jean and their son, Kristoffer) is president of Worcester Polytechnic Institute. Everyone hit it off so well that Mike decided to quit his job as a mortgage banker and go to work for Jon and Jean, managing a vineyard they own in California. Then half of the clan gathered on the West Coast for the USC-UCLA football game (Jon is a former provost of USC). Jean, who is expecting her second child on April 20, has begun a book about her five-year search for Lenore. And a Milwaukee publisher wants her to help found a magazine for adoptees seeking their original parents. "I'm really glad my story ended up in PEOPLE," says Jean. "It's exciting that publicizing my experience might be helping others."
Having tried everything else they could think of to shut down a crack house that was doing business "like a fast-food restaurant" on their Detroit street, Angelo "Butch" Parisi and Perry Kent burned the house to the ground (March 28). Their Barlow Street neighbors applauded them for ridding the neighborhood of terror and turf wars, but police arrested them, and each was charged with two counts of arson. Last spring the two men faced possible 20-year prison sentences.
UPDATE: Kent, 30, left, and Parisi, 29, went free in October after a jury declared that they had acted in self-defense. "Twelve good citizens of Detroit realized that our clients had no alternative than to commit a crime in order to repel a crime," says Kent's attorney, Barry Adler. Said one juror after the trial: "I would have done the same thing. No—I would have been more violent."
The acquitted men still fear reprisals from thwarted crack dealers. Kent, an unemployed mechanic, has found bullet holes in his house but says he and his wife feel safe enough to remain on Barlow Street with their three children. Parisi, an ex-convict and landscaper who still faces charges of obstructing justice for allegedly threatening a prosecution witness, isn't taking chances. He and his girlfriend have taken their two children and moved away.
For nearly two years after his corpse, dressed in blue pajamas, was found by the side of a Nebraska road in 1985, Danny Stutzman was known simply as "Little Boy Blue." When a tip revealed 9-year-old Danny's identity, police arrested his father, Eli (Feb. 22). A former Amish farmer, Eli Stutzman was already suspected in the fatal shooting of a roommate in Texas, and some said he had a suspicious story to explain the 1977 death of his pregnant wife. But officials could not disprove his claim that Danny's death was accidental. He received an 18-month sentence for the misdemeanors of abandoning a body and concealing a death.
UPDATE: In July, while serving his Nebraska sentence, Eli was indicted by a Texas grand jury for the 1985 murder of his former roommate. The indictment renewed suspicions about Stutzman's role in Danny's death. "We may never know what really happened," says Sheriff Gary Young, who first arrested Eli. Still grieving for the little boy they once named Matthew and laid to rest among their kinfolk, the people of Thayer County continue to leave toys, flowers and money on Danny's grave.
In 1987, police found handyman John McCarty hiding out in a filthy shack in the Vermont woods with his 9-year-old son, Mosie, whom he had abducted in 1980. McCarty, complaining that he was being "made to look like Charles Manson," was charged with custodial interference but won custody after convincing Mo's mother that he was a loving, if odd, parent. A year ago, Mo, still ensconced in the forest with Dad, was in school for the first time, and McCarty was about to wed a neighbor, Elizabeth Grant (Jan. 25).
UPDATE: Having decided that his given name "was just another name—I'm not that person anymore," McCarty is now legally known as Mo's Father. He spends his days writing his autobiography and teaching Mo fifth grade (the state has agreed to let him take the boy out of public school). Elizabeth Grant, whom he married last winter, has since become his third ex-wife. "It's just the two of us now," he says. "Just like the old days."
Despite a confession from a man who had framed him, photographer Conan Owen was still languishing in a Spanish prison last spring (May 2), well into the second year of a six-year sentence for cocaine smuggling. Pleas for his release—one issued by then Attorney General Edwin Meese III—were to no avail.
UPDATE: In November, after nearly 19½ dreary months in a Barcelona prison cell, Owen returned to the U.S. under an international treaty governing prisoner transfers. Because the treaty requires him to complete his sentence in his native land, he went to a U.S. correctional facility. But a reprieve came in time for the holidays: Two days before Thanksgiving, he was transferred to the home of his parents (Ernest and Raquel, below) in Annandale, Va., where he will stay under house arrest until paroled. Owen hopes a presidential pardon will end his ordeal once and for all. For now, he says, he is reveling in "the little things, like green grass and a Q-Tip to clean my ears with."
Gerald Yoakum, an exotic dancer (Aug. 22), was forced to find new digs after his neighbors in First Colony, Texas, complained about the noisy, unhygienic habits of his beloved "boys," Joshua and Jason. The boys, two baboons raised from infancy by Yoakum, not only found it hard to make friends in the manicured Houston suburb, they also violated a county vicious-animal ordinance. After a court battle, Yoakum agreed to leave the neighborhood with his simian sons. That meant moving day for his human housemates as well—his divorced father, James, and William Hall, a 24-year-old Michael Jackson impersonator.
UPDATE: The Yoakums have moved to an adjacent county and have "adjusted real well," says Yoakum, though he gained 20 lbs. after the eviction and had to quit his job with the Ding-a-Ling Monkeyshines strip-o-gram service. (He's back to fighting weight now and is training to be a commercial pilot.) Yoakum's father has gone home to Illinois in hopes of mending fences with his ex-wife; Hall has moved out and will soon appear on a segment of Geraldo (topic: celebrity look-alikes who submit to the plastic surgeon's knife in order to more closely resemble their idols). Replacing them in Yoakum's life are a fiancée, Brandi Dickson, and her daughter, Kara (top, en famille). Brandi, who wisely plans to enroll in wildlife-management school, is "the first woman I've met who really accepted the boys," Yoakum says. "Most women before would think they were cute and all, but they didn't realize my life commitment to them. Brandi loves them as much as I do and realizes we're likely to have them for another 30 years or so. We're one big happy family."
Adragon De Mello, a rosy-cheeked 11-year-old, made the Guinness Book of World Records as history's youngest college grad (July 4) when he got his B.A. in math from the University of California at Santa Cruz in June. His father, Agustin (with Adragon, right), a troubled man who calls Adragon "my main reason for living," vowed to enroll him in a Ph.D. program as soon as possible.
UPDATE: In September police kicked in the door of the California bungalow father and son shared, took Adragon into protective custody and carted Agustin off for psychiatric evaluation. Guns were confiscated, and later Agustin was arrested on suspicion of child endangerment. Allegations flew: The director of a school for gifted children said former pupil Adragon was not really a genius; a math-department aide told campus police that Agustin had threatened her life; Adragon's mother, Cathy Gunn, claimed that Agustin and Adragon had once made a suicide pact. In November officials dropped charges against Agustin. Adragon will be a ward of the court until his parents work out plans for shared custody. Agustin insists his only concern is for his son. "What happened to him is devastating," he says. "He may be too traumatized to want to be in school ever again."
On the day her only child, Bob, put her in a Chicago nursing home, 90-year-old Celia Goldie (Oct. 3) declared, "I hope I drop dead before I'm here one year." For Bob, 56, the agonizing decision to institutionalize his mother was the only possible course of action. A heart attack and stroke in 1985 had left her dependent and chronically anxious; she needed the kind of care he could not provide. But he worried about whether she would adjust to leaving her home of 25 years.
UPDATE: Celia is settling in at the Lieberman Geriatric Health Centre. She still misses her apartment and finds it hard to accept the loss of privacy that comes with group living. But she has made friends and now lives closer to her grandchildren and great-grandchildren (from left: Andrew, Melissa and Ashley), whom she visits more often than ever. The nursing home offers lectures, shopping trips and cultural outings, which, she says, "make my life fuller." Says Bob: "She feels better and is more alert. Everyone tells me how well she's doing. Whatever guilt I had over this decision has vanished."
Connubial bliss didn't seem to be in the cards for Lionel Richie last summer when his wife, Brenda, paid him an unexpected early-morning visit at the Beverly Hills apartment of Diane Alexander, a 22-year-old model, dancer and friend of the family (July 18). Indeed, the relationship looked more martial than marital when Brenda landed a kick in Lionel's "stomach area." Police arrived to find the spurned Mrs. Richie kicking her rival on the living room floor.
UPDATE: In July the Beverly Hills District Attorney's office dropped all charges against Brenda Richie. And now it appears that Brenda and Lionel are back together again. "Brenda was there when he was nothing," says Lionel's publicist, Howard Brandy, "and that still means a lot." Rumor has it that Lionel has ended his relationship with Alexander, whose whereabouts are unknown even to her former modeling agency. But friends of Brenda and Lionel still have their fingers crossed. "That's how it is with them," says one. "They fight like cats and dogs, and then everything is okay—for a bit."
Madison Avenue's Hunk of the Year: a barechested man clad in pajama bottoms who, in an ad for Benson & Hedges cigarettes, inexplicably wanders past an elegant meal (Aug. 22). Was he a husband—a lover? No one knew. But we found out he was an actor named Rob Ramsel, who tended bar at Mariel Hemingway's New York eatery. It seemed a sure thing he would not be there long.
UPDATE: Four months later, Rob Ramsel's once ordinary New York life is...well, exactly the same. He is not rich. (One newspaper report said he received $4,000 for the ad.) He is not the new De Niro. "I did auditions," he says. "But I got no work. I thought I would have my own game show within a week."
So now Ramsel has decided to abandon his showbiz ambitions. In January, he heads to Miami to manage a new Hemingway restaurant. "I think if after all the exposure nothing came from it," Rob says, "it's time to look elsewhere."
On Newsstands Now
- Amy Robach: 'I'm Lucky to Be Alive'
- Paul Walker: Inside His Tragic Death
- Julia Roberts: Choosing Family Over Hollywood
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