Big hair and blue eye shadow.
A rock star panhandler and a rock that went rogue.
A He-Man and a naked man.
What’s up with that?
That’s pretty much the orbit this column revolves around.
These stories, and others about a flat-Earther, woodchopper, cheesesteak maker and Chris Pratt’s sheep, were among the most-viewed What’s Up With That columns on HeraldNet.com in 2019.
Back in the alternate universe of print, it was a different story what resonated with people sending old-fashioned emails and picking up a phone.
Readers called to share their “Low Rider” memories about Lee Oskar, the harmonica honcho from the funk-rock-jazz band War. The Danish-born legend lives in Everett, the headquarters of his international harmonica business.
Other people wanted to talk about Ellerie Cain, owner of what she calls “a bed and (make your own damn) breakfast” near Darrington. The four-cottage compound she started in her 60s is her slice of heaven. “I want people to know, you can live your dream,” she said.
For some, that dream is by random luck. Brier Grocery, a mom-and-pop market, hit the jackpot in July for selling a $12 million lottery ticket to a store regular who wants to remain anonymous.
Store owner Sunnie Andrade got a $122,000 commission bonus for selling the winning Washington Lotto ticket. A month later, a ticket sold at her store won the state game’s Hit 5 jackpot of $120,000, and Andrade got a bonus of $1,200.
She hadn’t taken a real vacation since buying the market 40 years ago with her late husband, Victor. And, as 2019 comes to a close, she still hasn’t.
The New Year’s Eve Mega Millions jackpot is $55 million. If I win, this column will take a permanent vacation.
Top What’s Up With That? stories read online in 2019
Mark Sargent of Whidbey Island is world renowned for saying the world isn’t round.
Sargent is a front-runner for flat-Earthers on the globe, or disk, or whatever it is that keeps us from bouncing up to Mars.
When not globetrotting at speaking engagements, the 50-year-old bachelor lives with his retired schoolteacher mom near Freeland. Her Whidbey Island golf course condo is where the former tech geek does his “Flat Earth Clues” YouTube show with tens of thousands of subscribers.
A 2018 documentary “Behind the Curve” about him and other flat-Earthers was picked up by Netflix. So now millions of viewers watch him explain: “The South Pole is a 200-foot wall of ice, straight-up ‘Game of Thrones’ style, and the sun and moon are just lights in the sky.”
It’s at the corner of steamy and cheesy.
The strip plaza sits back from busy 41st Street near Rucker Avenue in Everett, behind the hot pink bikini barista stand. A sign reads “Deli grocery-adult DVD-cleaners alterations-cheese steak.”
We headed to the scene and found Erwin’s Philly Cheese Steak, which it turns out is separate from the minimart that has bongs, porn and munchies.
There we met owner Erwin Sanchez, the man whose cartoon likeness is on the logo.
Sanchez, 53, had worked mostly in hotel restaurants since moving from Guatemala to California in 1988.
Sanchez always dreamed of owning a place. He ate a cheesesteak for the first time in 2018. “I said, ‘OK, I could make this.’ ” And that’s what he has been doing since.
That bushy-bearded, toothless-grinning, guitar-gyrating man known as “Wolfman Jim” has returned to the corner of 164th Street SW and Ash Way.
Jim Morris might be Snohomish County’s most prolific panhandler. He rocks out on the sidewalk for handouts, often with an amplifier or stuffed toy to make sure motorists take notice.
Last week, he was in a Santa suit.
Morris, 61, spent decades living on the streets and in the woods. He says he started drinking at age 13 and the only times he stopped was when he was in jail.
This year, he went to rehab and got a bed in a clean and sober home.
“It’s a whole new me,” Morris said, his voice raspy with a repetitive laugh. “When you’ve been drinking as long as I have, doing drugs, years of living like that, it’s like being born again. It’s better than being baptized.”
Max Djenohan barely survived 14 days naked in a perilous Panama jungle. Then he went back for 21 days more in the buff for his second episode of Discovery Channel’s “Naked and Afraid.” Certain frontal parts of him were blurred, but his backside is all over the screen.
The reality show’s premise is to pair a man and woman in extreme environments with two survival items and not a stitch of clothing. Not even shoes.
Djenohan, 29, made it to the 21st and final day.
“The last thing I want to see is myself quitting over and over again on reruns for the rest of my life,” he said.
The rock of Snohomish went rogue.
For decades, the 7-foot-high boulder off Highway 9 and Bickford Avenue was painted with pleasantries — tributes to graduating classes or town heroes, maybe a bold invite to the prom. Nice, small-townish stuff like that.
The messages recently deviated from the norm.
For more than a week, “Epstein didn’t kill himself” was in bright red letters at the busy intersection. On a later visit the rock was tagged with NATO graffiti using the anarchy sign for the letter A.
He calls himself a “scrawny old guy.” Others call him He-Man.
Roger Sweet, 84, of Lake Stevens was a preliminary designer of Mattel’s brawny Masters of the Universe characters, which made mincemeat of the other toys on the market in the 1980s. He helped develop the exaggerated muscles, battle action stance and swivel waist for his alter-ego He-Man — the most powerful man in the universe.
“I always wanted to be a He-Man and never could,” he said. “I knew almost every guy in the world would love to be a He-Man.”
A lot of people liked Tacobook. But Facebook didn’t.
Rigoberto Bastida and his wife, Deisy Ramos, poured everything they had into opening the small taco shop in July 2016.
They named it Tacobook Taqueria and created a logo with a thumbs-up in the familiar Facebook style. The bustling business at 1130 Broadway near Everett Community College went from five tables to 10, serving authentic and affordable fare.
In April, the couple got a letter in the mail from a Beverly Hills law firm citing “unauthorized use of Facebook intellectual property.”
Bastida changed the logo and look. In the end, the firm allowed him to keep the name if he added a hyphen. It is now Taco-Book.
Big hair, blue eye shadow and beer-can earrings were the look of Lynnwood in the 1980s-90s TV sketch comedy “Almost Live!”
The fashion mis-statements are coming back — not in style, thank goodness — but to stop traffic.
Lynnwood had a “Big Hair” photo contest to decorate a utility signal box.
The city wanted those ludicrous throwback pictures of you with big hair. Back when you had hair, dude. This contest was for men, too. Those with locks the likes of Jon Bon Jovi and Howard Stern.
Fred Wong, city community programs coordinator, said the entries from more than 30 people will be used in the design. The installation is in the spring of 2020 with a big ribbon cutting. He sent a few top-secret renderings that will blow your mind, baby.
Shane McDaniel used to be known around town for his impressive selection of beer at his bottleshop in Lake Stevens.
He made global headlines for chopping 80 truckloads of firewood with his hunky twin sons to give to people in need.
Now he’s that guy with the bulging biceps and big ax in People magazine. And on bags of Lay’s potato chips. And in Reader’s Digest.
The eligible father of six who was more focused on logs than love was featured on Steve Harvey’s show in a segment called “Date the Woodchopping Dad!” He met a local yoga instructor and they’ve been together since.
McDaniel received a notice of violation from the city in September, saying the ginormous pile was unsafe. He’s given away much of it since.
Chris Pratt has done a lot of bragging lately.
He bragged on “Late Night with Stephen Colbert” and “Live with Kelly and Ryan.” On social media as “@prattprattpratt” he braggedbraggedbragged.
He certainly has bragging rights for all his contributions to his hometown of Lake Stevens, where he was considered a good neighbor.
But what he’s been bragging about in recent weeks — is fleece. Pratt’s sheep took the limelight at the Country Living Expo and Cattlemen’s Winterschool at Stanwood High School.
“My role in ‘Fallen Kingdom: Jurassic World 2’ didn’t get an Oscar nom but my prize-winning Romney sheep took home a blue ribbon at Fiberpalooza. So we’re very happy,” he said on “Live with Kelly and Ryan.”