Category Articles Past to 2005

The Anti-Cupid

By Grant Stoddard

Every superhero has a tragic creation myth. Bruce Wayne witnessed the killing of his parents and became the crime-fighter Batman. A young Brooklynite named Sarah got mercilessly dumped by her boyfriend and became Terrifica, a heroine whose mission is to prevent men from taking advantage of women. Men, she says, will use a deadly cocktail of “lies and drinks” to get a woman into bed. So she patrols the city’s parties, bars, and clubs, intervening when she spots a sketchy seduction in progress.

On a recent Saturday night in Park Slope, Terrifica bursts through the door of a bar called Commonwealth. She is resplendent in red spandex, scarlet boots, and red plastic overcoat. She wears no cape or mask—tonight is an “undercover” operation. She makes a beeline to a dark corner where a couple looks poised to canoodle. After speaking to them quietly, she opens her utility belt—referring to it as a fanny pack will not endear you to Terrifica—and gives them a pair of gold lamé fortune cards. When Terrifica moves on to another couple, I ask what happened. “She asked if we were going to hook up tonight,” says Lauren, a 24-year-old painter. (“We’re just good friends,” interjects her buddy Justin.) “She offered us a condom and said that if I was going to be tricked into having sex, at least it should be safe.”

Terrifica is already running off to her next location. “How do you know where to go?” I pant, two strides behind her. “Do you sense impending danger, like Spiderman?”

Terrifica spins around: “Um, I don’t have any superpowers. I’m not crazy, you know.”

“Well, you claim to be a superhuman.”

“I am a human, who just happens to be super.” She looks me up and down. “You are a human who is un-super.” She shrugs. “I assume the addresses come to me because Sarah knows about parties and bars.”

Terrifica doesn’t think much of her alter ego. “Sarah is a very weak woman,” she sneers. “Very needy, very insecure.”

Later, Sarah explains Terrifica’s vitriol. “I have loved two men in my life,” she says. “The first man dumped me when I moved to NYC. That was Terrifica’s birth. The second just dumped me. I thought that turning 30 and falling in love were signals for the retirement of Terrifica. But ever since I was dumped—in the most brutally humiliating of ways—I have felt compelled to put the stupid tights and wig back on. As soon as I pull on that mask, I feel really strong.”

Back on patrol, Terrifica surveys a party in Park Slope. Acting as Robin to her Batman, I wander the floor trying to bring flirtatious couples to her attention. Finally, she swoops in to break up a passionate clinch. “Unsurprisingly, she is much more invested in the relationship than he is,” she scoffs. “She’ll learn the hard way.”

As we walk toward her “Carrific,” Terrifica announces that she’s ditching me. “I must go to a party on the Upper East Side,” she says. “Frat boys, Wall Street guys. It’s dangerous work that I must do alone.”

'Metro Woman' Enlisted to Help Purple Line

metrowomanWTOP’s Mitchell Miller has more on the push for the Purple Line.
Mitchell Miller, WTOP Radio
WASHINGTON – Traffic keeps getting worse in the Washington suburbs. And there’s a new push for an old plan that some view as an alternative to the Intercounty Connector.
It’s the Purple Line, also known as the Bi-County Transitway, which would provide mass transit between Montgomery and Prince George’s counties.
Supporters of the proposal went directly to taxpayers this week, enlisting the help of a colorful character: “Metro Woman.” Dressed in purple, and wearing a skirt covered with Metrocards, she joined members of the Sierra Club at the Bethesda Metro Station.
“The way we look at it, this is really an opportunity,” said Chris Carney, a conservation organizer with the Sierra Club.
“This is a chance to shorten trips and to give residents convenient and safe transportation choices. We just need to make sure that our politicians and our public officials hear this, and get to work on making it a priority.”
Advocates of the plan are concerned that all the discussion about the ICC is causing people forget the Purple Line.
Former Gov. Parris Glendening supported creation of the line, which as originally proposed, would have become another Metro line. More recently, there has been discussion that it could be a rapid-bus line.
Maryland Transportation Secretary Robert Flanagan denies that Gov. Bob Ehrlich’s support for the ICC has come at the expense of the transit-way.
“There was a lot talk and a lot of rhetoric in the (Glendening) administration,” Flanagan said. “But this is the administration that’s delivered by going to Congress, seeking federal funds and aggressively pursuing the necessary planning … to get those federal funds and move forward with the Bi-County Transit-way.”
(Copyright 2005 by WTOP Radio. All Rights Reserved.)

At Last—A Real Superhero! – Car News

at_last_a_real_superhero_-_car_news_cd_articlesmallBY ZOLTAN SCRIVENER
On a small residential side street in the English town of Sittingbourne, just east of London, a man is struggling to get into blue tights and a T-shirt in the confines of a car while I stand watch for cops, or traffic wardens, as they’re called here.
“It usually goes quicker than this when the adrenaline is really flowing,” he says apologetically, slipping on a pair of gold underpants over his tights. After a few more glimpses of elbow and knee through the car windows, his feet—now gleaming in golden boots—plop down onto the sidewalk. A young mother across the road peers at him as he places a small golden mask over his face, à la Scarlet Pimpernel. I deflect her with the first thing that comes to my head, “It’s for a children’s comic book.” Turning away she replies, “I just hope my kids don’t read it.”
He bends down and reappears brandishing a gas-powered metal-cutting circular saw painted gold—an “angle grinder,” as we Brits call them. With his golden cape flowing majestically in the breeze, he is now ready to strike.
He might have climbed into the car as just another ordinary overtaxed and overregulated British motorist, but when he emerged, bulging in all the right places in his tight outfit, he had turned into “Angle Grinder Man,” a new hero to motorists in southeast England, as seen on national breakfast TV and occasionally briefly glimpsed on the streets of London.
If your car has been “clamped” (most commonly for illegal parking) and you do not want to pay the £90 ($162) fee to have the clamps removed—and if you can find him—then he will fly to your aid. Or more likely, drive to it. With a few grinding sparks, he will liberate your car from the clutches of the evil empire, the local authority, or private clampers. He is also planning on “broadening” his “appeal” by tackling speed cameras, too.
He’s not too difficult to find, as it turns out. Brits just call 07984-121043, and over dramatic recorded music, they hear this message: “This is the voice-mail of Angle Grinder Man, the world’s first wheel-clamp and speed-camera superhero vigilante! I am out cleaning the streets of bureaucratic vermin! Good, honest, decent folk can leave me a message after the grinding noise—with God’s help, we shall prevail!”
Over the past year, the 40-year-old superhero (he will not reveal his identity) has foiled authorities by freeing about 50 cars. He has been seen in full flight running down London’s busy Oxford Street, his cape flapping, clutching his grinder and a freshly cut clamp, fleeing to his getaway car, where he, like all superheroes, will change back into an ordinary Englishman.
Very funny, but if he’s caught, he could face up to three months in jail for “criminal damage.” And he could be charged with theft—he now has a collection of orange and yellow clamps from the various boroughs of London.
We had to meet in the parking lot of a train station, since he worries about walking into a trap. When he receives a call for help, he suspiciously looks for telltale signs. “A genuine female caller should usually be close to tears,” he explains. He then does a reconnaissance of the area where the car is clamped, making sure there are no police security cameras overlooking the street. Then he’ll pull alongside the immobilized car, get out, and cut through the clamp’s padlock chain. It takes about 45 seconds. His cutter gets about 37 clamps to the gallon.
Owners can’t be prosecuted unless it can be proved that they summoned the superhero.
Angle Grinder Man’s bravery is undisputed. In addition to the problems the cops could give him, the makers of the clamps are after him. Authorities hire private companies to clamp cars. Angle Grinder Man says, “A lot of the private clampers employ ex-criminals. I’ve had some really threatening calls from them, including death threats.” He upset them big time when his first Web site provided advice on how to remove the clamps. “Have confidence when the sparks fly,” he says. “Just let the weight of the grinder cut through. Don’t bother lifting the grinder to see what is happening—you’ll just waste time trying to find the groove again.” His advice works. He says happily, “I once got a grateful call from a rejoicing 85-year-old granny who told me she had just cut off her first wheel clamp!” The clampers do not appreciate this. “One guy left a message telling me, ‘There’s a price on your head. People have been paid to take you out.'”
The virtuous Angle Grinder Man would never charge for his freeing service. For him, this is not a business opportunity but “a fight to change the perception that we can do nothing in the face of bureaucracy.” It’s a one-man crusade against the “inflexibility of the modern world,” where the citizen has lost the will to control the very politicians and bureaucrats his votes put into power. They work for us! We pay their wages!” he declares. When his own car was clamped, after being told by a traffic warden that it was okay to park in a spot legally, he rented a circular saw and cut off the clamp. It was the last straw, and soon he was stretching into blue tights and running around in gold underpants.
But he has paid a big price for his lonely fight. In the green canvas bag containing his superwear—”to make it more comic and difficult for the authorities to deal with me,” his suggestion that a judge wouldn’t want to appear in the tabloids sending a costumed superhero to jail—he also carries a roll of toilet paper. “I couldn’t afford my rented accommodation anymore, so now I live in a squat. The drug addicts I share it with take my toilet roll if I leave it there.” The cost of traveling and of maintaining his own Web site and server to deal with up to 800 e-mails a week (including one of support from a retired Florida cop) led him to bankruptcy. In the past couple months he has had to curtail his superhero activities and concentrate on earning a living, although he won’t say what he’s doing.
But he’s now back in action, even conducting interviews for Russian TV and talking to Colombian ministers via telephone on a radio chat show. He’s hoping one day to help the citizens of New York, too. But what is he going to do with all those clamps? “I think they should be made into a sculpture—perhaps Damien Hirst could do it.” It might not make the Tate Gallery, but it would certainly make an interesting exhibit in court.!-car_news

Net Crusaders

By Daniel Fallon
Sporting blue tights, black cape and gold rimmed goggles, Angle-grinder Man stands apart from the rest of the world’s superheroes. For a start, he is real.
Based in Kent, the English caped crusader has taken it upon himself to free motorist’s vehicles using an angle grinder when they have been wheel-clamped for parking illegally or on private property.
He spends weekdays serving the fair people of Kent and heads to London to do the same on weekends. “My obsession with wheel-clamping is actually a rebellion against a much deeper malaise,” says Angle on his website. “This is, namely, the arrogant contempt that politicians hold for the people who put them into power, and whom they claim to represent.
“Wheel-clamping, speed cameras, new toll-roads are all good examples of inept administrators attempting to make their lives easier and solve their own mismanagement problems by persecuting the people that they have failed.”
And so the wheel-clamp vigilante dons his tights and heads out to assist taxpayers for free. But every good super-hero needs a support base and Angle uses his website as a soap box to spread the anti-clamp message, to describe his valiant efforts in the field and even to raise money via secure PayPal donations. Yes, even super heroes need a few quid to keep operating. As his ad says, “You can lord it up over your mates and tell them how you helped a real life superhero!”


An email address and emergency hotline phone number are also provided on the site so people can call for help when their car has been clamped or simply to send messages of encouragement. (Demand appears to be very high; the line was continually engaged when Icon tried to reach him and none of our emails got a reply.)
Visitors to the site are invited to share their clamp and speed camera stories and discuss the work of Angle-grinder Man in the forums section. Most gush over their hero.
“I think you are completely great,” writes Revard. “I can think of only one better use of a grinder – cutting the rear wheels off a clamper’s van! Keep up the good work.” The testimonials are equally positive if somewhat less authentic. According to Kylie Minogue, “He was the inspiration behind the gold shorts in my Spinning Around video.” And Dame Judi Dench describes him as “a diamond geezer”.
There are no reports of Angle-grinder Man being arrested by police or sued by the clamping companies. However, just before the publication of this article his website was offline and returning a “fatal error”, leaving us wondering whether the authorities had finally caught up with him. The BBC has been following him and its site is worth a visit.
Angle-grinder Man is not the only real superhero to be found online, although he is one of the few who publish a website. In fact, the net has become a place where legends are made as crusaders from around the globe begin to surface in reports on web logs and media sites. Most prefer to remain anonymous but their good deeds still echo through cyberspace.
In New York City, a gallant heroine named Terrifica has set out to protect women from the unwanted attentions of slimy men in nightclubs.
Unless it is a fancy dress night, this gal is sure to stand out among her peers – she wears a blonde wig, golden mask and red leotards. The outfit may be comical but her mission is a serious one: looking after women when they are most vulnerable and trying to spread the message of sensible alcohol consumption.
“I protect the single girl living in the big city,” Terrifica told’s Bryan Robinson. “I do this because women are weak. They are easily manipulated, and they need to be protected from themselves and most certainly from men and their ill intentions toward them.”
It’s in the early morning, when people are intoxicated, that a nightclub becomes a spider’s web, and that is when Terrifica steps in to provide sobering advice and lead any potential victim away from the bar or off the dance floor.
Preferring to remain anonymous, she has done this task for more than seven years. “I created Terrifica, I guess, to deal with my feelings of vulnerability – being young and single in New York City,” she told Robinson. “I had a couple of run-ins with men that really shocked me, left me feeling confused and really hurt.”
The costume makes Terrifica feel empowered in this environment. As fate would have it, she has an arch-enemy, a man named Fantastico, a regular Romeo who says that Terrifica has often foiled his attempts to meet women in nightclubs.
Meanwhile, blogs are buzzing about a local hero in Nunavut, the capital of Iqaluit, Canada, who goes by the name of Polarman. This fearless chap wears a black balaclava, white jogging pants and dark snow boots.
When he is not stepping in to protect youngsters against street thugs, he shovels the snow off the steps for older citizens and at day-care centres. Then, in summer, he keeps the playgrounds in order for kids. He is a well-recognised figure in the local community, even an attraction, according to the Kids on the Net – Iqaluit site, which has a picture of him in its virtual tour.
“The last thing I needed was a name to call myself,” he told CBC Radio 3 last year. “I wrote down all cold-based names I could think of: Mr Freeze, Icelad, Snowlad, Shoveler, Polar Bully, Captain Cold, Captain Icicle, Frosty the Boy Wonder. Then I decided that since I came down from the polar region, I would use the name my cousin teased me with.
“I believe that I will go on as Polarman for the rest of my life to prove to kids that anything is possible.”
There’s an even more legendary character in Mexico, a masked hero called Superbarrio who fights to defend the rights of the poor.
The former street vendor initially donned a tight red suit and carried his impressive girth into battle for the poor to win government funding to rebuild homes destroyed by the earthquake that rocked Mexico City in 1985. Or so the story goes.
He continued to fight for the poor, often turning up with media in tow, to stop local authorities evicting residents from their apartments. He also led rallies to increase support for low-income earners.
According to a CNN report, “he is one of Mexico City’s great folk heroes, the champion of the working class, the poor and the homeless.” His name means “super neighbourhood”. A statue of Superbarrio was erected in his honour, while an online comic strip at The World Children’s Prize website tells his story.
At one stage, a man named Marco Rascon came forward to claim he was Superbarrio before entering politics. Rascon served as a federal representative in Mexico, according to another online report.
The word on the street
Not all real-life crusaders turn out to meet the expectations they create online. One example of this is Sydney’s own Brokenman, who drummed up hype and traffic to his website by chalking its address, as well as fake crime scenes, thousands of times on footpaths across the city.
He remained anonymous for a long time, despite the simple website promising a great deal. “Can you picture a terrorist-free world? A drug-free environment? People valuing freedom of speech? Peace in a war-free earth? Then ‘SOMETHING UNBELIEVABLE’ is exactly what you need. COMING SOON.” After a couple of years building the hype, Brokenman finally revealed himself as aspiring pop musician Jordan Ellery on April 1 this year when he launched an independent album at the Metro Theatre on George Street.
As far as changing the world goes, Ellery is contributing the performance royalties from one of his songs to the Make a Wish Foundation – an admirable and generous act, if a little short of expectations.
“In a time of crisis and uncertainty it was raising people’s hope, if anything – that’s what Brokenman is all about – rising up,” he says.
“But sure, people’s expectations ranged from ‘the next messiah’ to some X-generation soda-pop salesman. They just didn’t expect their messiah to turn out to be a kid from Dulwich Hill who writes songs. What they didn’t know was that Something Unbelievable was going to be their new favourite song.”
Ellery is satisfied his guise as a crusader worked as a springboard for his musical career and hopes his songs will change people’s lives. “Personally, I’m more than happy with what’s become of the project,” he says. “Based on the amount of record sales and especially people’s feelings shown in their emails, there’s definitely something special evolving here.
“To me it’s all about the songs themselves. It’s about me getting those messages across to my listeners. That’s why I’m out on the streets late at night pushing a message while all the other bands have gone to bed.”
The first comic book superhero was Superman, created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster in Cleveland in 1933. DC Comics bought the rights to the character in 1938 and the era of comic books was born. The company soon produced Batman, with The Flash, Wonder Woman and Green Lantern to follow

Richard Pesta; 'Captain Sticky'; championed consumer causes

captainsticky1By Jack Williams
February 18, 2004
Richard Allen Pesta
As Captain Sticky, a caped cartoon character come to life, Richard Allen Pesta was hard to ignore. Massive in girth and flamboyant in personality and Superman-style costume, he proudly played the role of one of America’s wackiest watchdogs.
Based in San Diego, Mr. Pesta campaigned against everything from rental car rip-offs and sugar-coated cereal to abusive nursing homes, attracting widespread media attention in the 1970s and 1980s.
“I am America’s only practicing caped crusader,” he told the San Diego Tribune in 1984. “That is the role I desire to maintain for the rest of my life.”
Mr. Pesta’s fiancee, Lynne Shiloh, said this week that he died Dec. 12 of complications from heart bypass surgery at Bumrungrad Hospital in Bangkok, Thailand. He was 57.
The couple had been vacationing when Mr. Pesta became ill and underwent surgery. Although his chances of recovery were said to be favorable, he developed an embolism in his leg, Shiloh said.
By the late 1990s, Mr. Pesta had turned his focus from Captain Sticky enterprises to a career as a La Jolla-based entrepreneur specializing in environmentally friendly soil products.
The products, marketed under such labels as Organa and Am-Kel Farms, are sold at various nurseries and home and garden centers, Shiloh said.
At the peak of his Captain Sticky popularity, Mr. Pesta drove a bubble-topped Lincoln with flags and flashing lights that he called his Stickymobile. Wearing a gold cape, glittery matching boots and blue tights, he took his causes to Sacramento and to media outlets.
In 1977, he was credited with helping to launch statewide investigations into nursing homes, resulting in tighter regulations for long-term health care.
By the early 1990s, he was promoting the Real Man’s Midlife Crisis Tour of Thailand, offering what he called “drinking, debauchery and fun stuff.” The Thai government forced him to shut it down.
“He pretty much let that Captain Sticky identity go,” Shiloh said. “What he was doing on the side came to the forefront.”
Mr. Pesta was born in Pittsburgh and moved with his family to Escondido as a child. He graduated from high school in Redondo Beach.
“His dream was to alter the course of history,” Shiloh said. “He was a huge man with a huge heart filled with love for everyone.”
After battling a weight problem for much of his life, Mr. Pesta underwent surgery in the late 1990s.
“The good doctor pulled my stomach way back and filleted me,” he told The San Diego Union-Tribune in 1998. “They took two five-gallon pails of fat from me.”
Mr. Pesta leaves no immediate family. He was cremated in Thailand, where his ashes were scattered at sea.
Jack Williams: (619) 542-4587; [email protected]

'Superhero'; takes on clampers

Angle-grinder Man – a self-proclaimed superhero – patrols by night looking for unhappy drivers who have been clamped and then sets their cars free.

He promises to take on clamping firms, speed cameras and the congestion charge on behalf of drivers.
An odd-job man by day, he claims to operate in Kent during the week and in London at weekends.
A hotline number on his website offers a free wheel clamp removal service.

I for one am prepared to fight for what is fair and am making myself available to the public
Angle-grinder Man

On calling, an answer phone message invites callers to “leave a message after the grinding sound”.
The unnamed man, who wears a costume of gold boots and crotch-hugging pants over a blue leotard, said he was happy to take the risk.
“It’s a public service,” he says on his website.
“I for one am prepared to fight for what is fair and am making myself available to the public.
‘Deeper malaise’
“I may not be able to single-handedly and totally cast off the repressive shackles of a corrupt government – but I can cut off your wheel-clamps for you.”
He says he decided to go “full-time vigilante” in May this year.
“My obsession with wheel-clamping is actually a rebellion against a much deeper malaise,” he said.
“Namely, the arrogant contempt that politicians hold for the people who put them into power, and whom they claim to represent.”
A Kent Police spokeswoman said no complaint about wheel clamps being cut off had been made by either a clamping firm or a member of the public.
A spokeswoman for the Metropolitan Police said they could not investigate unless a crime was reported.
Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2003/09/16 10:42:37 GMT

Meet the Anti-Sex in the City Superhero

NEW YORK, Nov. 5, 2002 —
New York’s comic book alter-ego Gotham has its Dark Knight in Batman, but it turns out the real city has its own caped crusader. Lotharios everywhere, beware, because Terrifica, scarlet-costumed avenger and protector of women, is on the prowl on the city’s party scene.
All was calm on a brisk 40-degree Saturday evening around Bar 4 in the Park Slope neighborhood of Brooklyn. The only things stirring were the breeze-driven mocha-colored leaves skipping and scratching across the concrete and the light traffic along Seventh Avenue.
But skidding leaves soon gave way to the deliberate clacking of red heels. It was a little early for Terrifica to start patrolling; it was only 8:30, and the social scene was hours away from awakening. However, with her red cape, matching leotard and skirt with red boots, she managed to open the eyes of a few onlookers and elicit a whisper or two as she strode into Bar 4.
For the past seven years Terrifica has been patrolling New York’s party and bar scene, looking out for women who have had a little too much to drink and are in danger of being taken advantage of by men. She says she has saved several women from both themselves and predators who would prey upon their weaknesses  both from alcohol and a misguided notion that they have to go out drinking to find a companion.
“I protect the single girl living in the big city,” says Terrifica, sporting blond Brunhild wig with a golden mask and a matching Valkyrie bra. “I do this because women are weak. They are easily manipulated, and they need to be protected from themselves and most certainly from men and their ill intentions toward them.”
Terrifica does not claim to have superhuman powers or to be from a planet like Krypton. By day, she is Sarah, a 30-year-old single woman who works for a computer consulting company. (Sarah prefers not to reveal her last name so that she can protect her anonymity and still lead some degree of a normal life.)
To some, Terrifica may not seem all that imposing  she does not have the bulging muscles of your typical superhero. But she has a superhuman sense of purpose and belief in herself. Terrifica unfailingly refers to her non-costumed alter-ego, Sarah, as if she were another person. The heroine refuses to answer any questions about Sarah while she is working as Terrifica, saying “You are talking to Terrifica, not Sarah.”
Sipping a Shirley Temple, Terrifica’s voice is strong and forceful. Her brown eyes pierce through Bar 4’s red lights as she talks about her mission.
“My inspiration is the need people have in the city to be protected from themselves. That is my inspiration,” the heroine says. “I have to act in the most extreme situations. I’m on the front lines, in the danger zone, in the wee hours of the night. There’s nothing happening here right now; it’s way early. But if I come back here at 2:30, 3 o’clock in the morning, there are people drunk, making out with other people, going home with other people. They don’t know what they’re doing. They’re drunk.
“To feel like you have to go to a bar, to put yourself out there, feeling like you have worth only when you’re married, engaged, or have a boyfriend, that’s weakness,” Terrifica says. “People are happiest when they’re alone and living their solitary lives.”
To Serve and Protect the Single Girl Living in the City
However, Terrifica’s mission is really twofold: she seems driven by both a need to protect all women and her alter-ego, a single girl living in the city. According to Sarah, Terrifica was spawned by a combination of heartbreak and her need deal with her own feelings of vulnerability.
Before moving to New York from Pittsburgh seven years ago, Sarah was heartbroken when she and her boyfriend broke up. Terrifica, Sarah says, was created out of her need to deal with her own anxiety of being a single woman suddenly living in a new city.
“I was living in New York, 23, feeling sort of vulnerable. I created Terrifica I guess to deal with my feelings of vulnerability being young and single in New York City,” Sarah says. “I had a couple of run-ins with men that really shocked me, left me feeling confused and really hurt. & To come from a small city where I knew everyone to a bigger city where I did not was quite overwhelming and scary.”
However, at some point, Terrifica became more than Sarah’s personal therapeutic tool. Her purpose grew to include the protection of all women from the men who would manipulate them  emotionally and sexually.
“The reason why Batman was dark was because he kept seeing his demon [the murder of his parents and his need to avenge them] every time he did what he did,” Sarah says. “I guess that is essentially the same thing with me. I experience the same hurt and pain over and over again [as Terrifica].”
Patrolling a Potentially Dangerous World With No Superpowers
Terrifica did not want to reveal how often she patrols or how she decides where she is going to go out on duty. However, different nights have different party scenes.
“Thursday nights are good nights for college students,” she says. “Thursdays and Friday night are good nights for the after-work crowd down in Wall Street. Saturdays are good nights for the East-West Village where you have people coming in from the other boroughs.”
Despite her persistence and dedication, a costume can be a hindrance to a passionate crime fighter like Terrifica. After all, how many real-life Batmen and Spider-Men does the average person encounter every day? Terrifica’s costume could attract gawkers, a degree of ridicule and distract from the seriousness of her task, but she says that’s a tactical choice.
“I have undercover clothes that I wear so that I can blend in,” says Terrifica. “I wear this costume to bring attention to myself. Imagine yourself the perpetrator, one of the evil men in the world, and then you see a woman in a leotard and she’s beautiful. You’re going to stop focusing attention on the woman you’re trying to seduce and going to try to get Terrifica to pay attention to you. So, it’s a diversion tactic.”
Still, Terrifica acknowledges that her vigilantism puts herself at risk. She admits that she has found herself in situations that involved physical run-ins with people who did not appreciate her interference. Her sobriety and wits have remained her greatest assets in those situations.
“I really only have my utility belt. I’m not superstrong. I’m from this Earth,” she says. “I know I have to be very cautious. But the difference is I’m sober. And drunk people who are hostile are still drunk people. I have a degree of control, and my mission and purpose can usually get me out of dangerous situations.”
However, Terrifica does carry pepper spray in her utility belt, which also includes a cell phone, lipstick, a camera to take pictures of alleged male predators, a logging book, Terrifica fortune cards and  last but not least  Smarties candies.
Why Smarties?
“They taste good,” Terrifica says. “I need energy. What I do is very difficult. I need to stay awake long hours, driving around. Sugar helps.”
Struggling to Get a Message Across
For the most part, Terrifica says, the women she has saved have appreciated her help. But she hopes to never save the same woman twice.
“That would just be sad,” she says. “I get to know some of the women I save and talk to them. & It would just be sad if I would run into some of them again. There is a message I’m trying to get across where I would hope to never need to see them again.”
Not everyone is a fan of hers. Some bartenders may hate her heroics, she says, because she potentially drives away their business. However, she conceded that she has some power over bartenders.
“Bartenders tend to be men, and they tend to be attracted to me,” she says. “Most men are. That’s part of my power.”
A Fantastic Nemesis
Terrifica has also become somewhat of a nemesis to one alleged Casanova in particular: A man who likes to dress in velvet and prefers to be called “Fantastico.” He says that over the years, Terrifica has thwarted his attempts on numerous occasions to get to know women a little better.
“Well, I guess I first met her about seven years ago … most recently last week in Carroll Gardens [Brooklyn],” Fantastico says. “I was with this woman and she was very lonely, seemed very desperate for attention. We were having a very lovely time, sharing a drink and suddenly I turn around see her [Terrifica] in this ridiculous red cape. She practically drags the woman away.”
Fantastico, who says he does not have a day job, says he likes to indulge in the finer, pleasurable things in life and that he likes to bring out the pleasure in people. He is convinced that Terrifica is a miserable, lonely woman who does not want anyone else to be happy.
“She seems to have an obsession with me,” Fantastico says. “She seems to have it in for men. I’m convinced she is loveless and would love to have the rest of the city as loveless and miserable as she is.”
Fantastico says that Terrifica has never really addressed him directly during their encounters. She has only lectured the alleged would-be female victims about being manipulated and taken advantage of.
“She’s just been very cold, very distant,” Fantastico says. “But I’m sure if she did address me  her being a pretty attractive woman in her leotard  if she did hear me out, maybe she would change her attitude.”
But while Terrifica has never addressed Fantastico directly, her alter-ego Sarah has. Sarah says she was seduced by Fantastico years ago.
However, Fantastico does not even remember Sarah and has no idea that she is Terrifica. He does remember Terrifica, though.
“While I don’t know a Sarah, I do know Terrifica. She does exist, and we have crossed paths from time to time,” he says.
“What? You mean he doesn’t remember me?” Sarah asks, stunned. “You see, that’s why Terrifica exists, that’s why she’s needed.”
Fantastico insisted Terrifica has only been an occasional annoyance to him and that he doesn’t lose any sleep at night knowing she’s out there. “Trust me,” he says. “I have no problem doing what I do.”
A Heroines Advice for Self-Protection
Terrifica knows she can’t be everywhere. She prefers to work alone but would not mind if other people donned a costume to help protect others. However, she does have advice to help women help themselves.
“The most important thing is that you do not need another person to give you love,” Terrifica says. “And you should not feel that someone who promises love actually loves you, ever. People throw around the term ‘love’ to manipulate, to get sexual satisfaction. And you should only exist to satisfy yourself, not sexually but holistically. Do not be meek enough to believe the myths society has imposed on us to basically control you.
“And don’t get drunk in bars.”
Terrifica says she ultimately would like to be able to set up a hotline to help women when they feel like they need advice. It would enable her to more easily spread her message of self-protection and empowerment.
She would also like to have someday have the equivalent of Batman’s bat signal. Perhaps, it could be called the “Terrific signal.”
“It is my dream to have a ‘T’ signal going up to the clouds so that I know when I would be needed,” Terrifica says.
The End of the Road for Terrifica?
Terrifica says she will continue carrying on her mission as long as there are still women getting drunk in bars, going home with men they barely know and feeling badly in the morning, wondering whether the men will ever call.
However, there are signs that Sarah is wearying of donning the red leotard.
“I’m sure Terrifica would tell you that she is always successful,” she says. “But that is not always the case. Dressing in a red leotard, hanging out at bars drinking Shirley Temples is not exciting. It can get pretty dull. & There are nights when not much happens.
“I would love to be able to be at the point psychologically where I don’t feel like I have to dress like a superhero to feel safe and empowered in New York City,” Sarah says. “It’s hard to say under what circumstances [I would stop] with my not looking so hot in a leotard anymore. I had set [age] 30 as the magic number and I’m still doing it. And I’ll be 31 soon.”
Well, at least one person believes Terrifica/Sarah still looks good in a leotard. As Terrifica left Bar 4, a little girl in a knit white cap and matching jacket saw the heroine and immediately stopped, looked up and smiled.
“You look pretty,” the child said with a toothy grin.
“Thank you,” said Terrifica, as she allowed herself to smile. “Be safe now.”
Terrifica’s smile soon faded away as her thoughts turned to the night ahead. “I have to go home now & to my headquarters & to prepare. I have to make some calls and find out where some of the party scenes are tonight.”
And with that, Terrifica turned away, red cape lazily flowing behind her. No one else on Seventh Avenue stopped to stare at her.
Copyright © 2009 ABC News Internet Ventures

Farewell to The Fox

Originally posted:
by David Weissman
He was a teacher and friend, environmental crusader and outlaw. He dared to expose polluters when no one else would. He was Robin Hood, Zorro and Batman all rolled into one. And even though Jim Phillips died last fall at age 70, the legend he created as “The Fox” lives on.
Jim Phillips grew up on Chicago’s West Side, but it was summers spent at his grandfather’s farm in the Fox River Valley that shaped his views on the environment. He found peace in nature and embraced the clarity and solitude of the outdoors. When he turned 10, Phillips moved to the family farm for good.
He pursued science in school and earned a biology degree from Northern Illinois University. For the next 10 years he taught environmental science at middle schools in Oak Lawn and Hillside. It was there the young science teacher got called out by one of his students.
“Mr. Jim, you say that you don’t try to cause air pollution, but you drive your truck to work every day,” the student challenged. “What are you going to do about it?”
With no public transportation available, Phillips was forced to drive. So he did the next best thing: he invited students to paint their complaints on his truck. By day’s end, students had transformed the truck into a rolling billboard: GM — CLEAN UP YOUR ACT!
In the spring of 1969 Phillips plugged a sewer drain that flowed into the Fox River from the Armour-Dial soap plant in nearby Montgomery. The company unplugged the drain, but he filled it again. Two months passed. Phillips returned to check on the river, and there, in a scene like the birth of a comic book hero, had an epiphany:
“Before me lay a mini-disaster,” Phillips wrote in his autobiography, Raising Kane: The Fox Chronicles. “Bank-to-bank soap curds filled the water from the dam back to the sewer. Looking into the pool, my heart sank.
“Floating upside down, with their orange legs relaxed in death, was the mallard hen and all of her baby ducks. The shock of seeing such carnage gave way to sorrow and then rage. Wading into the glop, I saw one tiny duckling’s foot feebly kick. Scooping it up and stripping soap waste off its partly fuzzy body, I tried to open its little beak and blow breath into its lungs. The little body went limp in my hand as the final spark of life flickered out. Everything got blurry as tears of sorrow and anger rolled down my cheeks.”
In the years that followed, Phillips would harness his anger into a new brand of environmental activism — one that applied psychological pressure to achieve results. His methods were smarter than vandalism. Instead he poked fun at polluters, exposed them to the public in ways that confused, embarrassed and, ultimately, shamed them into changing their practices.
At an aluminum foundry in Aurora, he plugged the company’s septic tank, capped smokestacks and left a dead skunk at the front door. When that didn’t work, he paid a visit to the company’s corporate headquarters in Gary, Indiana.
“I have a gift for your president from the animals and people of the Fox River Valley,” Phillips said. He then dumped five gallons of sewage from the company’s own Aurora plant onto the corporate hallway.
That got the ear of Chicago Daily News columnist Mike Royko, who used his column to champion the Fox’s cause.
“The Fox learned about the power of the media early on,” said Brock. “By getting publicity for his actions, the Fox spread the word far and wide.”
By day, he talked with reporters — incognito, from behind a bush.
The Fox’s popularity soared. He held a mock funeral for the Fox River. One article became two, then three, then four. He was featured in the pages of Time, Newsweek and Life magazines, and a television special, “Profit the Earth” — all anonymously. He spoke via telephone to the U.S. secretary of state’s Committee on Human Environment, a group preparing for the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment.
In time, The Fox became revered and feared, a modern-day Robin Hood who befuddled his enemies and befriended all others. His trademark signature, a small fox drawn as the “o” in Fox, accompanied his notes and signs. Bumper stickers that read, “Go Fox — Stop Pollution” were plastered on cars, signs and office windows of alleged polluters. His identity was leaked to a select few, who called themselves the Fox’s “Kindred Spirits.”
At night he clogged polluting drain pipes.
Phillips’ brand of civil disobedience made so much sense even the local cops started helping him out. They tipped him off to stakeouts and surveillance. They left notes for him in the knothole of a nearby tree, and kept him one step ahead of their own police chief, a man they nicknamed the Sheriff of Nottingham.
In the summer of 1971, Phillips turned to Mayor Richard J. Daley’s plan to build an airport on an island in Lake Michigan. A friend drew a cartoon depicting an outhouse in the lake, with Daley standing on the nearby Chicago shore. A U.S. Steel executive standing on the Gary side pointed to the outhouse, and said to Daley, “Feel free to use the lake, Dick — we always did.” Phillips stuck the poster-sized cartoon on the Picasso sculpture in what is now Daley Plaza, in broad daylight. And neither the Sheriff of Nottingham, nor anyone else, could catch him.
“He never wanted to be in the spotlight,” said Gary Gordon, a longtime friend. “It was his deeds he wanted to speak loud and clear.”
Phillips was no eco-terrorist. He was careful to make sure no one got hurt. When he dumped sewage at American Reduction’s headquarters, Phillips felt so bad about the shocked receptionist he sent her a half dozen roses. Another time, Phillips threw a stink bomb through the front office window of Cargill, a company that had dumped leaking cans of paint into the Fox River. Along with his trademark signature, Phillips left a money order for $36.48 to replace the glass.
“The Fox was never about violence,” said Gary Swick, another science teacher and one of the Kindred Spirits. “He chose to work at a grassroots level, to build an ethic of stewardship for the land. He took action before laws and agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency even existed. That took a lot of guts.”
In 1973 Phillips took on another role. He became Pierre Porteret, a member of the Joillet-Marquette expedition that led to the discovery of the key Chicago portage 300 years ago. Phillips and six other men, dressed in 1673 period costumes, reenacted the journey in two replica birchbark canoes. The group paddled down the western shore of Lake Michigan from the Straits of Mackinac to Green Bay, up the Fox River of Wisconsin to the Wisconsin River, then down the Mississippi to the mouth of the Arkansas. On the return journey, they paddled up the Illinois River and up Lake Michigan to Mackinac. Along the 3,000-mile trip, the expedition stopped at more than 180 communities along the route and Phillips, as the environmentalist, talked about the changes in the land.
“It was grassroots theater; overt and guerrilla; a show for the folks in the heartland with a profound and provocative message at its core,” recalled Gordon, then a young reporter who became a member of the shore party.
At Starved Rock, Illinois, on the return journey, Phillips delivered a memorable speech to a room full of high-ranking state officials:
“Three hundred years ago I came down these rivers with the rest of these men. But something has happened since the time we saw the river. The flowers came in such profusion that I cannot even describe their beauty. The five feet of topsoil, that was so rich you could turn it under and grow crops to save the starvation of the world, how did you lose it? There is not one foot of it left. What have you done with it?
“I have fished in the rivers, and I have taken the pickerel and the pike; I’ve seen the walleye and the bass. And now I cannot even drink the water. What have you done to it?
“I breathed the air that was as clear and as pure as the morning breeze, and now my eyes water as I travel past your civilized cities. Why do you do this to yourselves? … Why don’t you allow your children, that you give life to, to grow up with the type of beauty that I once saw? There is precious little of it left.”
That kind of childhood logic made Phillips hard to ignore, and inspired legions of followers to carry on his most poignant message: this land belongs to all Creation. Cherish and protect it, or it will die. When Phillips himself died last fall at age 70, his ashes were scattered in his beloved Fox River by the voyageurs from his expedition canoe. They broke his paddle signifying the end of his voyage on Earth.
“The Fox was larger than life, and his actions spoke to a higher set of laws,” said Brock. “Setbacks didn’t discourage him. They only strengthened his resolve.”
Ralph Frese, another lifelong friend, agreed. “In his lifetime, The Fox became a legend,” he said. “The legacy he left is the challenge that we carry on the work he started.”
Copies of The Fox’s manifesto, Raising Kane: The Fox Chronicles, are available from Friends of the Fox River.
E-mail [email protected] $20.

James Phillips, 70, Environmentalist Who Was Called the Fox

Note from Real Life admin: It has been brought to my attention that there is an inaccuracy in the following article. Mr. Martin states that “His passion for the environment persists in a local group named for him, Friends of the Fox”, however, new information indicates this to be a false statement.
This information was provided by Pat Reese, who stated, “I am the founder of “The Friends of the Fox River,” and I can assure you our group was not named after The Fox, aka Jim Philips, and that there is no other group named “Friends of the Fox” in Illinois. However, there is a “Friends of the Fox” in Green Bay, Wisconsin, 300 miles away, also not associated with Jim.” Mr. Reese also provided official documentation supporting his information, and requested that appropriate corrections be made on this site.
-The Watchman
Originally posted:
October 22, 2001
James F. Phillips, an environment advocate who used flamboyant tactics like putting metal caps on top of belching smoke stacks, then leaving a note signed ”the Fox,” died on Oct. 3 in Aurora, Ill. He was 70.
The cause was complications of diabetes, his sister Dorothy Spring said.
Mr. Phillips led a dual existence as a middle school science teacher and an ecological saboteur, using techniques later refined by Greenpeace and other environmental groups. He never acknowledged that he was the Fox, although family members and friends confirmed that Mr. Phillips was.
”He carved a peculiar niche for himself,” said his friend Ralph Frese, a blacksmith and canoe maker who accompanied Mr. Phillips on a mission or two. ”He tried to disguise himself, but it was a thin disguise.”
The Fox plugged polluting sewer outlets and left skunks on the doorsteps of the executives who owned them. He collected 50 pounds of sewage that a company had spewed into Lake Michigan and dumped it in the company’s reception room.
”I got tired of watching the smoke and the filth and the little streams dying one by one,” he said in an interview with Time magazine in October 1970. ”Finally, I decided to do something — the courts weren’t doing anything to these polluters except granting continuance after continuance.”
Much of what the Fox did was against the law, and the police were hardly amused by the fox’s face, sometimes smiling, sometimes grim, that he customarily drew inside the ”o” of ”Fox” on the notes he left behind.
Robert Kollwelter, a local police sergeant, said in an interview with Newsweek in October 1970 that the authorities would charge the Fox with trespassing and criminal damage to property if they could catch him.
But they could not. ”It’s kind of hard to lift fingerprints from the inside of a sewer,” Sergeant Kollwelter explained.
At least one government official suggested that the Fox was performing a valuable service. The official, David Dominick, commissioner of the federal Water Quality Administration, said in a speech before the American Society of Civil Engineers in 1970, ”The Fox, by his deeds, challenges us all with the question: Do we, as individuals in a technological society, have the will to control and prevent the degradation of our environment.”
James Frederick Phillips was born in Aurora on Nov. 20, 1930. His grandparents were asparagus farmers, and he grew up on a farm. He earned a degree in biology from Northern Illinois University. He later taught science in middle school for 10 years.
In the late 1960’s, he was distressed to see dead ducks on the polluted Fox River, which meanders through Aurora to the Illinois River. He decided to take direct action: He stopped up a sewer pipe that was spewing sudsy wastes into the Fox River with plywood.
”Nobody ever stuck up for that poor, mistreated stream,” he told Newsweek. ”So I decided to do something in its name.”
He moved to bigger targets like United States Steel. In a 1970 column in The Chicago Daily News, Mike Royko told of his darting about Chicago putting up signs attacking the company for polluting.
For example, he posted a sign on a coffee shop window: ”Making steel is my business, murdering your environment is my sideline.”
Mr. Phillips later was a field inspector for the Kane County Environmental Department west of Chicago before retiring in 1986 to start the Fox River Conservation Foundation. ”He got a chance to do it legally,” Mr. Frese said.
The Fox’s escapades stopped after the enactment of state and federal laws to control pollution. His passion for the environment persists in a local group named for him, Friends of the Fox.
He is survived by two brothers, Herb, of Chicago, and Albert, of Verokua, Wis.; and two sisters, Dorothy Spring of Aurora and Margaret Webb of Fayetteville, Ark.
Photo: James F. Phillips

Mexico’s ‘SuperBarrio’ offers to rescue U.S. elections

Article no longer exist on CNN
November 16, 2000 Web posted at: 7:54 PM EST (0054 GMT) 
MEXICO CITY, Mexico (AP) — With his red cape flying behind him, he has swooped into poor neighborhoods in the time of need, fighting for housing and setting up soup kitchens.
Now Mexico’s “SuperBarrio,” a social activist in red mask and wrestler’s tights, has offered to rescue the U.S. elections.
“Election crisis? Call us and we’ll fix it in 15 minutes,” read a placard at the front of a march of 40 people Thursday led by SuperBarrio that stopped outside the U.S. embassy.
He certainly has had experience with electoral dilemmas being that he is from a country which has had its share of races tainted with charges of coercion to outright fraud, and where a single party has ruled for 71 years.
But the Mexican superhero’s assistance in resolving the race between U.S. candidates George W. Bush and Al Gore isn’t without its price. In exchange, the embassy must give visas to thousands of Mexicans wanting to go to the United States, he said.
“If in this moment the embassy authorized visas for us, we would get results for the U.S. presidential elections today,” he said.
SuperBarrio,” or Neighborhood Superhero, has been crusading for the poor since the serious Mexico City earthquake in 1985. Always masked, he wrestles in televised matches when he isn’t organizing soup kitchens and other charity projects.