Top quirky stories of 2011: Dinner on the 405, SpongeBob and more
Be it the macabre mummified remains of a Playboy playmate or the odd sentence of the avocado thief, Californians were prominently featured in some of 2011's quirkiest stories.
We've compiled a list of some of our favorites from L.A. Now.
It wasn't a Michael Bay movie, but for Westside residents the closure of the 405 Freeway for an entire weekend was expected to be a disaster, and was dubbed "Carmageddon." Some, however, took advantage of the closure. Stephen Estes, 23 , looked at the empty 405 Freeway as an invitation to start "planking." Basically, Estes made like a board and lay down on the freeway in a type of craze whose latest incarnation is "Tebowing."
Soon after, others sneaked past police onto what is usually the nation's busiest freeway to hold a dinner party, complete with a table and fine silver.
At least they weren't harmed, which cannot be said for the sad soul stuck in a kiddie swing for nine hours in Vallejo. It was all over a bet to see whether he could fit -- at least that's what the 21-year-old man told the firefighters who pulled him out.
Silly crimes also made our list of the quirkiest.
Three Covina men attempted to steal a 30-pack of Tecate beer from a market but crashed the getaway car after a store worker jumped on the car's hood. One suspect tried to make a clean getaway through a car wash –- while it was running. You might guess which one after taking a look at their priceless mug shots. This wasn't exactly a meticulously planned crime -- one cohort left his ID behind at the market.
We aren't sure what sentence the trio faced. If they were in North San Diego County, they might have a limit on future beer consumption. That's what happened to one avocado thief who was ordered to possess no more than 10 at a time.
Of course, no list of odd stories would be complete without a few animal tales: the capybara sighting in Paso Robles, the killer pit bulls who slaughtered 42 goats and the Chihuahua sexually assaulted by a career criminal.
Several cartoon characters also graced L.A. Now in 2011: SpongeBob SquarePants was detained after a brief run-in with two women on Hollywood Boulevard, Gumby tried to rob a 7-Eleven in San Diego, and a man in a Smurf costume was shot after a Halloween party.
And, in a twist on one of Hollywood's biggest mysteries, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department chose to reopen the Natalie Wood death investigation three decades after she died in waters off Santa Catalina Island. Did she fall -– or was she killed? Authorities quickly said her husband, legendary actor Robert Wagner, wasn't a suspect, though he did land a role as one a week or so later on an episode of "NCIS."
-- Richard Winton
Photo: Three Covina men were arrested in a bungled beer heist in one of the odd tales of 2011. Credit: Covina Police Department