December 31, 1999 12:00 PM

THE BIRDS

They came out of nowhere and caused a flap. A Canada goose died after colliding with fake-butter pitchman Fabio as he rode a roller coaster at Busch Gardens in Williamsburg, Va., in March. The maned man needed three stitches to his nose. In July, Peaches the cockatoo, her feathers apparently ruffled by Sophia Loren, squawked violently and beat her wings in the film legend’s face during the kickoff of the summer sale at London’s Harrods.

WHO’S NEXT—BARNEY?

Jerry Falwell in February used his National Liberty Journal’s “Parents Alert” column to warn that Tinky Winky, one of four cuddly, preverbal aliens on the hit PBS kids’ show Teletubbies, is quite likely gay. Tinky is purple (“the gay-pride color”), Falwell noted, and his antenna is a triangle (“the gay-pride symbol”). Not only that: The “magic bag” he carries is really a purse.

MOONLIGHTING BECOMES THEM

Seven years after ripping up a photo of the Pope on TV, Irish singer Sinéad O’Connor was ordained a priestess in the Latin Tridentine Church, a dissident Catholic group. In a different field—left-country superstar Garth Brooks played 15 preseason games with the San Diego Padres, then donned a fake soul patch and issued an album as Australian rocker Chris Gaines. Also aiming for a new identity, actress Geena Davis made it to the August semifinals but didn’t qualify for the U.S. Olympic archery team for 2000.

ANOTHER BUBBLE BURST

V.I.P. star and ex-Baywatch babe Pamela Anderson Lee, 32, had her 10-year-old breast implants removed in April, downsizing from a 34D to a 34C. Later she declared herself “very happy with my decision.” Ex-husband Tommy Lee, with whom she reunited the same month, isn’t complaining. The two reportedly were planning to rewed, naked on Malibu Beach, on New Year’s Eve.

EVERYTHING’S RELATIVITY

It’s official: Size matters. So said researchers at Canada’s McMaster University, who in 1996 were given Albert Einstein’s brain by retired pathologist Thomas Harvey, who had preserved it in formaldehyde since performing the 1955 autopsy. Their heady findings, released in June: Einstein’s inferior parietal lobe—the area of the brain that governs mathematical ability and spatial reasoning—was 15 percent larger than average, while a cleft found in most brains was missing, perhaps allowing for denser thought.

HIGH FFICE? ARE THEY HIGH?

Perhaps figuring that they’d already been absolutely corrupted by Tinseltown, several Hollywood types trained their sights on absolute power. Sitcom diva Cybill Shepherd threatened to run for President, horning in on actor Warren Beatty, who had speculated in The New York Times about seeking the job. Meanwhile, dark horse Al Lewis, 89, who played Grandpa on the ’60s sitcom The Munsters, mused momentarily about following up his failed A 1998 New York gubernatorial bid with a go at the Senate.

THE NOSE KNOWS

From the Pinocchio files: In May, Chicago researchers announced that the human nose becomes engorged with blood and thus “grows” when one lies; the effect is subtle, but the liar often gives himself away by touching his itching proboscis. Case in point: Studying tapes of President Clinton’s grand jury testimony about his relationship with Monica Lewinsky, the scientists found he repeatedly rubbed his nose. Meanwhile, Monica’s dad, Bernard Lewinsky, felt his blood boil when he got a plea for money from Clinton’s legal defense fund. “Return to sender,” the L.A. oncologist scrawled on the August solicitation. “You must be morons to send me this letter.”

EXPERIENCE COUNTS

O.J. Simpson appeared in five commercials for a toll-free lawyer-referral service. After all, as Simpson, acquitted in 1995 of the murders of wife Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman but ordered to pay $33.5 million in a later civil trial, told a reporter, “The main thing have learned is you can’t walk into a courtroom without competent legal representation.”

ALL I WANT FOR XMAS IS THE AUSTIN ACTION DOLL

With a firm “Zip it!” Republican presidential candidate George W. Bush marched his staff off to see Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me in June. Already adept at aping Dr. Evil’s trademark pinkie-on-lower-lip gesture, the would-be world power monger now “can’t get enough of Mini-Me,” said spokeswoman Mindy Tucker.

LOST IN SPACE

NASA’s Mars Polar Lander came so close, yet the $165 million module—which was to search for signs of subsurface ice on the red planet—ended up so far away. How far, no one knows; contact was lost before scheduled touchdown, and nobody’s heard a bleeping thing since. Given September’s loss of the $125 million Mars Climate Orbiter, “the team is getting more frustrated and tense,” said an engineer on the project, part of NASA’s “faster, cheaper” approach to exploration. Taxpayers felt their pain.

FASTER THAN AAA, AND, LIKE, WAY MORE FAMOUS

The British royal family’s promise to mix it up with more commoners was fulfilled in August, when Princes William and Harry jumped from their Range Rover to help computer salesman Simon Thompson and policeman Stephen James push their disabled BMW to the side of a London road. Across the pond, while touring near Calgary, a pj-clad Courtney Love and her band Hole took three victims of a July car wreck into their bus for bandages, TLC and—shades of Harry and Wills—hot tea.

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