Guitarist Esteban Cleans Up Aisle 9 of Florida Wal-Mart

Esteban, the guitarist who once saved a bunch of money on his car insurance in a TV ad, can now boast that has cleaned up at a Florida Wal-Mart.

Sandwiched between tubs of I Can't Believe It's Not Butter and bottles of Carlo Rossi wine, the classically trained guitarist serenaded bargain shoppers recently with songs from his latest album at a Casselberry, Fla., Wal-Mart, the Orlando Sentinel reports.

About 100 people, both young and old, turned out for the show by the Zorro-like performer on a tiny stage in the store.

"He's got that mystical look about him," said Julie Poupard, 36, a nurse from Maitland who attended the concert. "When I saw him, it was like, 'Oh, my goodness.' It would be like meeting Stevie Ray Vaughan. He's a true musician, not like that Top 40 junk you hear on the radio."

It was the first Wal-Mart show for the 57-year-old guitarist, born Stephen Paul in Pittsburgh and best known to most of America from his appearance on a Geico commercial.

Esteban told the paper how his performance stacked up to his harrowing recovery from injuries caused by a drunk driver in 1980.

"When you go through losing what is your life, well, I appreciate things more," the guitarist told the paper during a pre-show interview in the Wal-Mart employee lounge. "I'm very blessed to be able to play again. It's a deep experience for me to play music again, bro, even if it's in Wal-Mart."

23 Can't Skidoo Thanks to Portly South African Spelunker

All was dark, damp and anything but quiet on New Year's Day for 23 spelunkers in South Africa trapped in a cave after an overweight woman got stuck in a passageway.

The woman was trapped for nearly 12 hours after getting stuck around noon in the "Tunnel of Love" in the Cango Caves in the Western Cape of South Africa, Agence France-Press reported.

"She was really quite a large woman," Hein Gerstner, the manager of the caves, told AFP. "She was forewarned at the ticket office and by the guide that she might have difficulty on the tour, but she insisted on going along."

As workers attempted to remove her, rescuers were able to get chocolate bars, blankets and ablution buckets to the 23 people trapped behind her; that group included two asthmatic children and a diabetic.

Workers freed the woman around 11:30 p.m.

"We used liquid paraffin to grease the surface area and used a pulley to lift her," said Hein Gerstner, the manager of the caves. "She was eventually carried out on a stretcher."

Contestants Ready, Set to Recline in Couch Potato Contest

CHICAGO (AP) — Putting in grueling hours of couch-potato training just to win a TV sports-viewing marathon is inadvisable, according to Jason Pisarik, who should know.

"My wife would kill me if I did," the Lombard, Ill., accountant said Monday from a recliner chair in front of a 15-foot screen tuned to a college football bowl game.

Pisarik was back at the ESPN Zone sports bar to defend his title in the fifth annual Ultimate Couch Potato Contest. He endured 30 consecutive hours of TV sports a year ago.

The winner gets a prize package valued at almost $5,000, including a 42-inch high-definition television, gift certificates and a trophy featuring a live spud. Every competitor making it past the 12-hour mark receives a leather recliner.

"I couldn't think of anything better than to sit and watch a bunch of games and get served food and drink all day," said Pisarik, wearing a Mike Ditka jersey.

The going only gets tough, he said, when the restaurant closes for the night and the 13 TV screens in front of the four contestants show mostly ESPN SportsCenter over and over.

Stacy Gleason, a mother of three and the only woman in the competition, struggled to banish thoughts of all the laundry, cleaning and other household chores she could be doing.

"I don't know how guys do it," said a smiling Gleason, 39, a paralegal from Lowell, Ind. "I'm doing this for girls everywhere who don't get to do this while their husbands morph into the furniture watching sports on TV."

Contestants, selected on the basis of their 200-word essays, are allowed a five-minute break every hour and a 15-minute break every eight hours but must otherwise be looking constantly at the screen.

Swedes Trumpet Survival of Goat of Christmas Past

STOCKHOLM, Sweden (AP) — A giant straw goat that has been the target of a violent Christmas tradition for four decades survived the holiday season unharmed, Swedish officials said Tuesday.

For once, they said, vandals failed to burn it down.

The city of Gavle dismantled the 43-foot-high Christmas monument Tuesday, marking a rare victory against vandals who have made it a sport to destroy the goat in imaginative ways before Christmas every year.

It is only the 12th time in the goat's 40-year history that it had survived unscathed, said Anna Ostman, a spokeswoman for the city's goat committee. Since it was first erected on Dec. 3 1966, the goat has been burned down 22 times, smashed several times, run over by a car and had its legs cut off.

This year's goat was attacked by would-be arsonists in mid-December, but survived thanks to a new flame-resistant chemical coating.

"If the Gavle goat hadn't been impregnated with flame-resistant chemicals, we would have been left with a black skeleton," Ostman said.

The straw goat would be kept in a secret location until next Christmas, officials said.

Last year's goat was burned down by vandals dressed as Santa Claus and the Gingerbread Man. They were never caught.

Criminal Masterminds Obviously Not Hiding Out in Wichita

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Warning: The following crime stories are true, ripped from the pages of Wichita police reports in 2006. Laugh at your own risk.

A woman came to the back door of a local fast-food restaurant and ordered a corn dog. When the waitress arrived with the order, police reported, a second woman wearing a black mask and wielding a gun walked up and demanded money.

The caper had a fatal flaw, however.

The waitress recognized the woman with the gun, police said. She had stopped in earlier that day to apply for jobs and talked at length with the waitress.

Then there were the two masked robbers who walked into the Dillons at 13th and Woodlawn early one June morning, forced their way into the cashier's cage and demanded money.

The cashier recognized one of them as a fellow employee, police said. He showed up for his shift later that morning — driving the same vehicle witnesses say was used in the robbery — and was arrested.

Several times each year, Wichita police say, there are cases in which ... well, let's just say folks didn't think things all the way through.

One man claimed he had been robbed by two people armed with handguns, Capt. Darrell Haynes said. They demanded that he give them his motorcycle and keys and sign the title over to them.

But police found out that he had thrown a party at his house and bought large amounts of crack for everyone there. He spent $12,000 in less than 24 hours, then signed over his new motorcycle for still more crack.

Another time, a woman called police to report that a man forced her at gunpoint to give him money at the business where she worked, then took her to the cooler, tried to rape her and locked her inside.

She said she struggled to escape for 45 minutes, and then remembered she had a cell phone. So she called police.

When police arrived, they couldn't get into the business — so the half-naked woman came to the door to let them in.

During her interview the next day, she could not explain how she could let the officers in the door if she was locked inside the cooler. She confessed she had taken the money herself to pay for an attorney.

Then there was the 24-year-old man who summoned police in December, reporting that he had been the victim of an armed robbery.

What was stolen?

A pound of marijuana, worth about $1,100, that he had been trying to sell at his home.

But the buyer pulled out a sawed-off shotgun and stole the marijuana, the victim told authorities after calling 911.

"I guess there's no honor amongst dopers," Haynes said.

The victim was booked into Sedgwick County Jail on several charges, including possession with the intent to sell drugs.

The strangest incident may well have been the dispute that erupted between four people in November.

Police said a 23-year-old man fired a shot at a teen, and then jammed the gun into his pants.

The gun went off, and the bullet hit the man's left testicle. He flinched, causing the gun to fire again and hit him in the leg.

When the man made his first court appearance a couple of days later, he was in a wheelchair.

That's something every male would understand.

Compiled by's Sara Bonisteel.

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