Genius moments: March 2008

The cruellest cut

When the Royal Opera House dug up an old photo to promote a production of Verdi's Rigoletto in which Juan Pablo di Pace had long ago appeared, there was something amiss – namely, di Pace's penis. Di Pace's lawyers demanded the ROH withdraw the offending image, which features di Pace, naked, centre-stage in a chorus scene, because his manhood had been airbrushed to within an inch of its life. The ROH acquiesced and cleaned up the poster.

Good hair day for McCartney's lawyer

It was billed as the divorce battle of the decade – a multimillionaire Beatle separating from his money-grabbing wife. But when Heather Mills discovered that she had not obtained the divorce settlement she had hoped for (a "mere" £24.3m), she decided to take her revenge – on Paul McCartney's barrister, Fiona Shackleton. Observers witnessed Mills pouring a bottle of High Court water over the unfortunate lawyer. The former glamour model later said she had "baptised" Shackleton. As it happened, McCartney's legal team still had the last laugh. Shackleton had gone into the final day's proceedings looking a little bouffant and emerged, thanks to Mucca, immeasurably sexier.

Blues and twos

Joshua Brookes was just two years old when he found his mother on the floor of his Wigan home. Terrified but undaunted, Joshua phoned 999, crying "Mummy won't wake up." An enterprising operator asked him what name Santa put on his presents; Joshua then stood on a box to open the front door to the paramedics. The boy's mother, who suffers from a heart condition, made a full recovery.

The mother of all fathers

When pictures of a pregnant Thomas Beatie circulated the internet, most of us cried "hoax". But Beatie was for real. Born Tracy Lagondino, the bearded Oregon screenprinter kept her reproductive organs when she had surgery to become a man. His wife, Nancy, had had a hysterectomy, so Beatie agreed to "mother" her child after a trip to the sperm bank. Susan was born on 29 June. Beatie is now expecting a second child.

...and now over to the giggling Ms Green

A Charlotte Green fit of the giggles on the Today programme, and a vintage one. Following the broadcast of a snatch of the earliest known sound recording, a murky blast of someone "singing" Au Clair de la Lune from 1860, Green lost her composure. The problem was that she corpsed in the middle of an item commemorating the death of screenwriter Abby Mann. James Naughtie did the gallant thing and stepped in to rescue her. The BBC switchboard registered, it was reported, 33 appreciations of Green's breakdown.

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