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  • Who are you callin' `Weird''

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  • Concert long overdue for fan
    For Jon Harper, seeing Weird Al Yankovic perform tonightat the Jackson County Expo in Central Point is a dream come true. It justtook four years longer than it was supposed to.
    Harper has been a major Weird Al fan half his life.
    I think he's so funny, says the Central Point 16-year-old.
    The Grammy-winning singer is famous for his off-center parodies of poptunes, including Eat It, Like a Surgeon and SmellsLike Nirvana.
    Harper planned to see Yankovic for the first time when the singer appearedat the Jackson County Fair in July 1993. But Jon, then 12, was in a terribleaccident that June 23. When the show took place, he was battling for hislife in a Portland hospital.
    Jon had gone fishing at the Oregon Coast that day. Later he went joggingin Stayton with his older brother, Daniel. He never saw the car that hithim.
    It split his skull from one side around the back and up the otherside to the front, says Jon's mother, Ruth.
    He was taken to Portland's Legacy Emanuel Hospital by helicopter andrushed into emergency surgery with the skull fracture, brain damage, a brokenshoulder, a broken collarbone and a leg broken in three places.
    He was in the hospital almost two months. He has has no memory of theaccident. The first thing he remembers is lying in his mother's bed severalmonths after the accident. An autographed picture of Weird Al was nearby.
    For a long time he was calling me his `fake mama,' and callinghis hand his foot, Ruth Harper says. He had a lot of troublewith words. Then one day he looked at me and said, `My real mom!'
    He was in a wheelchair for six months, and his right arm was paralyzedfor a year.
    Ruth Harper figures the same off-beat sense of humor that attracted herson to Weird Al helped pull him through.
    Jon's father, David, sold the boat the family had used on the fishingtrip.
    Every time he looked at it, he saw Jon lying in the road, twistedand covered with blood, Ruth says.
    Harper says his admiration for Weird Al started when he heard the songDare to Be Stupid on a tape of his sister's when he was 8 or9 years old. Soon he knew the lyrics to songs like Eat It andMy Bologna and was doing Weird Al imitations for friends.
    Then came news of the concert, and then the accident. As Jon lay unconscious,his sister Debbie called radio personality R. Charles Snyder in Medfordand told him Jon's story, and Snyder arranged for a photo of the entertainerfor Jon. It hangs in his bedroom today. A handwritten note says, Jon,Get well soon. Your pal, Weird Al Yankovic.
    Today, Jon Harper has seven steel plates in his head and a collectionof interesting scars. When he tries to raise his right arm, his right handcloses involuntarily. His vision, once 20-15, is 20-200.
    I see OK with my glasses, he says outside the family's homein rural Central Point, relaxing after an eight-hour day at his summer jobhelping the janitors with the summer cleaning at Crater High School.
    I can't run anymore. It hurts. But I'm getting stronger. Doingpushups helps.
    In his years of rehabilitation, Jon regaled therapists with Weird Alsongs. The words to, say, Like a Surgeon ­ a parody of Madonna'sLike a Virgin ­ would suddenly come drifting out of theX-ray lab.
    Among nearly a dozen Yankovic albums in Harper's collection, he sayshis favorite is probably Dare to Be Stupid. He says the currentBad Hair Day CD, with hits like Amish Paradise,a send-up of Coolio's Gangsta's Paradise, is right up there,too.
    I think he's preaching truth, Harper says of Yankovic. Ithink of him as a funny, nice person.
    But weird, Ruth Harper says.
    And nice, Jon adds.
    When Weird Al takes the stage at the Expo tonight, Jon plans to be there.He even has a couple of free tickets, courtesy of TCI, one of the show'ssponsors.
    As if that weren't enough, they heard Jon's story this week at ScottiBrothers Records in Santa Monica, Calif., Yankovic's record company. Asa result, a backstage pass is waiting with his name on it.
    Jon figures it doesn't get any better than that.

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