As readers of Chautauqua know, I’ve been acquiring a heightened awareness of gluten sensitivity. Linked to disorders as disparate and seemingly unrelated as Bonkus of the Konkus and chronic valetudinarianism, gluten also can be traced to innumerable behavioral discombobulations. Here are some of the more notable peculiarities:

  • Mark “The Bird” Fidrych was well-known for antics such as grooming the pitcher’s mound with his hands, wearing his pajamas under his uniform, conducting seances with the ball, and disputing umpiring calls in Swahili. CAT scans revealed the frontal lobe of his cerebral cortex had been aberrantly wired by gluten in the Wheaties he ate for lunch every day. (He also ate three chili-cheese dogs with mustard and onions for breakfast on rolls also rife with gluten.)
  • RAF Leftenant, Alistair “The Groundhog” Smythe-Smythe, brilliantly portrayed by Fred MacMurray in The Great Escape, exhibited a compulsion to ingest dirt. Recognizing the difficulty his fellow prisoners would have in disposing of the earth they displaced in their burrowing, The Groundhog ate it. This compulsion was later attributed to the high concentrations of gluten in the crumpets in which The Groundhog liberally indulged with his spot of afternoon tea.
  • Dennis “The Statesman” Rodman, self-appointed Ambassador to North Korea. Rodman’s long career of lunacy — and his incoherent jabbering on CNN — have been traced to the gluten in grain-based beverages.
  • Kim Jong “The Half-Pint Butcher” Un, Grand High Exalted Executioner of North Korea, suffers from agoraphobia (plus paranoid schizophrenia, delusions of grandeur, acute Napoleon Complex, and overpowering halitosis). While there is no definitive clinical evidence to correlate the sawed-off little megalomaniac’s physical and psychological maladjustments to gluten, the wheat and barley in the Soju he and The Statesman guzzled during their love-fests may be a link.

Since three of the five gluten-intolerants above also are public nuisances, the importance of our being vigilant to the perils of gluten can’t be overstated. While its physical effects are as obvious as they are deleterious, its mental effects may be worse. Either way, gluten is nothing to trifle with.

Just how serious is it? Dr. Oz dedicated an entire show to it. One woman on the program, Jennifer, suffered so miserably that Dr. Oz was compelled to tell her, choking back emotion, “It’s not bad. But it’s probably not who you could be in life.”

That’s right. Jennifer’s Gluten Sensitivity made her someone else, at least in life. (No one’s sure who she was anywhere else.) Who’d have thought gluten — even with the other deplorable things of which it’s capable — could alter our very identities?

You’d have to be a gluten for punishment to mess with this stuff.

Image by ClkerFreeVectorImages, courtesy of