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Hail to the hoaxer-in-chief
« on: October 21, 2018, 01:38:45 PM »

One born every minute

Obituary: Alan Abel died on September 14th
America’s hoaxer-in-chief was 94


20181006_OBP002_1 - Hail to the hoaxer-in-chief - Obituary

The Economist
Print edition
Oct 4th 2018

SINCE there are few folk more gullible than editors and reporters desperate to fill the front page, an invitation covertly devised by Alan Abel was sure to pull them in. The venue was often some swank hotel, with food and liquor served. And the guest would fit the fever of the moment. In 1972 journalists packed in to see Howard Hughes, the reclusive billionaire, who appeared scarved in bandages to announce that he was going to be frozen cryogenically, and would emerge when the stock market peaked. In 1974 they were summoned to hear a former White House employee play the missing 18½ minutes of the Watergate tapes on an impressively cumbersome, but mute, machine. Two years later 150 pressmen elbowed each other frantically to meet Deep Throat, the source of Watergate secrets, who to their surprise mostly spent the conference arguing with his wife, and left in an ambulance.

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Re: Hail to the hoaxer-in-chief
« Reply #1 on: October 21, 2018, 01:42:46 PM »

Perhaps the best event was in the Omni Park Central in Manhattan in 1990 to announce the winner of the $35m jackpot in the New York State Lotto. All the press came. Champagne flowed as Charlene Taylor, a pretty cosmetologist from Dobbs Ferry, announced that she would spend the money to install restrooms on the subway. Dollar bills were thrown from the window to increase the crowd. The party was on the fourth floor so that journalists would race down the stairs to spread the wild excitement, and they did: “$35M AND SHE’S SINGLE!” cried the New York Post.

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Re: Hail to the hoaxer-in-chief
« Reply #2 on: October 21, 2018, 01:43:17 PM »

Mr Abel’s targets were not only foolish hacks and lazy fact-checkers—as well as the scalpers who ran the Lotto—but anyone eager to censor what the press could say or show. Hence his Society for Indecency to Naked Animals (SINA, founded 1958, president, G. Clifford Prout), inspired when he found himself stuck in traffic in Texas by a cow and bull having sex on the highway. For the sake of public decency, he recommended shorts for any creature taller than four inches or longer than six, and encouraged people to report neighbours taking naked pets for walks. The society got serious coverage on the “Today Show” and from Walter Cronkite, gained 50,000 members (said its founder) and, though exposed after four years, ran on and on.

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Re: Hail to the hoaxer-in-chief
« Reply #3 on: October 21, 2018, 01:44:02 PM »

Betta with Yetta

Americans, he sometimes sighed, were a nation of sheep. If he looked up at the sky, people round him did. When his father put “Limit—two per customer” on hard-to-shift items in his general store in Coshocton, Ohio, they sold in a minute. But he was on Everyman’s side. He suggested a plastic arm should be sewn on people’s spines, to give them a tripod to sit on while in line. He put up ads in the subway (“Squid for sale. Harmless and lovable”), to add interest to weary lives. His book “Don’t Get Mad, Get Even”, told poor saps how they could legally retaliate when clods kept dumping on them. In 1964 and 1968 he ran the campaigns of Yetta Bronstein, a cab driver’s wife from the Bronx (aka his own wife, Jeanne), for the presidency. Yetta offered bagels for votes, the chicken-soup comfort of a Jewish mother in the White House, and a cabinet staffed with people who had failed in life but learned to live with it. She also proposed putting truth serum in the Senate drinking fountain.

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Re: Hail to the hoaxer-in-chief
« Reply #4 on: October 21, 2018, 01:44:52 PM »

Her manager’s career was somewhat crazy, as many pointed out. He was in fact a first-rate jazz drummer, and could almost have made a career in that. But being Count von Blitzstein, Rufus Thunderberg, Dr Harrison T. Rogers or Martin Swagg junior proved much more fun. He had the sort of serious plain face people couldn’t be sure whether they had seen before, which was useful. The press moved more slowly in those days, which was useful too. It wasn’t hard to create a little havoc and, at times, administer a kick in the intellect.

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Re: Hail to the hoaxer-in-chief
« Reply #5 on: October 21, 2018, 01:45:21 PM »

There was certainly no money in it. His elaborate planning—official press releases, bookings of hotel suites, dedicated phone lines—was expensive. Cheques sent to SINA, one for $40,000, were fondled but returned. A few angels helped, as did his band of merry pranksters, actor friends. Several were filmed attending Omar’s School for Beggars, founded during the recession of the 1970s to teach the art of creative panhandling with good clothes and nice manners. It made Omar rich; he appeared on TV, hooded, with an enormous cigar. Strangely it brought nothing to the rusty railroad caboose in the woods where Mr Abel plotted, with pencil and plain pad, what he might do next.

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Re: Hail to the hoaxer-in-chief
« Reply #6 on: October 21, 2018, 01:45:56 PM »

And then in 1980 he died. His skis were found in the shape of a cross at Robert Redford’s resort in Sundance, Utah. An undertaker gathered up his few belongings, his wake was announced, and an actress playing his wife called the New York Times. The Times ran an eight-inch obituary, two inches longer than for the guy who invented the six-pack. It then had to retract it when, miraculously, he rose again.

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Re: Hail to the hoaxer-in-chief
« Reply #7 on: October 21, 2018, 01:46:53 PM »

If he had waited another decade or two he could have enjoyed one of his Euthanasia Cruises, which offered the chance to expire in luxury. He could have boarded a three-masted sloop, The Last Supper, at Fort Lauderdale, enjoying dancing, gambling and one-on-one therapy from beautiful social workers, until the ship listed gently to one side in international waters. He had already made the voyage, as a reporter with a rare round-trip ticket. And some reporters would believe anything.


This article appeared in the Obituary section of the print edition under the headline "One born every minute"
Print edition | Obituary
Oct 4th 2018
The Economist
https://www.economist.com/

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