The Prank Confessional Booth at the 1992 Democratic Convention

A priest came to the 1992 Democratic National Convention in New York City. He rode a tricycle and hauled a confession booth that was labeled "Portofess." Father Anthony Joseph announced he was ready to take confession from any and all politicians who wanted to unload their sins. After some publicity, it turned out that the priest was actually artist and prankster Joey Skaggs (previously at Neatorama), who tells the story of the Portofess.

There are thousands of journalists there, waiting for action. They’re hungry for something. I had a professional furniture maker spray the booth so it looked well finished. I had a fine craftsman working with me. It wasn’t a refrigerator box on the back of the tricycle. I had a beautiful full priest outfit—I was walking down Broadway, and saw a priest outside a church. I asked him, “Excuse me, Father, where do you get your threads?” He invited me in and showed me the catalog they used to order all their clothes. He said, do you want one? I’ve got extras here. I ordered the whole outfit from there.

Everything is in the detail. I’m very detail-oriented because that’s what’s convincing. The sculpture looks beautifully well made. I had glasses on, and I just looked the part of a priest. Of course, I had friends who would come and step into the confessional booth and tell me dirty jokes. I had a tape-player playing Gregorian chants. I had a little flyer to hand out, saying “Religion on the move, for people on the go.” I had a little basket on my tricycle in the front and people—especially journalists—reached in to take that. I said I had pedaled all the way from California. The story and the visuals were too good.

He had actors come into the confession booth, but also heard from strangers who revealed probably more than they should have. Read the rest of the interview with Skaggs at Atlas Obscura.

(Image credit: Joey Skaggs Archive)


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