Joey Skaggs, The Ultimate Hoax Meister

The following is reprinted from The Best of The Best of Uncle John's Bathroom Reader. Think everything you read in the newspaper or see on the news has been checked for accuracy? Think again. Sometimes the media will repeat whatever they're told ... and Joey Skaggs is the guy set out to prove it. Photo: Joey Skaggs MONKEY SEE, MONKEY DO Joey Skaggs' career as a hoax artist began in the mid-1960s when he first combined his art training with sociopolitical activism. He wanted to show that instead of being guardians of the truth, the media machine often runs stories without verifying the facts. And in proving his point, he perpetrated some pretty clever hoaxes.

HOAX#1: A CATHOUSE FOR DOGS In 1976 Skaggs ran an ad in New York's Village Voice for a dog bordello. For $50 Skaggs promised satisfaction for any sexually deprived Fido. Then he hosted a special "night in the cathouse for dogs" just for the media. A beautiful woman and her Saluki, both clad in tight red sweaters and bows, paraded up and down in front of the panting "clientele" (male dogs belonging to Skaggs' friends). The ASPCA lodged a slew of protests and had Skaggs arrested (and indicted) for cruelty to animals. The event was even featured on an Emmy-nominated WABC News documentary. But the joke was on them - the "dog bordello" never existed. (The charges were dropped.)

HOAX #2: SAVE THE GEODUCK! It's pronounced "gooey-duck" and it's a long-necked clam native to Puget Sound, Washington, with a digging muscle that bears a striking resemblance to the male reproductive organ of a horse. In 1987 Skaggs posed as a doctor (Dr. Long) and staged a protest rally in front of the Japan Society. Why? Because according to "Dr. Long," the geoduck was considered to be an aphrodisiac in Asia, and people were eating the mollusk into extinction. Although neither claim had the slightest basis in fact, Skaggs' "Clamscam" was good enough to sucker WNBC, UPI, the German news magazine Der Spiegel, and a number of Japanese papers into reporting the story as fact.

HOAX #3: MIRACLE ROACH HORMONE CURE Skaggs pretended to be an entomologist from Columbia named Dr. Josef Gregor in 1981. In an interview with WNBC-TV's Live at Five, "Dr. Gregor" claimed to have graduated from the University of Bogota, and said his "Miracle Roach Hormone Cure" cured the common cold, acne, and menstrual cramps. An amazed Skaggs remarked later, "Nobody ever checked my credentials." The interviewers didn't realize they were being had until Dr. Gregor played his theme song - La Cucaracha.

HOAX #4: SERGEANT BONES AND THE FAT SQUAD In 1986 Skaggs appeared on Good Morning, America as a former Marine Corps drill sergeant named Joe Bones, who was determined to stamp out obesity in the United States. Flanked by a squad of tough-looking commandos, Sergeant Bones announced that for "$300 a day plus expenses," his "Fat Squad" would infiltrate an overweight client's home and physically stop them from snacking. "You can hire us but you can't fire us," he deadpanned, staring into the camera. "Our commandos take no bribes." Reporters from the Philadelphia Enquirer, Washington Post, Miami Herald, and the New York Daily News all believed - and ran with - the story.

HOAX #5: MAQDANANDA, THE PSYCHIC ATTORNEY On April 1, 1994, Skaggs struck again with a 30-second TV spot in which he dressed like a swami. Seated on a pile of cushions, Maqdananda asked viewers, "Why deal with the legal system without knowing the outcome beforehand?" Along with normal third dimensional legal issues - divorce, accidental injury, wills, trusts - Maqdananda claimed he could help renegotiate contracts made in past lives, sue for psychic surgery malpractice, and help rectify psychic injustices. "There is no statute of limitations in the psychic realm," he said. Viewers just had to call the number at the bottom of their screen: 1-808-UCA-DADA. In Hawaii, CNN Headline News ran the spot 40 times during the week. When people called the number (and dozens did), they were greeted by the swami's voice on an answering machine, saying, "I knew you'd call." Skaggs later revealed that the swami - and his political statement about proliferation of New Age gurus and ambulance-chasing attorneys - was all a hoax.

The article above is reprinted with permission from The Best of the Best of Uncle John's Bathroom Reader. The Bathroom Reader Institute handpicked the most eye-opening, rib-tickling, and mind-boggling articles from everything they have written over the last ten years and carefully crammed them into 576 pages of the book. Since 1988, the Bathroom Reader Institute has published a series of popular books containing irresistible bits of trivia and obscure yet fascinating facts. Check out their website here: Bathroom Reader Institute.
BONUS: BULLSH*T AND BALLS, a document about Joey Skaggs. [YouTube Clip] More: Joey Skaggs website | Art of the Prank | Article at Wikipedia

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