The Hoaxes of Alan Abel
During the early 1950s, Alan Abel headed to New York City, hoping to establish himself as a comedian. Unfortunately, he had little luck getting work, so he had to take a desk job at the American Automobile Association. Bored to tears, he soon found himself playing pranks on unsuspecting customers by giving them bizarre driving instructions.
It was around this time that he began to realize he was more suited to a career as a full-time prankster than anything else. Still frustrated from trying to break into comedy by traditional routes, he also realized that hoaxing offered a great way to take matters into his own hands and gain media exposure that was otherwise being denied to him. His big breakthrough was the "Society for Indecency to Naked Animals" hoax in 1959 that launched him onto his career as a hoaxer.
By the mid-1970s he had become a well-known public figure, and he continued to practice his brand of irreverent humor during the following decades. Ideas for new hoaxes seemed to flow continually from his brain. He even managed to establish himself as something of a professional hoaxer by appearing for a fee at business conventions. He would pretend to be a serious speaker whose presentation would gradually grow stranger and stranger.
His stunts succeeded in amusing many and angering others, but they almost always commanded attention.
G. Clifford Prout was a man with a mission, and that mission was to put clothes on all the millions of naked animals throughout the world. To realize his dream, Prout founded an organization, the Society for Indecency to Naked Animals (abbreviated as SINA). It was left unexplained why the society was 'for indecency' not 'against indecency'.
Yetta Bronstein, a 48-year-old Bronx housewife, ran for President in 1964 and again in 1968 as the candidate for the Best Party. Her slogans were "Vote for Yetta and watch things get better" and "Put a mother in the White House."
Her proposals included national bingo, self-fluoridation, placing a suggestion box on the White House fence, and printing a nude picture of Jane Fonda on postage stamps "to ease the post office deficit and also give a little pleasure for six cents to those who can't afford Playboy magazine."
She promised she would staff her cabinet with "people who have failed in life and learned to live with it."
The New York Times
announced the death of Alan Abel on its obituary page on January 2, 1980. The well-known media hoaxer, it said, had died of a heart attack at a ski resort in Utah. The Times
provided a flattering account of Abel's career, noting that he had gained national recognition during the early 1960s on account of a faux campaign to promote decency by making animals wear clothes. There was just one problem. Abel wasn't dead. The Times
learned this when Abel held a press conference the next day in which he revealed that the news of his death was a hoax engineered by himself and a team of twelve accomplices.
During the taping of the Donahue
talk show, on January 21, 1985, seven members of the audience fainted. The producers of the show theorized that the hot temperature inside the studio caused the people to collapse, but a few days later it was revealed that "professional hoaxer" Alan Abel had paid them to pretend to faint. He said that the stunt was a protest against the deteriorating quality of daytime talk shows and claimed that a group called FAINT (Fight Against Idiotic Neurotic TV) had spearheaded the protest. "We want to raise the consciousness of the public by going unconscious," he said.