The Death of Lou Reed

Singer Lou Reed

An e-mail that was sent to hundreds of media outlets on Monday May 7, 2001 announced that Lou Reed, the famous rockstar and poet (shown above), had been found dead in his apartment on Sunday night. The e-mail was disguised to resemble a news briefing from Reuters news service. Its headline read, "Lou Reed, 57, Succumbs to Addictions."

The announcement that followed claimed that, "Reed was found dead in his apartment last night, apparently from an overdose of the painkiller Demerol." It also offered quotations from Reed's "close personal friends" in response to the news of his death. Some of these "friends" included David Bowie and former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.

The quotation from Madeleine Albright tipped some people off to the fact that the e-mail was a hoax. A few others noticed that Reed's age was given as 57, whereas Reed is actually 58. However, the e-mail apparently fooled the majority of its recipients. Chicago Radio Station WXRT, along with numerous other radio stations nationwide, broadcast the news of his death, only to hurriedly retract the information later. Reed's publicist was swamped by calls from reporters seeking more details. The publicist informed them all that Reed was actually quite alive and was currently in Amsterdam. The person responsible for the hoax is still unknown.

Phony death announcements have been a popular form of hoax over the years. Last year, on May 29, 2000, an announcement appeared in the Peruvian daily La Republica that nobel-prize winning author Gabriel Garcia Marquez had died. This false report quickly spread throughout the world via the internet. On January 2, 1980 the famous hoaxer Alan Abel faked his own death and managed to get his obituary published by the New York Times. On May 9, 1942 some students at New York University fooled the New York Times into publishing the obituary of one of their professors, Dr. William Baer, even though the man was still very much alive. And back in 1709 the satirist Jonathan Swift managed to convince most of London that the astrologer John Partridge had met an untimely demise from a "raging fever," much to the chagrin of Partridge himself who insisted that he wasn't quite dead yet.

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