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Alan Abel

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Alan Abel, a resident of Connecticut and a life long "professional hoaxer," died on Friday.  I mention this under general discussion because, in 1964, he and his wife, Jeanne , co-authored a book, The President I Almost Was, supposedly written by Mrs. Yetta Bronstein who ran an independent presidential campaign that year.  Yetta formed her own political party (The Best Party) and used the slogan, "Vote For Yetta And Things Will Get Betta."  They even handed out campaign materials in front of the White House and many, including members of the press, believed the campaign was real.  Mr. Abel, in 1959, also created a bogus campaign known as SINA (Society for Indecency to Naked Animals) and, in 1963, demanded that Mrs. Kennedy, then First Lady, clothe her naked horses especially when riding in the Virginia countryside.  Many news organizations, including the NY Times covered his 1963 protest outside of the White House.  He proposed clothing any animal that stood taller than four inches and longer than six inches and the press fell for it.

I mention all of this because Mr. Abel's hilarious and fictitious account of the 1964 presidential campaign has a chapter devoted to Yetta's campaign swing through the 1964 NY World's Fair.  She focuses on her aching feet, the crowds and fair food.  Not much is said about the issues of the day because, of course, the whole thing was a hoax.

Mr. Abel also has the unique distinction of tricking the NY Times into writing an obituary for him in 1980.  Mr. Abel got his family and friends in on the hoax and he went into hiding for several weeks and the Times reported his death of a heart attack with the headline:  Alan Abel, Satirist Created Campaign To Clothe Animals.  This time, following his death on Friday of this week, the Times did full research to be certain Mr. Abel was, indeed, dead.  The Times notes that Mr. Abel "apparently did die" at his Connecticut home on Friday.  That bogus obituary, written in full faith in 1980, prompted the Times to print the only retraction for such a fake obituary in its long history.  Today's accurate obit calls Mr. Abel "an American original" much like P.T. Barnum.

In a crazy world that seems to become nuttier each day, Mr. Abel was a remarkable character who brought humor and joy.

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/09/17/obituaries/alan-abel-dies.html

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As I think about Mr. Abel and the joy he found in his hilarious hoaxes, I think of Don Novello's book, The Lazlo Letters.  It was actually one of several books he wrote using the name, Lazlo Toth.  (The real Toth was the man who attacked the Pieta with a hammer.)  In any event,  Novello's four books are hilarious because he tweaks the noses of corporate ceo's, politicians, television actors and other well known people.  The letters appear to be from a writer who is rather clueless, highly opinionated and not terribly bright.  They are funny, but the responses he received and prints in his books are funny beyond words.  Many recipients believe he is a real customer or constituent and they respond accordingly.  Those responses make one wonder how anyone could be sitting in an office seriously responding to the nonsense Toth has sent them.  For example, NASA's response to Toth's questions about how much it would cost to drive a car to the Moon (standard transmission, compact, self-serve gasoline,) is incredibly funny.  As I recall, the NASA writer spends two pages explaining why it would be impossible to drive to the  Moon "because there is no road."  Toth's letter expressing outrage to the Mars company after finding two M&Ms melted together in a pack he had purchased is another example of Novello's wit.  He tells them they are unAmerican because they fail to realize the national embarrassment such a discovery of flawed M&MS might cause if a communist had purchased that package.  That was over forty years ago, of course.  As I recall, Mars responded by defending their manufacturing process and sending him a case of free candy.  Don Novello also played Father Guido Sarducci on SNL many years ago.

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I read one of those books! Great!

I remember on SNL his hawking the Mr Coffee spin off product, Mr. Tea, in which boiled water trickled uselessly through a machine before filling a cup w a teabag placed inside.

Prior to SNL the good father added to his sharp dressed priest persona as Rock Critic and Gossip Columnist for the Vatican Newspaper in regular appearances on the Dean Martin Show. 

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I had forgotten all about Mr. Tea!  That was hilarious.  I love the way you remember that skit ("boiled water trickled uselessly through a machine").  You made me laugh aloud with that wonderful memory.  Thank you.

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