previously resisted calls from within the BEAST offices and without
to record these revelations of my clumsy forays into a world of undercover
journalism rife with bungled subterfuge, potentially criminal behavior and
shameful cowardice. It would, or will rather, be an unflattering tale of
villainous failure, botched cons, meanspirited hijinks and plain stupidity.
For those reasons I have remained silent until now. However, I have been officially
assigned the painful task of recounting these events as they happened. Pranks
and hoaxes take time, thought and grace under pressure. As you will learn,
sometimes things don’t go as envisioned. For the readers’ sake and my own,
I hope that I don’t fail so miserably in the telling of these stories as I
did in living them. Some names have been changed to protect the innocent.
1: Disgrace Under Pressure
abortive episode started when it occurred to me that it would
be easy to infiltrate the Erie County chapter of the Young
Republicans. I didn’t know quite what I planned to do once
I achieved this objective, but I figured I’d come up with
adopted the persona of independently wealthy freelance marketing
consultant Chad Steal. My first encounter with then Young
Republicans chairman Bob Richards and an unidentified GOP
female aged 40-50, had frazzled my nerves and set the stage
for an imminent disaster. Something about Republicans in their
natural habitat just scares the hell out of me.
an Armani suit, Bruno Magli shoes, and a fresh Fantastic Sam’s
crew cut, I made sure to park my battered Nissan far from
the foreboding Republican lair on the ground floor of the
Statler. I may have looked like Chad Steal, but with each
step my confidence waned and my shirt grew damp with unrelenting
perspiration. I hadn’t anticipated the strength of my involuntary
nervous response. I entered the elephant den in a dither and
the female’s eyes focused in, sizing me up.
“Can I help you?”
she asked, with the faux pleasantness of a corporate receptionist.
My pulse quickened
and a heated blush worked over my face in anticipation of the biggest lie
I have ever told. “I just wanted to support the cause and get involved,” I
said through a clenched smile. I inquired about the YRs and she explained
the protocol of attending Buffalo Bandits games as a Republican bonding ritual,
adding that it was mostly “kid stuff.” I wondered if I could actually survive
an evening of pro lacrosse, supply-side economics and Clinton-bashing. Disoriented,
I barely managed to spit out “sounds great” over the deafening flight response
ringing through my entire body. She promptly left the room to report news
of my arrival to the alpha male, chairman Bob. Alone in the GOP lobby, I repeated
the phrase, “hi, I’m Chad Steal – bona fide Republican tool” over and over
in my mind to assuage my anxiety.
The YR chairman
came barreling at me from around the corner with his eager meat paw extended
and the female drone trailing behind. I hastily wiped the nervous sweat from
my palms. We grasped hands, momentarily squeezing for dominance just before
mutually backing off, as if to say we were nice guys. We exchanged names,
nods and Bob was also excited to hear “I just wanted to support the cause
and get involved.” It was the end of business hours and he looked tired, yet
managed to beam a menacing smile for a promising new recruit. Bob thought
it was “great” and took an efficient vector toward the appropriate forms,
leaving me alone with the female again.
“What do you
do?” she inquired.
“I’m a, ah, a
free lance marketing consultant” I stammered, staring blankly into an abyss
of Republican signage, trying to avoid eye contact.
She struck a
curious, professional posture and asked me what the job was like on a “day
to day basis?”
I had no idea.
After a few dense moments of silence, I involuntarily smiled and told her
in a meek tone that I “consulted businesses on marketing.” Sensing she had
not been satiated in the least, I launched into an incoherent ad lib on “maximizing
potential and profitability.” Lacking cogence and emitted in a squeaky staccato,
my rambling must have made clear I had little to no idea what I was talking
about. I wiped my forehead with my sleeve and she slowly lipped an “uh huh”
as her confused gaze tightened into what I gathered was subtle suspicion.
came bustling back with the paper work, momentarily breaking the tension.
He demanded to know where I had heard of the organization and threatened me
with the aforementioned Bandits game. Beyond my palpable nervousness, things
were going smoothly. I managed to say “oh cool” a couple of times, sign a
form and give Bob the ten dollars in cash before making a fool of myself.
“Can I have a
receipt?” I asked. I don’t know where it came from; I guess I just thought
it sounded like something a Republican would say.
beady sunken eyes filled with astonishment at the notion I didn’t know you
can’t deduct contributions to a political party. That is something the successful
Mr. Steal should have known. That is something I should have known. My face
again began to redden. Bob imposed some self restraint, gave a little chuckle
and told me that a receipt was useless.
I pushed it,
to make it seem more like a compulsion than a mistake. “I just like to have
them. You know, um, receipts.”
He didn’t bother
to ask why, nor did he question the odd, overwrought spelling of my already
fake-sounding pseudonym, much to my relief. I was prepared to tell him the
receipt was for a GOP collage and that I descended from pirates, if it would
get me out of there. We both agreed it was “nice to meet you” and that I would
be attending the weekly Friday meeting. I practically jumped through the glass
door onto the street.
Steal obviously needed some work. I designed a ridiculous
business card featuring a waving American flag and an F-16
fighter jet. I concocted a backstory of family wealth on my
mother’s side and vigorous business travel. I went so far
as to burn myself in a tanning booth, so my pasty complexion
would not betray my fantastic yarns. I even took such lengths
as to acquire a BMW, for a respectably moneyed arrival at
the Friday meeting. Chad was ready, I thought.
That Friday I
parked right in front of the Statler, finished a cigarette and tried to forget
the reality that I only had this one nice set of clothes, and I’d already
been seen in it. Would Bob notice? The idea of being called out on my poverty
by these rich twats did not jive with the plan, and might even trigger a psychotic
episode. Momentarily putting this fear aside, I managed to stroll in with
a good deal more confidence than I had in my first encounter, knowing at least
one of the YRs inside saw me get out of the beamer.
doorway, the distinct smell of pizza and wings threw me off for a moment.
“This could be fun; just try to be yourself,” I thought. A gaggle of superbly
groomed young men were roused by the sight of a new member and began to circle
in. I was greeted by a lanky, freckled, red-haired chap. “Just act like yourself
– but with money,” I thought as the little freckled Eichmann approached. He
told me his name, we shook hands and then it happened: I loudly and clearly
said “hi, my name is Ian.”
My heart stopped,
my pores started pumping, and I felt my eyes involuntarily pulled toward a
conference room, beyond the mini-lobby, covered in red, white and blue campaign
slogans. Bob was sitting at the helm of a table, shooting me lasers from the
small dark eyes hiding under his well-defined brow.
He had heard
me. The jig was up. I said the wrong name and I had to flee. I skittishly
looked back at the now-confused group of Republican brothers waiting to press
my flesh and show me the ropes. “I’ll be right back—I have to use the bathroom,”
I shouted frantically, making a quick 180-degree pivot.
“You can use
the bathroom here,” freckles said, pointing down a stairwell.
I could only
look at him, say “I’ll be right back,” run away, tail between my legs, thwarted
by my own idiocy. In the world of prankery, there are no second takes.
Church invasion goes awry