April is indeed the month for foolishness…
So there is this long-running tradition of playing practical jokes on people on the first day of April. Throughout modern history, there have been some fun tricks of relatively large scales wrought on the unsuspecting public. Here are ten that were voted especially noteworthy by my college here in Texas.
In 1992, National Public Radio’s “Talk of the Nation” announced Richard Milhouse Nixon’s run for the White House, again. His new slogan: “I didn’t do anything wrong, and I won’t do it again.” NPR played clips of Nixon delivering a candidacy speech. During the second half of the show, the cat was let out of the bag. Comedian Rich Little impersonated Nixon’s voice.
In 1998, fast-food titan Burger King published a full-page ad in USA Today announcing the “Left-Handed Whopper.” Designed for America’s southpaws, the “Left-Handed Whopper” included the same ingredients as the original but they were all rotated 180 degrees. A press release was released the next day outing the hoax, but adding that thousands had asked for a “Left-Handed Whopper”; still others had requested their regular right-handed varieties.
The Madison Capital-Times, in 1933, announced that the Wisconsin state capitol building lay in ruins due to some mysterious explosions. According to the article, the explosions were due to “large quantities of gas, generated through many weeks of verbose debate in the Senate and Assembly chambers.” With the story ran a photo of the building collapsing.
It was in 1995 when the Irish Times reported that the Disney Corporation was on the brink of buying the embalmed corpse of deceased Russian communist leader Vlad Lenin. On display in Red Square since his death, Lenin’s body would be moved to the new Euro Disney. T-shirts would be sold and Lenin’s flaccid remains would be given the “full Disney treatment.”
The Wall of Sound music website, in 1999, reported that famed pop pixie Britney Spears was actually 28 years old, not 17. According to the site, the diva was born Belinda Sue Spearson in West Baton Rouge, La., on Aug. 7, 1970.
In 1996, Taco Bell announced that it had purchased the revered landmark of American independence, the Liberty Bell, and renamed it the Taco Liberty Bell. Hundreds of angry, freedom-lovin’ Americans called and complained to the National Historic Park in Philadelphia. When asked about it, White House press secretary Mike McCurry said the Lincoln Memorial had been sold and was now known as the Ford Lincoln Mercury Memorial.
According to an April 1998 edition of the New Mexicans for Science and Reason newsletter, the Alabama state legislature had approved to change the value of pi from 3.14159 to the “Biblical value” of 3.0. Through the efficiency of the Internet, the story took off. The article was written by physicist Mark Boslough as a parody of legislative attempts to circumscribe the teaching of evolution.
Often regarded as the coup de grace of April’s Fools, the Swiss Spaghetti Harvest took place in 1957 when a BBC news show, Panorama, announced that Swiss farmers were enjoying a hearty spaghetti crop. A mild winter had eliminated the spaghetti weevil so thousands of viewers saw footage of Swiss farmers reaping a large pasta harvest. The naive viewers began calling asking how to start their own spaghetti crop and BBC replied that they should “Place a sprig of spaghetti in a tin of tomato sauce and hope for the best.”
Not to be outdone by the British, the Swedes, in 1962, duped its viewers that color TV had arrived, virtually in an instant. At the time, there was only one TV channel in Sweden and it was black and white. So, technical expert Kjell Stensson made an on-air announcement stating that viewers could easily convert their set to display color by pulling a nylon stocking over the screen and they would then begin to see color. Allegedly, hundreds of thousands were taken in. Color TV eventually did arrive in Sweden on April 1, 1970. For real this time.
It’s something when you are referred to as an “infamous prankster,” but the Queen’s Horace de Vere Cole was just that. Rumored to be behind the Piltdown Man hoax and undoubtedly behind the Dreadnought hoax, Cole pulled a fast one April 1, 1919. It was on that morning that the citizens of Venice greeted the new day along with a ripe stench of horse manure deposited throughout the Piazza San Marco. The scene looked like a mess of yoked horses had clomped through town. Of course, Venice is known for its horse unfriendly canals which surround the Piazza. On honeymoon in Venice, Cole had transported the manure from the Italian mainland with the assistance of a gondolier.