On January 2, 1980, the New York Times announced on the pages of its obituaries some very sad news: Alan Abel, a well-known humorist and prankster, had passed away at the age of 55. The very next day, however, Abel himself appeared in public to announce officially that he was very much alive, and that the key fact of that vaunted obit, the “death” part, was grossly exaggerated.
Previously, down through the decades, Abel had been able to pull off dozens upon dozens of hoaxes, including: establishing S.I.N.A., the Society for Indecency to Naked Animals (horses should be wearing boxer shorts, because “a nude horse is a rude horse”); a $35 million phony lottery-winner ruse; a “Phil Donahue Show” audience fainting spell fiasco; and so much more.
On September 17, 2018, the New York Times reannounced Abel’s passing—this time for real—with the tongue-in-cheek headline, “Alan Abel, Hoaxer Extraordinaire, Is (on Good Authority) Dead at 94.” But, recently, I was getting the impression that somehow, someway, Alan Abel (or an excellent copycat) was back in the S.I.N.A. saddle again, and this time pulling off his biggest hoax ever: a young man swimming against young women to break aquatic records previously held by real women.
C’mon, I’m thinking, this has Alan written all over it.
I had been personally involved as a minor “character” in a few of Abel’s public pranks, so I had firsthand knowledge of how he could get his fingers into the national conversation on high-profile issues, and no doubt, he would have worked his malicious magic with this particular hot-button issue.
Last week on “Tucker Carlson Tonight,” a guest suggested that the controversy embroiling the NCAA just might be a huge hoax. The guest pondered the possibility that this male-swims-as-female stunt was so obviously wrong that it reached the level of insanity and, therefore, we shouldn’t be surprised if “Lia” Thomas would just “drop the act” one day, show up on Tucker’s show, to loudly declare: “Gotcha!”
That makes much more sense, actually, than the fact that people across the country aren’t loudly professing, “Stop this madness!”
The next thing you know, no one will be shouting anything when the powers that be declare two plus two equals five.
Oh, well. There’s still a possibility this is all an elaborate prank. Hoaxer extraordinaire Alan Abel may be gone, but someone else could be pulling the strings. I mean, he does have a daughter, after all.