April Fools’ and Elvis

 

This column will be my last. April marks four years that I’ve written one of these every week. It takes time to write a column, and it’s time for me to focus on other things. Thank you for reading what I’ve written and for supporting me during the last four years.

For my last column, and since today is April first, I want to end with a related story from my days in a different medium.

When I was still in the radio business, I always looked forward to working on April Fools’ Day.

I would prank the listeners with some fake event or setup and then let them off the hook. Of course, not all of the listeners fell for it, but many did.

Dave Goldman did news on the radio station and often I would get him to slide a fake story in his newscasts to give the prank even more credibility. Such was the case back in the early 90s when I told listeners that a man claiming to be Elvis Presley was about to hold a news conference in Las Vegas.

Now, you have to realize that at this point, The King had been dead less than 15 years. Thanks to the National Enquirer, other grocery checkout publications, and the hopes and dreams of middle aged women everywhere, my “Elvis may not be dead,” ploy was easily swallowed.

I had staged calls from people claiming to be in Vegas who had it “on good authority” that this was legit. Other callers phoned in to tell me that they were monitoring CNN (no internet then), and they’d let us all know as soon as any new information broke.

Women called in almost in tears with stories of how much they loved Elvis and how they had known all along that he just had had enough and had staged his own passing. He wasn’t really dead. Now, he would be back, just as they always knew he would be one day.

I had set the hook and was reeling them in.

After about two hours, I aired something that I had prerecorded. It was a “live” feed of the press conference. It was complete with crowd noise, chatter, feedback from a microphone, and other sounds. From the radio station studio, I introduced the “reporter” who was live on the scene and giving us a play-by-play of how everything was unfolding.

He read from a news release that what the tabloids had claimed all along was true. Elvis had gone undercover and had been driving a Tom’s Peanuts truck, incognito of course, so that he could mix with his fans – all while we were none the wiser.

The reporter then told us all to standby, and suddenly, there he was on the microphone. Doing my best Elvis impersonation, I told everyone how sorry I was for faking my own demise. I said that a new concert tour was about to get underway, and by the way, “April Fools.”

That day has to be the closest I’ve ever come to dying at the hands of a large group of 55-year-old women. The calls were immediate and not pleasant. If they could have hanged me in the town square, I think they would have.

I really thought that most listeners would see the stunt for what it was: a stunt. An April Fools’ joke. But, I learned an important lesson that day. There are some April Fools’ lines you just don’t cross. And I had crossed the Elvis line.

Eventually, the listeners forgave me, and time brought reconciliation. It was all meant to be in good fun and I didn’t mean any harm.

Just like this column. April Fools’. I’ll see you next week.

©2018 John Moore
John’s book, Write of Passage: A Southerner’s View of Then and Now is available on Amazon.
Email John at John@TheCountryWriter.com

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