The Art of Making Fools of the Media

The Pranks of Hoax Artist Joey Skaggs

By Buck Wolf

April 1  Did you see the drooling journalists chase the Raelian Clone Hoax Float down Fifth Avenue? If you've ever gone to New York's April Fools' Day Parade, the joke's on you.

Parade maestro Joey Skaggs worked feverishly to top himself this year, with bigger and better festivities, vowing that war would not break an 18-year April Fools' tradition. One of the most anticipated attractions: the Michael Jackson Dangling His Child Off a Balcony Float.

And, of course, there'd be the annual march of high-profile look-alike fools. This year's bunch was said to include a faux Martha Stewart and a ringer for erstwhile Enron CEO Kenneth Lay, singing a duet of Jimmy Reed's "Shame, Shame, Shame."

But this year's April Fools' Day Parade was just like all the others. It never happened. It's an 18-year-old running gag that's never been more than an elaborate press release. Year after year, Skaggs just likes to see how many journalists will show up, and over the years, he's fooled just about every network and many of the top newspapers — sometimes more than once.

Apparently, The Associated Press hasn't caught on to the April Fools' Day Parade, listing the annual nonevent on its calendar of "major stories we anticipate in the coming day."

CNN fell for the parade ruse one year, so did The New York Times. ABC never fell for it, but Skaggs pulled over another gag on Good Morning America.

In 1986, Skaggs talked his way on to the morning show by posing as Joe Bones, a former Marine Corps drill sergeant who had started the most aggressive diet company in America — The Fat Squad. For $300 a day plus expenses, Bones and his hired commandos would guard dieters against their own lack of willpower, forcibly disarm any client who tried to sneak a cookie before bedtime.

"We were had, in spades," Good Morning America's then-host David Hartman told the press. But GMA wasn't the only one; the Philadelphia Inquirer also fell victim to The Fat Squad.

After playing journalists for fools for nearly 40 years, Skaggs now looks back on an illustrious career as a "hoax artist" who shows the world just how easy it is to pass off the most outrageous claims as the truth.