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The Boy Who Cried 'Fool'

go-go gypsy

Skaggs as Jo-Jo the Gypsy, protesting the racial implications of using the phrase "gypsy moth" for bugs. It was one of Skaggs' many hoaxes.  (

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A few months ago, Joey and I got together. I returned the fish tank to him and I did something a journalist rarely does — I picked up the dinner check. Maybe it was only a plate of spaghetti, but take this as a warning, Joey: If I'm buying your lies, I'm certainly not buying you dinner. And yes, that's a threat.

So while I can still enjoy it, here's a look back at some of Joey Skaggs' greatest hoaxes.

1. The Miracle Roach Hormone Cure
Remember Kafka's "Metamorphosis"? Skaggs emerged in 1981 as Dr. Josef Gregor, an entomologist who extolled the virtue of consuming cockroach hormones as a cure for colds, acne, anemia and menstrual cramps. WNBC-TV's "Live at Five" featured an interview with the doctor, who claimed to have graduated from the University of Bogota in Colombia. Skaggs says no one checked his credentials. The newscasters only seemed to become suspicious when Skaggs played his organization's theme song — "La Cucaracha."

2. Celebrity Sperm Auction
Attention ladies: Interested in "certified and authenticated rock star sperm"? Posing as Giuseppe Scagolli in 1976, Skaggs appealed to women who wanted children with sperm provided by the likes of Bob Dylan, John Lennon and Jimi Hendrix. When "Scagolli" claimed his sperm bank had been robbed, several wire services and Ms. magazine picked up the story.

3. The Dog Bordello
Finally, a place for frustrated pooches — a cathouse for dogs! Skaggs planted an ad in New York's Village Voice newspaper in 1976 that promised "a savory selection of hot bitches" for your sexually deprived mutt, with the warning: "dogs only." Skaggs posed as a dog pimp, promising every Rover satisfaction for only $50. The media lapped it up, and the story hit all the wire services and local cable shows. Even ABC's New York affiliate covered the event.

4. Gypsy Moth Anti-Defamation League
In a 1982 article in The New York Time, Jo-Jo the Gypsy protested the political incorrectness of the term "gypsy moth" at a time when the little critters were devastating trees in the Northeast. Jo-Jo, another Skaggs incarnation, railed against the injustice of associating the pesky moths with Gypsies, a downtrodden minority that has long suffered from discrimination. Jo-Jo suggested the varmints should be called "Hitler Moths." The New York Post gleefully reported the esteemed newspaper's mistake in an article headlined "Times Falls for the Old Switcheroo."