A little while back, I had posted a YouTube video orchestrated by a married couple who are among my college friends going back the late 1980s (that post here).
That event was, of course, thoroughly staged, and only the students in the class were caught unawares.
But it isn’t the first time my friend Bill Horner has been involved in such shenanigans.
At Northwestern University, having a chicken head mask and nothing societally productive to do with it, he and his roommate, Brian Feldman, staged a pie attack in a class. Now, as I recall, it wasn’t even a class that Brian was actually registered for. The chicken-headed “Pie Bandit” appeared, struck Brian in the face with a pie, and then vanished. Neither the professor nor the class was any the wiser.
It was funny and harmless, as college pranks go, and we all enjoyed the minor spectacle and brief buzz it created, with people wondering: WTF? (Of course, the Internet was in its infancy back then, so nobody knew what the fuck “WTF” was…but I digress).
What the stunt lacked, though, was documentation and a way for it to be locked into the history of Northwestern over the long run. So Bill and Brian, being determined pranksters, and my roommate Adam Beechan and I (being journalism majors) decided it needed to be in the daily college newspaper.
Problem is, if you know anything about Northwestern, you know it is home to a top-tier journalism program, so the people working at the paper aren’t going to just run a prank story for the hell of it. So, in a bit of media manipulation in my pre-professional journalism career, we conspired to make it a real story.
So, a second attack was staged, and this time with the paper having been tipped off that something might happen to Brian in the class (I don’t recall how we managed to tip them off without giving away that it wasn’t even a class Brian was registered for and without giving away that he knew the attack was coming…just goes to show the news media has always been easy to manipulate, I guess). As such, a photographer was there, ready to catch something happening, and got the shot of Brian having been “pied.” A story was run shortly thereafter, interviewing Brian about his attack, how he felt about it and if he knew who his attacker was.
Not only that, but if I recall right, we manufactured a letter from the Pie Bandit, done in “ransom note” style with words cut out of magazines, that put out his words on the matter, and the paper ran that as well (I think they might have actually printed a photo of the letter itself).
History was made, and people did begin to wonder who the Pie Bandit was, what was going on and…to be honest…whether it was all a set up (it wasn’t a campus of completely gullible idiots).
Still feeling a bit prankish…but now moving more toward self-parody mode, we as a group began to think this was pretty cool, and we saw potential in this to milk it some more, since Bill and Brian were both in the radio, TV and film program and we had various friends who did performance-related studies at NU.
So, we decided to do a sort of “48 Hours” news special parody, enacting a third staged pie attack without the knowledge of the professor or the class, filming it from the back of the lecture hall, and doing other assorted silliness to make an entire short film, essentially. We enjoyed many re-watchings of it. Bill has finally digitized the video, after editing it to fit YouTube’s time limits, and I can now offer it up to you for amusement, enjoyment and/or ridicule.
By the way, as you will see, most of the people involved had at least rudimentary performance abilities. Myself, seen beginning at the 8:50 mark or so (the only guy in the film with a beard, so I’m easy to spot), am far less smooth in my delivery, and I know it, so don’t rub it in. 😉
(P.S. There was a “dancing chicken” stunt at Northwestern University recently that got some attention and went a bit viral, and if you look at the comments, I have links there. It was the dancing chicken prank, in part, that inspired Bill to dust off our old analog video and make it web-ready)