Monday, April 07, 2008


Kim and I are back from our whirlwind Raleigh NC - Brooklyn NY tour and I'll post pictures soon. But for now, look at this short article from the Washington Post about an April Fool's joke:
Wednesday, April 2, 2008; Page B03

An "in memoriam" ad about a former U.S. ambassador that was placed as an April Fools' Day joke backfired yesterday.

A photo of Edward M. Gabriel, a very much alive international business consultant who was the U.S. ambassador to Morocco from 1997 to 2001, topped an ad on Page B8 in yesterday's Washington Post.

In language reminiscent of the movie "Brokeback Mountain," the $322.20 ad said, "Though I no longer have you as my partner, this day will always be OUR anniversary. . . . I could never quit you."

The ad was taken out by J. Peter Segall, a public relations executive and lawyer. Segall is paying for a retraction in today's Post. Segall said last night that he is a mature man who made an immature mistake.

"As I said in a correction that I hope is published [today], I engaged in a very stupid and ultimately cruel April Fools' joke against a man that has been my best friend for 30 years, and I deeply, deeply regret it," Segall said. (The retraction appears on Page B7.)

Gabriel said he fielded calls all day from friends who thought he had died. One woman told him she spent two hours crying after seeing the ad.

"He's an old friend who plays jokes on me every year, and some are hilarious, but they've been private," Gabriel said. "He's a good friend who went a little too far. He's apologized profusely, and I've accepted it, but not without being a little hurt. I think -- I know -- he had no ill intent."

It's the first time in 20 years that a spoof ad is known to have run in The Post, said a company spokesman. There is no formal process for checking the truth of the ads, he said. Unlike death notices or news obituaries, which are fact-checked, families often take out "in memoriam" ads to remember a deceased relative months or years after the person's death.

-- Patricia Sullivan

So, as some of you may know on April 10, 2005 I printed the following In Memoriam in the Washington Post:

In doing this I was wanting to have some tangible proof, to show the way I think photographic images and the words (often) alongside/under them function. To me, this pairing makes a package too tidy, and effortlessly undermines most of the complicated, messy, and beautiful history of the photographed. As you can imagine, not everyone who saw the Post that day was clued-in to why I was in the paper, and it caused a few headaches and a few people were pretty angry with me.

My question is, do I let the post know that this fake In Memoriam of Edward M. Gabriel in fact isn't the first fake obit in the past 20 years?


Paula said...

Absolutely! Maybe it will change the requirements for checking the facts about "in memoriam" ads. The reactions of some of the family and friends affected are reminiscent of Mrs. Mallard's in the short story “Story of an Hour” by Kate Chopin. Check it out.

p-rock said...

don't do it michael. there's no telling how they'll respond to a zombie, it's safer to let it lie. you know in your cold blue undead heart, the truth. that should be enough. -prawk!

Anonymous said...

I think you should post your obit again. And then, after they run it, inform them of their third fake obit in the past 20 years.

Paula said...

As a person who regularly visits the obit section of my home town newspaper daily, I would be sickened if someone I loved and cared about suddenly showed up dead in the paper and then magically reappeared. Unless you have lost a dear friend, which I have, this kind of act may seem trivial. It's not. I'd love to have a chance to talk to you about this if we ever get together. It's something I feel strongly about. Thanks for posing this Michael.

Megs said...

First of all, I totally forgot about the fake obit you did three years ago. I thought what you did was hilarious, granted, I didn't see it in the paper originally. So it makes sense that I found it funny when I saw it in your MFA thesis.

If I were you, I would inform the lovely folks at the Washington Post that your obit was the first fake one in 20 years. Maybe they'll end up doing an investigation and it turns out that someone in the 1990s did the same thing.

Hope all is well in your corner of the Universe. Let me know when you might be in lovely Frostburg again.

Take care,

ps- Since I'll finally be graduating from University of Maryland in Spring of 2009. I've started entertaining the idea of working towards an MFA in Creative Writing. Two of the schools I'm considering about applying to are UVA and VCU.