Saturday, April 17, 2010

The Year of Pranking Dangerously

Yeah, I want to come back to pranks again, this time regarding non-workplace stunts.  There was one time period, in particular, that my buddies and I knocked off a string of funny, interrelated and amazingly stupid pranks, that all fell together like so many dominos.

Back in November, I posted on the formation of the neighborhood scene that came together in The Barn that we owned.  It was a place where we all hung out and threw amazing, wild-assed parties

It was like we were all family… in fact that’s what we called ourselves: “The Family.”

That all started when I was a sophomore and they ran The Godfather 1 and 2 on TV, all cut together in chronological order.  (Remember, Godfather 2 had all kinds of flashbacks to the 1920’s.)  As the only Italian in my group, I was christened “The Godfather”, which I kept as a nickname all through college, even using it as my air-name on college radio.

The Barn was just coming together during the spring that my buddies and I were graduating high school.  The first domino toppled at graduation, when my crazy friend Billy suggested that we all wear suits and ties under our robes, but with shorts instead of slacks.  (Real 70’s shorts, not like the flood-pants that pass for shorts now.)  We were all into it, having gotten a taste of pulling ridiculous stunts throughout our last spring in school. 

I know that may sound tame today, but it was a big deal back then.  Or at least it would have been if my dad hadn’t put the kibosh on it.

“You will NOT do anything to embarrass this family!”

I told my friends that I was out.  At least I think I did.  Either Billy didn’t get the message, or he just didn’t care.  The funny thing about Bill was that no one knew who the hell he was.  He only came to our school for senior year.  He just happened to be in my newspaper class and it was really just a fluke that he fell in with The Family and me.

Anyway, there we were in Toledo’s Masonic Auditorium getting all graduated, and then Billy goes up to get his diploma.  As he walks across the stage, you could see his robe kind of open up, exposing his big old hairy thigh.  The murmur started low in the crowd, slowly rising to a clamor.

WTF?

Who is that guy?

I felt bad for his parents, who I could just see sinking down into their seats.  It was the talk of the day.

Now I know that’s not any great prank, but I only tell it because it was the domino that set up the next one.

At the end of that summer, Billy’s family had to move to Valdosta GA, which is about 20 miles from the Florida border.  We had a big Barn Blowout to see him off, which was the first major party we threw out there.

In December, Bill and his parents had to come back to close on their house, so we set up another big party to commemorate the occasion.  Bill was flying up by himself though, so we agreed to pick him up at the airport.  That’s when the scheming started.

We decided that as a tribute, we would show up wearing our suits and ties, with shorts.  In December.  We further decided we would Mob it up like our Family namesakes so we borrowed our friend Rob’s parents' big Lincoln town car, get some big fat stogies and use my mom’s mandolin case to masquerade as a violin case.  I sported nice wooden cane, but I have no idea where I got it.

For some reason, known only to himself, my buddy Rik apparently decided to go as the world’s ugliest pregnant woman. 

We had a ball rolling through a very sleepy Toledo Express Airport that night.  Rik was a big hit.  Someone from a car rental counter made a remark over the intercom.  Some elderly dude tried to grab his ass.  

Anyway, when Billy finally came down the escalator from the gate, this is what he saw:
L-R, My late friend Brill, Rob, Rik, John and moi, posing in The Barn.

Bill took one look at us down there waiting for him and promptly turned around and tried to go back up the escalator.  He had to come down eventually though and we snapped him up and whisked him off to The Barn for another night of debauchery and partied with wild abandon.
 Billy, playing lead shovel in our air-band.

The next domino fell the following May, Rik and I planned to go to Georgia to visit Bill.  OK, in truth, the plan was for me to go… Rik decided to come along and surprise Bill.  (This became another regular thing… once we all scattered to the wind, whenever one of us came back to town, we would only tell a few people so we could show up unannounced and surprise the rest.)

Anyway, after the Toledo Express greeting, we knew that Bill would have something in store for us when we got to Valdosta.  I decided I would make a pre-emptive strike and show up in South Georgia dressed like a cowboy.  (These were the days of Urban Cowboy, so I had the gear, right down to the saucer-sized belt buckle and cowboy hat.)  The kicker, I decided, would be for me to ride off the plane on a stick-horse.

Rik, having already embarrassed himself sufficiently at the airport, wanted nothing to do with this plan, so I was on my own.  My immediate problem was where to get a stick-horse.  Did they even sell them any more? 

Fortunately I had a buddy at college, Bruce, who also worked at Toys R Us.  (Or was it Kiddie City?)  He not only said that they sold them, but that he could say I was his brother and get me the family discount.  (We looked enough alike… both were slender with dark hair and glasses.)  Being a broke-assed college student, I was all over it.

So I showed up at Toys R Us, saw Bruce and met his co-worker, Brian, who never questioned our relationship.  Stick-horse secured, the plan was a “go.”

The trip was a blur… one minute I’m standing in the Detroit airport wearing a cowboy hat, boots, rawhide vest, plaid shirt and a stick-horse over my shoulder, with a group of Japanese businessmen pointing at me and talking animatedly among themselves.  Next minute I’m unsuccessfully trying to cram the stick-horse into the overhead bin, before eventually stowing it under my seat.

Finally, it was time for the payoff.  There was no jetway, so we had to walk across the tarmac to get to the gate.  Once at the gate, it was time for my big entrance.  I charged into the gate astride my stick horse as if I was riding across the range.  I couldn’t wait to see Billy’s face. 

There was one problem though… fucker wasn’t there.

I spun my head around like I was watching a tennis match on fast-forward.  No Billy.

“Gah!  All my planning for naught!”

Rik and I regrouped.  We’d try to get him when he did show up. 

A few minutes later, Rik was looking out the window to the parking lot and said, “Dude…”

Making his way across the lot was some guy in a full Arabian robe and headdress.  It had to be Billy.  This was going to cause even more of a fuss than my stupid getup.  Going around in South Georgia dressed like that, during the time when we had hostages being held in Iran, could get a guy seriously killed.

So we hid from him and made him walk around the gate area looking for us.  Finally Rik snuck up from behind, clapped a big paw on his shoulder and went, “You ina heapa trouble heah, boah.” 

Yes, we had learned everything we needed to know about southern life from Buford T. Justice.

We had a grand week of drinking, swimming and clubbing in Valdosta, capped by our learning how to chew tobacco from Bill’s authentic redneck neighbor.  And my parents were worried I was going to come back with some kind of drug habit.  I think they’d rather I’d have returned hooked on smack than spitting in a cup.
 L-R: Me, Billy and Rik, who is getting up close and personal with a vent pipe.

The following fall, my “brother” Bruce’s co-worker Brian enrolled at Bowling Green and began hanging out with us in the Commuter Center.  This was unexpected.  That domino meant that Bruce and I had to continue to act like brothers. 

You know, sometimes these things just fall right in your lap and you just have to go with it.

In practically no time, we had everyone in the Commuter Center in on the plot.  No one was to let on that Bruce and I were unrelated.

It would get a little complicated when groups of us would go out to bars or clubs.  We always had to come up with reasons why Bruce and I never came or left together, but we pulled it off.

“Tell Mom I’ll be home by 1:00…”

One time I had my school crowd, including Brian, out to The Barn for a party.  It took some explaining but again, he never doubted us.  We said that it was Rob’s barn and the reason my name was all over the place and all my records were there was just because I spent so much time there.

We even gave Brian the grand tour of the place, including my mom’s study on the far end of The Barn.  I almost regretted that when I spotted a framed picture of me on the shelf, but I quickly walked over and stood in front of it.  He never noticed.

That night, when Rob had to leave, he said, “Hey Godfather, I’m heading up to bed, lock up for me, will ya?”

Then he backed his car out, without putting on the lights.  Brian never doubted the performance and was impressed that I was allowed to lock up.

“I told you I spend a lot of time out here.”

About a year after it all started, and after Bruce was no longer working at the toy store, we decided to pull the plug on the whole charade and finally let Brian in on it.  To set it up, we threw another Barn Party for Brian’s birthday.  (Really, we never needed much of a reason to have a Barn Party.)

About half-way through the party, we called him over.

“Brian, we’d like to give you your birthday present now.”

“Dude, Bruce and I aren’t really brothers.  We were only pretending in order to get me a discount on that stick horse.  This is actually my house and my Barn.  Happy Birthday.”

We waited for the explosion, but none came.  Brian refused to believe us.

This was beautiful!  We’d done such a good job for so long, we had to show him our driver’s licenses to make him believe it.  I think he was more ready to believe they were fake IDs than that we weren’t brothers.

Then, the enormity of the con began to dawn on him, as he realized how many people had to be in on it.

“Everyone here knows this?  Everyone at school?  Hazel (the Commuter Center Director) knew?

“Yes, yes, and yes.”

“And all those times at the club when… and when Rob had you lock up…”

“Yeah, that was all fake.”

Poor guy just sat there with his head in his hands…

“Bastards!  I can’t believe it!  How did I not see it?"

Because we were that good, that’s how.

The rest of the night, every 20 minutes or so, out of no where he’d just go, “I can’t believe it!  Jesus!”

Hours later, we took him in to introduce him to my parents and he was like, “Yeah, I’m the dummy that had no idea they weren’t brothers…”

Lucky for him, that was the last domino. 

Editor’s Note:  I apologize for the length of this post, but I hope you’ll agree that with the inter-related nature of this story, it was best told all at once rather than split up.  (As if I really have an editor…)

18 comments:

  1. What a fabulous story! And what great imaginations all of you have (you especially!). The photos are so cool and we see you in your retro looks. Too cool. My brother was the one I played the most pranks on. My mother used to play a lot of them on my father, though and those were pretty funny. Thanks for the great stories, bluz.

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  2. We were the poster children for idle hands being the devil's work. When there was nothing better to do, we'd screw with somebody.

    My buddies and I look longingly at those pictures, when we all had so much more hair and so many less pounds.

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  3. Holy fucking shit!

    Those are some bad ass shorts!!

    And glasses...

    And hair...

    And...

    Goddamnit! Totally wish you could've worn your short shorts to graduation AND I could have seen a PICTURE of THAT shit!

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  4. I remember reading the "Barn" post a while back. We never had a cool pad to hang out in like that. We had my attic, which was always a bit strange. Not really a good party room up there. And my basement which was pretty scary in general. We mostly just hung out in different cars, cruising from party to party.
    I didn't do a lot of pranks, just got into trouble. Or I should say, did things that should have gotten us into trouble.
    I like the last prank on Brian. Too bad you don't have a video of his face at the moment you told him.

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  5. This post is hilarious! Great pranks! What is it with everyone in that area having giant barn parties. My hubs has a friend out there that still throws giant barn parties. I haven't been to one yet, but I am sure it will happen one day. Sometimes I wish I had a barn so I could throw parties in it!Oh and the short 70s shorts are H.O.T.

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  6. CB,
    Those shorts rocked! With legs that look that good, it’s a crying shame to cover them up. I’m sure you know the feeling…

    I got rid of the glasses the next year and went to contact lenses. Lord, I still miss that hair though…

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  7. Guy,
    If these events would have happened now, in the digital age, I’d have documentation on everything, including a lot of video. (And I’m pretty sure I could command top dollar to keep it under wraps, too.) Unfortunately, all we had were those horrible 110 Instamatic cameras that required flashbulbs. I’m lucky I have any pictures at all

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  8. Blogette,
    We were blessed to have such a venue for our shenanigans. Without it, we would have just been driving around and drinking in parking lots, causing trouble.

    By the time we left, the place was such a landmark… everyone driving by knew that if they saw the lights on in the Barn, they could stop by for a beer. I’m sure that must have surprised the next owners…

    Remember that at the time, (the 70’s) they weren’t “70’s shorts”, they were just shorts. Everyone wore them that way. (And they still would, if I were King.)

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  9. The shorts ARE GOOD. Much better than the Mutha Hubbards now worn. Those were indeed the days, my Friend. Too bad they had to end.
    If it hadn't been for the Barn, who knows.
    Love the pics and stories. The Barn lives on in our hearts, minds and memories.

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  10. Just posted another chapter on The Barn. "Just when you think you're out, they drag you back in again."

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  11. Damn, those are some fine-lookin' legs you got there, Bluz.

    Nice shorts, too.

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  12. Dude, why are you so hot?

    I'm way more interested in this Godfather showing than the pranking, though. What a great idea! I know it's embarrassing to admit it, but I can't wrap my mind around the chronology half the time. I'll be talking to my boyfriend about so-and-so's son in Italy in the movie, and he'll be like, "Uh, that wasn't his son." Sad.

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  13. Bachelor Girl,
    “I just had them lengthened. Now they go all the way up.”

    ~Ramada, from the movie ‘Hot Shots’~

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  14. Mundane,
    They still run that cut-up version from time to time on AMC or one of those basic cable channels, so maybe you can catch it sometime.

    I saw the chronological version long before I ever saw the actual movies.

    (And I was hot because I was in South Georgia! Whoooooo!)

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  15. Great documentation of an era that we'll never see again. We did have the kids deposit car keys with me and knew if anyone did drugs, & I caught them, they would be barred from The Barn forever. Barred because of studidity, with the eternal keg, you must be an idiot to do drugs. No idiots allowed. Dad

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  16. The Elderly has spoken!

    Yeah, that was never really one of our “things”. We had enough fun with the beer to bother messing around with other drugs. Who needed the aggravation?

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  17. Hilarious! And totally love the throwback photos...aawww the 70's were a high time in fashion...I kind of miss it.

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  18. Wormy,
    I have mixed emotions about what we wore. I’d keep the shorts, but probably ditch everything else. Although I’d let the ladies keep the high-waisted bell-bottoms and stack heels. Rawr!

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