Punk You!

Esteban Sauer explains how Preserve A Life suckered so many, including the twits at Primetime Live.

Many advised CEO Bryce Cunningham (the picture we published of him was also phony, natch) that he was "going to Hell!" Some simply wrote in asking things like, "Are you insane?" or stating, "You must be sick!" Others wrote impassioned diatribes on why PAL was unethical. One woman promised, "You motherfuckers will go down. I will have your whole company shut down. And as for Bryce Cunningham, your career is OVER!"

Jeez, lady, did you forget to take your medication?

A former ALCOR employee inquired about employment opportunities at PAL, as did one fellow with extensive taxidermy experience. ALCOR lobbyist Jeff Holmes of Aarons Company in Phoenix wondered if it was a joke or not. Robert Fern, who teaches a class in Death and Dying at Mesa Community College, phoned to see about a possible field trip for his class to the Preserve A Life headquarters (though he later told us that his class figured out PAL was a hoax). Salesperson Bobby Gill of Viacom Outdoors wanted to know if Preserve A Life was interested in advertising through Viacom's billboards, and a salesperson from a local vending company tried to sell PAL snack and coffee machines. Even the editor of a California funeral industry publication called PAL to ask for more info.

"Honey, I know you're dead, but Diane Sawyer's on line 
one .  .  .  "
photos by Jeff Newton
"Honey, I know you're dead, but Diane Sawyer's on line one . . . "
A mounted Marine head, a steal at only $1,750.
A mounted Marine head, a steal at only $1,750.

But the most fun we had was conning the jocks over at KISS-FM's morning show, Kid and Ruben -- who (ironically) are known for their "phone scams" against unsuspecting citizens. Their executive producer, Eric DiMaggio, contacted the Preserve A Life hot line to set up a phone interview with company CEO Cunningham. Uh, Mr. Cunningham's "secretary" then returned DiMaggio's call, and an interview was set up for 6:20 a.m. Friday, October 29.

It was a painfully early hour for a New Times scribe to get up for an acting gig, but we didn't want to disappoint Kid and Ruben's audience -- especially since the station had run promos for the on-air interview during drive time the day before.

Initially, we were concerned that the Kid and Ruben show might have figured out the ruse. But to our delight, they went for it, hook, line and sinker. For several minutes, the hosts queried Cunningham on PAL's services. They accused one of the subjects in the article of necrophilia. We discussed the legalities of "humidermy" and the prices of getting a whole body done versus just one part of the corpse.

They seemed especially concerned about the mother who'd supposedly lost her son as a soldier in Iraq, but could only afford to get his head mounted on a plaque next to his medals. Cunningham informed the hosts that, despite what the article stated, PAL had not waived the mother's fee -- instead charging the full $1,750 for mounting the dead Marine's mug.

Afterward, the shocked jocks played Cunningham off the air with the music from the John Carpenter film Halloween, but not before he got in a plug for the Preserve A Life Web site. Following the interview, the DJs expressed dismay, not disbelief, at what they'd just heard.

"I didn't get to ask him one question I wanted to ask," said Corina, Kid and Ruben's on-air gal pal. "How does a person heal and mourn and move on when the dead person is still with them?"

Chimed in Ruben: "Exactly. And that kind of disturbs me that he charged her, that woman who lost her son. That's crazy!"

"I just think it's wild!" said Kid. "Walking into someone's house and seeing a human head mounted like it was an animal. That's something that's going on right here in our own backyard."

Emphasized Ruben: "This is really happening!"

Sorry to burst your bubble, Butt-head, but this was just one in a long line of New Times gotchas -- going back to the gold we said was located in the Scottsdale Galleria parking lot, the plan to arm the homeless, and the, um, psychedelic drug that coated one of New Times' pages (one reader complained that he'd eaten 12 such pages and couldn't get high).

In running such tall tales, we hark back to the glory days of Mad magazine and National Lampoon, a proud tradition of editorial parody practiced today by The Onion and Saturday Night Live. And, of course, it calls to mind the greatest Halloween prank of all: Orson Welles' 1938 radio adaptation of H.G. Wells' The War of the Worlds, in which he convinced listeners that the Earth had been invaded by death-ray-wielding Martians.

Several hip-to-the-joke readers wanted to know why a pub like New Times, famous for its investigative reporting, would deign to do parodies. Well, because we can, and 'cause they're fun! If you fell hard for this one, just remember . . . we only punk the ones we love.

E-mail stephen.lemons@newtimes.com

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1 comments
redquartz36
redquartz36

I saw this as phony baloney before finishing the first page.  What's even funnier is that it's a lot more legitimate than most of Steve Lemon's distorted and transparently manipulative lies he tells when he is trying to be serious.

 
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