Dear Dave, You Let Us Down

“Dear Dave, you let us down.” That’s how I would begin a letter to a real guy named Dave whom I never met. He was the target of an elaborate April fools joke, and he didn’t show up.

I’m particularly disappointed because I was to play the part of a big shot Los Angeles record producer, and you know that would have been fun.

The story starts with my friends Chris and Tracy (primary instigators of the hoax), who moved to Florida from Wisconsin. Then there are their friends Dave and Carl who came to Florida for a weekend visit.

The names in this tale have not been changed because there are no innocent players. Nobody deserves protection.

Dave (guilty of pulling a prank on Carl a few years ago) went to Sarasota, Fla. Carl stayed in Tampa, Fla. to sing at a talent show Friday night. It was there at happy hour where the conspiracy blossomed.

Carl, who is known back home for his stage presence and singing, was supposed to sing but didn’t. No matter. Dave wasn’t there, so we could tell him anything. And we did.

The ruse started simple enough: Carl sang and won the competition. Tracy and Chris called Dave in Sarasota and excitedly told him that Carl gave a stellar performance and won.

Then the colorful details sprouted up: There was a record producer at the show, and he wanted Carl to record a demo.

But wait! There’s more. It was happy hour and the drinks poured embellishment upon the colorful details: The record producer was going to fly Carl to Los Angeles on Monday, and Chris and Tracy were going with him. Even better, the record producer invited everybody to the Playboy Mansion for a party Monday night.

So another excited call to Dave delivered the “news.” Luckily Carl is not known for making up stories, so Dave was still buying it.

You may think that’s enough, but it was happy hour, and embellishment matured into all-out scheming: Dave was coming to Tampa the next evening, so we’d set up a meeting with the “record producer.”

It was in this phase that Dave went from being the victim of a fun prank to being the mark in an elaborate con.

Over the next hour we honed the fine points: Dave didn’t know me, so I would play Rodger Goldstein, the big record producer from Los Angeles. (We in the biz simply call it “LA.”) I would meet the whole gang at a downtown nightclub.

Everybody would arrive early. I would arrive late. They’d tip the band to announce the arrival of the “famous Rodger Goldstein.”

I’d buy a round of drinks for the table, talk some trash and hang out for 30 minutes. Then I’d leave.

Our plans set, we called it a night.

The next morning Dave still believed it all, and the excitement grew as we reworked the details. We recruited another friend to be the cute girl hanging on my arm.

I even bought Altoids because, at the risk of stereotyping a minority, I thought a record producer would have them.

Schedules were rearranged. Assets diverted. Details worked over. The trap was laid.

It was late afternoon when the news came: Dave’s wife was sick, and they weren’t coming into town. Life has greater disappointments, but it was still a downer because we were so up for it.

We went to the night club anyway and had a grand time. The word is that the hoax worked, and the phony news got back to the gang in Wisconsin.

When Carl went home on Monday, he received numerous phone calls congratulating him, and I’m told that the “news” got some air time on the radio. Then again, I’m not sure I can believe anything I’m told at this point. Dave, our victim, didn’t learn the truth until Thursday.

For me it was disappointing because I’ve always wanted to be a famous record producer, so I figured I should fake it at least once.

Dave kind of ruined it. We needed a victim, but he didn’t show up.

I’d like to tell him, so if you’re ever in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin (if that’s even a real town) and you meet a guy named Dave (if that’s his real name), let him know he let us down. Tell him a really famous columnist named Bob said so.