(Reprinted from the January/February 2007 Issue of Northern Peaks, The Canadian Association of Magician's magazine, with the permission of its publisher Joan Caesar)
It all began two years ago, on April 1st 2003. On a whim, I decided to play an April Fool’s prank on my magician friend, Denis St-Jean. I phoned him and, in a disgusted voice, told him that there was a full-page story in the Ottawa paper about a young magician, who billed himself a big star. Denis knew that, given the name I mentioned, the story was quite credible! I went on to read fictitious excerpts from the article about how the young magician described himself as a combination of Copperfield and Lance Burton, and how other, older magicians in the Ottawa region were jealous of him, etc. Denis hates that kind of arrogance, and I really had him going. To add an extra convincer, I asked Roy Cottee, another mutual friend, to call him and essentially relate the same thing. Next thing we knew, Denis angrily ran to the store to buy a copy of the paper. He then called me because he couldn’t find the article, and he wanted to know where it was in the paper. After making him search for a few minutes, I asked him what date was on the paper. He kept repeating, “It’s today’s paper!” After a while, he finally clued in as he realized that the date was April 1st. Denis laughed and congratulated me for getting him.
Just like an Ambitious Card Routine that gets better as you keep repeating it, I decided to play another joke the next year, and invented a more intricate story.
The legendary Lirvad Nossiop
I called Denis on March 30th 2004. I told him that I had met an older gentleman at a tradeshow where I had worked the weekend before. I then proceeded to tell him a most interesting (and completely fictitious) story; the gentleman’s now deceased wife used to be the famous Romanian card cheater known as Lady Finger. Lady Finger made a fortune cheating at cards but nobody ever knew her real identity. After she fled Romania at the end of the 1970s nobody knew what had happened to her. I learned at the tradeshow, that she was the wife of the gentleman I had met, and she had passed away the year before. I proceeded to tell him that her real name was Lirvad Nossiop, Poisson d’Avril (April Fool’s in French) spelled backward. Denis didn’t catch on. I explained to Denis that the gentleman had a tape of his wife, explaining her secret cheating sleights. The next day, I called Denis and told him that the gentleman had brought me the tape and that it was incredibly good. Denis knows I don’t impress easily, but I went on and on about all the extraordinary and revolutionary moves that were on the tape. Denis became extremely excited. I told him that I had made a copy for him and to meet me the next day so I could give it to him. After the exchange, he quickly drove back to his home to see the legendary Lirvad Nossiop in action. On the tape, I had filmed my wife dealing alphabet cards that spelled Lirvad Nossiop. She then picked them up and dealt them backwards to display the words Poisson D’avril, thus revealing the true nature of the tape. You couldn’t see her face until the very end. She was wearing black Isotoner gloves, which made if very difficult for her to deal cards. As a result, she looked very amateurish. It was pathetically good! After he realized he had been duped, Denis immediately phoned me, and called me every possible name you can think of.
The one good thing about Denis is that he knows how to laugh at himself. He admitted that this was quite funny but warned me that he wouldn’t let himself get caught again next year. That sounded like a challenge to me!
Canadian Association of Restaurants Performers and Entertainers award.
In August 2004 I started to think of my 2005 April 1st scenario. To appreciate my scam, you should know that Denis has worked at the same restaurant for the past five years and that he is REALLY scared of flying. To pull off the scam, it became clear that I needed an accomplice because I couldn’t be directly involved. Joan Caesar, the IBM Territorial Vice-President and President of the Canadian Association of Magicians, was the perfect person for the job. After I explained my plan, she quickly agreed to play along.
Sometime near the end of February 2005, Joan contacted Denis to inform him that she had been contacted by the Canadian Association of Restaurants because they were looking for nominations for their prestigious Canadian Association of Restaurant Performers and Entertainers Award. (Yes, the fact that it can be abbreviated to CARPE (carp in French) was no coincidence and was to be the first clue for Denis to figure out the scam). She proceeded to tell him that the award is given every year to artists who work to artistically improve the restaurant business and was awarded as part of a big yearly gala. That award had been traditionally given to singers and stand-up comics. This year, the fictitious gala was to take place in Vancouver. Since Denis is terrified of flying, I knew he would be in a turmoil that would distract his attention. Only those who have been a resident artist in the same restaurant for at least three years could qualify. Denis bought the whole story and, according to Joan, was very excited that she had nominated him for the award. He was asked to keep this a secret, as I wanted to avoid the possibility of anyone helping him figure the whole thing out.
Denis then received a questionnaire from the Association’s VP of Marketing, Paul DuJoncten (an anagram of JeanLuc Dupont) to learn more about his contribution to the food service industry. He filled out the questionnaire and sent it to a friend of mine living in Calgary.
I then proceeded to contact the manager of the restaurant where Denis works. He enjoyed the idea of the scam, and let Denis know that he had been contacted to verify Denis' credentials. Obviously, the manager told Denis that he had described him as the greatest thing since sliced bread.
On March 24th, Joan contacted Denis to let him know that he was one of the three finalists being flown to Vancouver where the prize would be awarded. She stressed that this would be a big honor for all magicians, the IBM, CAM, and Eastern Canada and asked for his permission to write about this in the Linking Ring.
No longer able to contain his joy about his potential win, and his anxiety about flying to Vancouver, Denis took a little bit of alcohol that night to calm his nerves! He then called me to tell me the whole story. In a somewhat incoherent way, he told me that he was one of three finalists, and that this was a huge honor, and was seeking advice about how he could fly west. Had I not known what he was talking about, it wouldn’t have made much sense. Of all things, he then proceeded to tell me that it was not an April 1st joke he was playing on me! It took a lot of composure on my part not to burst out laughing. At that point, Denis was convinced he was on his way to fame and fortune.
The original plan was for various magicians to call him the week prior to April 1st congratulating him on his potential award. On the morning of April 1st, he would have received a package detailing the many gifts he would receive. Upon opening the attached envelope he would have found some sort of fish. I had also considered presenting Denis with a Best CARPE award plaque with a fish on it at the May Ring meeting.
However, the next day, after Joan had called him, and after a restless night, Denis once again mulled over the situation. Then it hit him; this was too good to be true and something was definitely fishy. He re-read the original letter, had a friend analyze the fake letterhead I had produced, and suddenly figured out the anagram clue. I guess alcohol does clear the mind!
Denis phoned me on March 28th, told me that he had figured out Mr. DuJoncten’s secret identity, and started laughing. I had no choice but to admit defeat, but Denis did admit he had come very close to winning the ‘prestigious’ CARPE Award. We both had a good laugh.
I spent the remainder of the day mourning the lost fish, and all the work I had invested, only to see the quarry get away. It was so close – but there’s always another year and an other fish in the sea….
Ottawa Society of Magicians, Roy Cottee Ring 151 of the International Brotherhood of Magicians