Few things are more delightful than a well-executed prank. A good prank is a noble creative endeavor – that’s what I tell myself about the ones I’ve engaged in.
The Nat Tate prank was devised by British novelist William Boyd with the help of David Bowie and a few other collaborators, including Gore Vidal. Boyd wanted to create a fictional artist whose underrated work he would introduce to the art world, via a book on the subject.
Bowie held a launch party for the book on April 1, 1998, and read extracts from the book to the collected celebrities and art enthusiasts. One of the collaborators went around asking people if they were familiar with Tate’s work. Poor Tate had burned 99% of his work before his tragic early death in 1960.
In the end, someone revealed the hoax. But William Boyd says that Nat Tate lives on: every so often, one of his paintings comes up for auction.
The more I learn about this prank the more I fucking love it! It reminds me of my Phyllis Willis-Barbour prank with my friend Mark, and it makes me wish we had taken it further. We planned to have our fake poet appear at readings, wearing a mask to hide her face (deformed in a terrible fire.)
**UPDATE: Just found the link to PWB’s bio, one of the greatest things ever written. Ever.
But our best prank, the one that brought us the most joy, was the Ed and Paige Project.
Ed was a guy we had good reason to detest. Among his loathsome activities was an unending search for hot chicks in the personal ads at nerve.com, even though he was married to a woman who supported him. Since we knew his taste in women, we created one as bait. We set up her profile, and waited. It took a week, and we had almost given up when Ed contacted Paige, calling her a “long tall drink of water” and complementing her physique.
Here is Paige, who I found at hotornot.com
But wait: Paige isn’t just hot and skanky looking, she is a commodities broker and a graduate of the Wharton School of Business! Her favorite book is Ulysses.
The resulting email love affair between Ed and Paige was a soap opera that all our friends enjoyed, but not with the delirious religious ecstasy that Mark and I experienced. The email they exchanged was beyond belief. It was like Christmas morning all the time.
I am too tired and lazy to elaborate on the Ed and Paige Project, but I know that Nat Tate would have risen from the dead just to be a part of it.