Bluff The Listener
CARL KASELL: From NPR and WBEZ-Chicago, this is WAIT WAIT...DON'T TELL ME!, the NPR News quiz. I'm Carl Kasell. We're playing his week with Adam Felber, Amy Dickinson, and Brian Babylon. And, here again is your host, at the Chase Bank Auditorium in downtown Chicago, Peter Sagal.
PETER SAGAL, HOST:
Thank you, Carl.
SAGAL: Thank you guys so much. Right now, it's time for the WAIT WAIT...DON'T TELL ME! Bluff the Listener game. Call 1-888-Wait-Wait to play our game on the air. Hi, you're on WAIT WAIT...DON'T TELL ME!
YUSILA RAMIREZ: Hi, this is Yusila Ramirez from Orlando, Florida.
SAGAL: Yusila, that is a lovely name.
RAMIREZ: Thank you. My parents made it up.
SAGAL: Did they really, they made it up?
RAMIREZ: Yeah. They were hippies.
SAGAL: I'm always curious when I meet people with unique names, are you happy about that or were you frustrated by it when you were a kid and your name was different and people had to learn it?
RAMIREZ: Well, when I was younger, yeah, it was rough.
ADAM FELBER: My son Froto has a certain amount of anger.
SAGAL: I understand.
RAMIREZ: It takes a lot of therapy; he'll get it over it.
SAGAL: So does my daughter, Peter Junior.
SAGAL: Well, welcome to the show, Yusila. If I got that right, Yusila, yes?
RAMIREZ: Yes, correct.
SAGAL: Yusila, well, welcome to the show. You're going to play our game in which you have to tell truth from fiction. Carl, what is Yusila's topic?
KASELL: Oh, the humanity.
SAGAL: The Hindenburg balloon crash at the 1937 Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade was just one of the many surprises in the history of that event. Our panelists are going to tell you about one of the surprises at this year's parade. It happened last week. We found out about it this week. Pick the real one; you'll win our prize, Carl's voice on your home voicemail. Ready to go?
RAMIREZ: I'm ready.
SAGAL: First, let's hear from Amy Dickinson.
AMY DICKINSON: This year's Macy's parade came off without a hitch. Santa didn't get anyone pregnant and none of the giant balloons broke free and smashed into buildings or got anyone pregnant.
DICKINSON: So, this week, NBC revealed that the parade was a little too good to be true. When they lost their satellite feed in the middle of the salute to Broadway last week, the network cut to footage of last year's parade.
Vivian Rose, a Rockette, out on maternity leave, outed the network when she saw herself dancing on a float, only she was in a hospital on Thanksgiving Day. Director of Live Events, Barry Bruder, has admitted the lapse and apologized. "We had a little panic in the control room," he said, "and we threw in ten minutes of old footage. I don't think of it as fraud, more like a classic rerun."
SAGAL: That parade looked familiar. NBC broadcast ten minutes of last year's parade, when they can't broadcast this year's. Your next story of why everybody loves a parade comes from Brian Babylon.
BRIAN BABYLON: Every Thanksgiving, children all over the country are forced to watch the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade.
BABYLON: And every year, apart from the size of Al Roker, it's exactly the same.
BABYLON: Except for this year, when parade-goer Ethan Finkelstein noticed something unusual about the confetti fluttering down from the floats. "It landed on my friend's shoulder and says SSN and then it's written like a social security number. Other strips were printed with phone numbers, addresses and license plates numbers, and some of them were even arrest records."
It turns out the confetti was made from shredded police records from Nassau County Police Department in New York. And worse, the records were shredded horizontally.
BABYLON: Which, as it happens, is the same way the lines of information are usually written.
BABYLON: Macy's has denied any involvement. Nassau County is looking into the incident and released a statement, which can be found at the bottom of your hamster cage, if you're interested.
SAGAL: The tickertape, the confetti in the parade turns out to be police records, with people's personal information on it. And your last story of a parade to be thankful for comes from Adam Felber.
FELBER: This year, the final float in the parade, with its traditional appearance of Santa Claus, was especially jolly, with industrious smiling elves scurrying in and out of an adorable Santa's Workshop, where periodic gouts from a hidden smoke machine hinted at the frantic toy-making going on within. Except that there was no smoke machine. What there was, it was discovered after the parade, was a fully functioning and very real hookah.
FELBER: Yes, Santa's elves had an extra bounce in their step and twinkle in their eyes because they were high on a lot more than holiday spirit.
FELBER: The scandal was exposed by whistleblower and veteran elf David Custable. Quote, "Some of the guys are definitely floating on the float every year, and that's fine," he said, "but to smuggle in an actual giant hookah pipe and put it where kids could potentially see it, while reeling around and giggling and waving, I couldn't let it go."
Elf ringleader Russell Lees counters that he brought the holiday cheer from California, where he obtained it legally for medicinal purposes.
FELBER: When asked what medical condition he and the 15 other offending little people were suffering from, Lees said, quote, "We all had an acute case of having to listen to endless Christmas music for three hours while dressed as fricking elves."
FELBER: "That's what I personally would call a chronic condition, if you know what I mean."
SAGAL: All right. Here then are your choices. One of these things happened at last week's Thanksgiving Day parade.
Was it from Amy Dickinson that at a certain point, footage of the prior year's parade was used? From Brian Babylon, that the confetti they tore up and threw to the parade goers was in fact police records with people's personal information? Or from Adam Felber, that the elves in the last float, the Santa float, were higher off the ground than usual?
RAMIREZ: Well, I'm loving number three, but I got to give props to my colleagues because we were just talking about number two. So I'm going to go with two.
SAGAL: Oh really, you'd heard about this?
SAGAL: Brian's story, number two. Well, you've chosen the story about the incriminating tickertape. Let's find out if you're right, by hearing from somebody who knew something about this story.
ETHAN FINKELSTEIN: I picked up some of the confetti that was on the ground and there was what appeared to be a social security number.
SAGAL: That was Ethan Finkelstein. He is a freshman at Tufts University and the young man who discovered where the confetti had come from. Congratulations, you were, of course, right.
SAGAL: Brian did tell the truth.
SAGAL: That means you earn a point for him and you've won our prize, Carl's voice on your home voicemail.
RAMIREZ: That is awesome. Christmas came early.
SAGAL: It really did. Thank you so much for playing.
RAMIREZ: All right, thank you.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.