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Snubterfuge

Claim:   Man asks celebrity to pretend he knows him to impress the folks he's dining with; when the celebrity complies, the fellow snubs him.

LEGEND

Examples:

[Collected on the Internet, 2000]

I was in the VIP lounge last week en route to Seattle. Whilst in the lounge, I noticed Bill Gates sitting on the chesterfield enjoying a cognac.

I was meeting a very important client who was also flying to Seattle with me but she was running a bit late. Being a forward type of guy, I approached Mr. Gates and introduced myself. I explained to him that I was conducting some very important business and how I would appreciate it if he could throw a quick "Hello Chris" at me when I was with my client.

He agreed. Ten minutes later while I was conversing with my client, I felt a tap on my shoulder. It was Bill Gates. I turned around and looked up at him. He said, "Hi Chris, what's happening?" To which I replied:

"Fuck off Gates, I'm in a meeting."
 

[Spalding, 1969]

Joey Bishop tells about the entertainer, Frank Sinatra, who was dining out one night when a young high school lad came up to his table.

"Mr. Sinatra," said the teen-age boy, "my name is Bernie Rosenberg. Would you please do me a favor?"

"What kind of a favor?" Sinatra asked.

"Well, I'm here with my girl and I want to make a good impression on her. I certainly would appreciate it if you would drop by my table and say 'Hi, Bernie!'"

"OK, kid, I'll try," said the singer, smiling.

A little later he dropped by the boy's table and said, "Hi, Bernie!"

The boy looked up at him and snapped, "Don't bother me now, Frankie. Can't you see I'm busy?"

 

Variations:   The list of the snubbed celebrities includes (but certainly isn't limited to) Bill Gates, Frank Sinatra, Charles Forte, Pierre Trudeau, Lyndon Johnson, Sammy Davis Jr., Kerry Packer, Lee Iacocca, and Reg Ansett.

Origins:   This anecdote about the snubbed celebrity is probably nearly as old as humor itself. Over the years, it has been told about any number of celebrities, because the point is not the identity of the person being high hatted; it's his status as a recognizable name. Don Rickles and Frank Sinatra, for example, have for years told this anecdote about each other, as shown in a joint appearance the duo made on the Tonight Show in 1976:


We hold a sneaking admiration for the enterprising hero in the tale both for his making the initial request and for upping the stakes later by finding a way to impress his tablemates even more than originally planned. That the celebrity gets the worst of the deal is given scant consideration, if any at all. Though we admire the famous and powerful, it's always with an undercurrent of envy. That one of them should be publicly embarrassed as Sinatra repayment for a kind action barely registers on our internal injustice meter. We're too busy vicariously enjoying this other fellow's social triumph.

But of course it's all a story anyway, so there's no actual mistreated celebrity to commiserate with. Which is probably all for the best because if there were, it's ten dollars to a donut that any real person treated that way would immediately retort, "Listen, buddy: You're the one who asked me to come over here and pretend I knew you just so you could impress your friends." Given that sort of ending, the story changes from one of clever one-upsmanship to the "clever" lad backfiring his own scheme upon himself and being the one who ends up wearing egg on his puss.

Barbara "slinking off with tale between legs" Mikkelson

Last updated:   24 March 2011

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Sources:

    Bishop, Amanda.   The Gucci Kangaroo.
    Hornsby, Aust.: Australasian Publishing, 1988.   ISBN 0-900882-50-6   (pp. 100-102).

    Harvey, Paul.   For What It's Worth.
    New York: Bantam, 1991.   ISBN 0-553-07720-1   (p. 5).

    Spalding, Henry.   Encyclopedia of Jewish Humor.
    New York: Jonathan David Publishers, 1969   (p. 261-262).

Also told in:

    Healey, Phil and Rick Glanvill.   Now! That's What I Call Urban Myths.
    London: Virgin Books, 1996.   ISBN 0-86369-969-3   (pp. 147-148).