Categories: Entrepreneurship, Lifestyle | Culture, Racism | Intolerance
“Once you hire us, you cannot fire us. Our commandos take no bribes.”
Fat Squad company motto
“A lot of people just can’t seem to stick to dieting no matter how hard they try, how committed they are,” says David Hartman on ABC’s Good Morning America as he introduces Joe Bones, ex U.S. Marine drill sergeant and proprietor of the Fat Squad, an organization created to help wipe out fat. Bones, (a.k.a. Joey Skaggs), is sitting with Hartman on a studio kitchen set with a fat client and six tough looking calorie cops maintaining tight security around the Good Morning America refrigerator.
Bones explains to Hartman, “We offer 24 hour surveillance… We are there to emotionally and morally support people and to physically restrain them if necessary… They’re paying us $300 a day with a three day minimum, plus expenses, and people try to cheat… So, even while you’re sleeping, you have a commando in your apartment, awake. If you get up to go to the bathroom and decide to stop at the refrigerator, you’re stopped.”
Bones’ client Steffani Martin told Hartman she’d been given the services of the Fat Squad as a birthday present from her husband and explained how embarrassing it was to have commandos in the bedroom at night. But she’d lost weight and was happy.
The phenomenal preoccupation with obesity in America was never more exemplified than by the public and media frenzy that jumped on the Fat Squad band wagon. The Philadelphia Inquirer and Washington Post had been among the first media establishments to fall for this hoax. The story then made a wire service and went around the world in a week. It was widely covered in the U.S. and appeared on television and in print in Japan, Australia, England, Italy, Germany and France.
Customers, sales reps, potential partners, investors, and volunteer disciplinarian commandos came out of the woodwork. Newspapers, wire services and television shows from around the world flocked to the Fat Squad headquarters at 107 Waverly Place, New York (the same studio that Skaggs had used for many other hoaxes over the years) and reported on the story. Good Morning America had heard about The Fat Squad either from Skaggs’ mailed media announcement, or from any number of media reports on the fledgling operation.
Unfortunately for David Hartman, he failed to recognize Skaggs who had recently appeared on Good Morning America with his Fish Condos, condominiums for upwardly mobile guppies.
But viewers did not. ABC got calls from people who recognized Joey Skaggs, telling them they’d been fooled, including a writer for the New York Post which prompted a GMA producer to call Skaggs. The next day David Hartman apologized to his viewing audience explaining that GMA, along with many other reputable news agencies, had been had.
- Policing the Pounds, by Robert Pfeiffer, The Washington Post, May 2, 1986
- Hiring the calorie cops, by John Corr, Philadelphia Inquirer, May 5, 1986
- Fat Squad is on alert for diet cheaters, by John Corr, LA Daily News, May 8, 1986
- Mean in the name of lean, by John Corr, New York Daily News, May 11, 1986
- Fat Squad commandos offer fatties no morsel of mercy, by John Corr, Miami Herald, May 13, 1986
- Freeze tubby, there's no escaping the Fat Squad, by John Corr, Chicago Tribune, May 15, 1986
- The Fat Squad, US Japan Business News, August 25, 1986
- Page Six: Fat Squad puts one over on some thick heads, New York Post, May 14, 1986
- Black & white & red all over, by Mike Santangelo, Daily News, May 15, 1986
- Page Six: Media culpa, New York Post, May 15, 1986
- The 'Fat Squad' Hoax, by Victoria Dawson, The Washington Post, May 15, 1986
- Fat Squad? Fat chance! Media bite, by Joe Starita, The Miami Herald, May 15, 1986
- The TV Column, by John Carmody, The Washington Post, May 15, 1986
- Letter from Camille Sanzone, Talkshow Producer, 79 WNWS Radio, South Florida, May, 15, 1986
- Instead of helping to take off pounds, Fat Squad put the media on, by Paul Galloway, Chicago Tribune, May 16, 1986
- Trib victim of big fat hoax, Chicago Sun Times, May 16, 1986
- ABC burns as Fat Squad hoax follows Chernobyl film fraud, by Duane Dudek, Milwaukee Sentinel, May 21, 1986
- Master Joker: Hoaxes leave you wondering, by Erik Lacitis, Seattle Times, May 23, 1986
- News Media: Skipping Through the News, by Jonathan Alter, Newsweek, June 9, 1986
- Hoaxer Tricks U.S. News Giants With Phony 'Fat Squad' Story - But He Couldn't Fool Enquirer, National Enquirer, June 10, 1986
- Call him Mr. Hoax, by Debra Gersh, Editor & Publisher, June 14, 1986
- Health hoax serves good purpose, and it's fun, by Durwood McAlister, Atlanta Journal, June 19, 1986
- Key to loosing those pounds lies in winning war against temptation, by Leslie Sowers, Houston Chronicle, July 13, 1986
- It's a hoax!, by Pamela Lesmond, People (Australia), July 14, 1986
- Chronicle: Gotcha!, Columbia Journalism Review, September, 1986
- The Happy Hoaxer, Games, September 1986
- Health on Parade: How Doctors Can Treat Deadly Obesity, by Earl Ubell, Parade, September 21, 1986
- Joe Bones, Phony, Health, October 1986
- Fooling most people most of the time, by Susanne Lingemann, Spotlight, October 1986
- Joey Skaggs, Master of the Media Hoax, by Laurie Winer, San Francisco Examiner, October 12, 1986
- Noted: It sounded too good to be true, Report on Business, February, 1987
- Savoir Vivre: Zeitung-enten Der Hersteller, Lui, Germany