OK, folks, it’s time to fess up. I’ve perpetrated a hoax. Let me correct that. We’ve perpetrated a hoax. For your edification, this hoax (perhaps it could be called prank, but we like to think of it as being on a somewhat higher level) was done with a clear intent and purpose, which will explained momentarily.
Anyway, let’s cut to the chase.
The fact is, ladies and gentlemen that S.L. Goldman — the writer of this column — does not exist. Which means that over the past seven months, you’ve been reading and (much more importantly) reacting to the works of a nonexistent entity.
Nope, no such luck. We’re not kidding. This is NOT a prank.
We add this caveat, because no doubt, those of you who’ve been reading this column with any degree of regularity are quite familiar with Goldman’s penchant for pranksterism. But we promise you (on a stack of Bibles, for all you Christians), that this is no trick.
There ain’t no such person as S.L. Goldman. And that’s the name of that
S.L.Goldman, is, in fact, a group of writers who decided one evening (actually it was over the course of several evenings) to create a fictitious persona who would pen, well… something. As if from on high, WorldNetDaily came calling. And hence the S.L. Goldman column, “Fair Game” was born (so to speak).
But why, you ask? Why did you do this? To what end? The answer, we’re afraid, may sound deceptively simple, perhaps even a bit cruel. But again — it’s the truth.
To see if we could pull it off. And I, er, I’m sorry, we must say, that we think we came through with flying colors.
Yes, dear readers, we believe we’ve succeeded in putting one over on you.
In fact, we are, at this moment, patting ourselves on the back(s), because we far surpassed our wildest expectations.
This column has been averaging over 200 emails per week ever since its inception on September 11 of last year. And the letter rate has constantly grown. The email deluge probably reached its zenith following Goldman’s December 24th column, entitled “Hitler and The Occult.” That particular column generated over 2000 emails — the bulk of which arrived (and didn’t stop arriving for a week hence) from angered (let’s make that furious) Catholics who took umbrage at a particular statement made — then later retracted — by Goldman. These good folks literally wanted poor Goldman’s head on a platter. (Unfortunately for them, there was no head to be served up. Well, at least not Goldman’s head, anyhow.)
Moreover, Goldman has successfully spun off his WND popularity into a new website, The Tongue link to which — in only a brief six weeks on the net — is currently averaging around 10,000 pageviews (not hits) per day. Now certainly this is a mere pittance when compared to WND’s 3 million per day. Still, our colleagues who know about such stuff tell us that our numbers are unprecedented for a site that’s been online for less than two months (and which has not even bothered to register with any search engines or any of the rest of that folderol).
Not only that, but The Tongue has begun getting people to pay in order to gain access to it’s “Members Only” section. (The viewer must first fill out a 25 page application, and he/she must pass muster (there is currently a 50% rejection rate), before we opt to “allow” them to give us their money and bequeath upon them that much-vaunted Tongue membership.
The point? Quite simply this: Though there are other columnists whose works appear on the site, we attribute the unmitigated success of the Tongue solely to the popularity of SL Goldman. Er … that is, “us.”
But you still haven’t answered our question, you say! For what reason did you perpetrate this rather cruel joke upon your beloved readers?
As we said earlier, the main reason was… because we wanted to. But the hoax was also perpetrated (so you won’t feel like total dupes –though dupes you are) for a more noble purpose. A scientific purpose, you might say.
Bear with us. It’s really not all that complicated.
If you’ve been reading this column on any sort of regular basis, you’ll have noticed that there has been one theme — a single message — that has been repeated over and over and over again throughout the duration of the column’s existence.
Testing time, kiddies: what is the message that this column has propagated?
Oh, come on now, somebody raise your hand!
Alright, you dimwits. The message is — (da dum!) don’t believe anything or anybody. Given your dismal performance, we think it bears repeating. So take the earwax out of your ears and listen up real good:
DON’T BELIEVE ANYTHING OR ANYBODY.
“Don’t believe anybody — especially me” Goldman (that is “we”) warned you in an early column. “You must disbelieve everything that comes out of people’s mouths,” he ranted several weeks later in a column which made the statement that “lying” is the first — and most natural instinct of
homo sapiens (that means you, brother). That particular column, by the way, got the second highest email rate. Most of it from people who insisted that they were not liars.
For your edification, we decided to propagate that one single message from the very get-go. And what better way of testing to see if you were absorbing the message than to make the propagator of the message a fictitious character… a lie!
And — much to our amazement — nobody got it! Nobody busted us! Oh, a few of you got close on a couple of occasions. There were a pittance of letters which commented on the “inconsistency” in the tone of the column. Inconsistency, folks! You’d think somebody would have gotten a clue (even though, we are embarrassed to say, it was unintentional). But nooooooooooo.
Think about it! This column — were it indeed written by one person — would have had to have been penned by someone suffering from a severe case of MPD (multiple personality disorder to you laymen). To wit: one week Goldman appears as a bible-spouting, born-again Christian (having turned his back on his Jewish heritage). The next week, he’s attacking Christians. In one column he avows the virtues of revenge — a decidedly non-Christian sentiment. In another he touts forgiveness. After interviewing himself in one of the most self-serving columns ever, a few weeks later, the column is penned by a 10,000-year-old entity from the Lost Continent Of Atlantis (or some equally ridiculous place) who claims to be channeling through Goldman!
And on it goes. And not one single peep out of you guys! Good Lord. What’s the matter with you people!
Throughout the course of the column, Goldman has veered from writing seething, rants in which he dismisses the entire human race as some sort of twisted joke spawned by a God who could only have been an idiot; then the next week he’s praising the Lord. He goes from writing about the virtues of hate, to penning a maudlin, tearful column about the passing of his (alleged) dead cousin.
So, there’s been a dead giveaway, right from the get-go, people. And, we’re embarrassed (for you) to say that not one of you called us on it. In fact, oddly, Goldman’s very inconsistency only served to make his popularity grow.
So, we learned something here. People are attracted to things which they can’t pin down or define. It’s the chameleons of the world (Bob Dylan, Madonna) who have careers that last over five minutes. Because they’re talented? Uh uh. Because you don’t know what to expect next from them.
Alright. So now that we’ve given you the rationale, let us deal with conundrum Number One. Which is, as we’re sure you’ve noticed, that Goldman appears to have a history that can be validated by verifiable facts. That is, he’s been a writer for the LA Times, and various other newspapers and magazines. He’s published several books (some of which are for sale on this very site and sold screenplays. His biography lists him as a licensed private investigator.
On the darker side, Goldman has been arrested for breaking into the computers of Fox Television, then later exonerated by the very judge who “convicted” him, after which he sold his story rights for an unprecedented sum of money to director Oliver Stone), who opted to turn Goldman’s
tabloid expose into a megabucks feature film.
Thus the questions naturally arises: How could a nonexistent entity have an actual history?
Again, the explanation is quite simple:
All of the above is (as far as we can ascertain) true. Only the person who all that “history” happened to wasn’t me… I mean, “us” (sorry, it’s difficult to get out of the habit of writing in the first person). The person to whom the aforementioned history belongs — is (make that “was”) a Southern California writer named — guess what? — Stuart Goldman. If one checks the records, Stuart Goldman passed away in 1993. There is a death certificate and an urn at Hillside Memorial Cemetery in Los Angeles bearing Goldman’s name. His ashes rest right next to those of his father, Maurice (a noted composer of Yiddish music). Any of you who wish can easily check this for yourselves.
To further complicate things (and again all this is a matter of public record) there are at least two other Stuart Goldmans (one who works out of New York, another who lives and works out of Los Angeles, who are not dead, and who make their living as writers). We opted to use the dead Goldman (we know it sounds rather macabre) for two very good reasons.
One was that we couldn’t be sued, and two — it was that Goldman whose works we found the most interesting.
In fact, the genesis of our experiment (which began some two years after
Goldman’s death) was because two of the members of our little group were what you what you might refer to as “Goldman groupies.” Ah hell… you can’t be a groupie if you’re over 30. So let’s call them “fans.” Hardcore fans.
So when Goldman passed away, these two individuals — who considered Goldman the rightful heir to the crown held by such world-class curmudgeons as G.K. Chesterton and H.L. Mencken — convinced the rest of us that this was a man worthy of bringing back to life, so to speak. Thus, the author of “Fair Game” is named S.L. — not “Stuart” — in honor of his muckraking mentors.
The “real” Goldman was a rather elusive character. Before he ever put pen to paper (at least officially) he had a ten year career during which he shunned his Orthodox Jewish roots, donned a cowboy hat and string tie, and toured the globe as a pedal steel guitar player, working as a sideman (under the moniker “Speedy Otis”) with such country music legends as Linda Ronstadt, Dolly Parton,Waylon Jennings, and Doug Kershaw. For a short time, Goldman joined fellow redneck Jew, Kinky Friedman (now a successful writer of detective novels) as a member of the Kinster’s ace backup band, “The Texas Jewboys.” (For the record, when Goldman was with Kinky — around 1981 — the band was known as “The Shalom Retirement Village People.”)
Goldman took up the pen somewhere around 1976, after hanging up his musical spurs. He started out rather tamely. But a new character quickly began to emerge in the pages of the L.A.Times, where Goldman was working as music critic.
The Goldman who appeared in print was not particularly well liked among his peers. Or, for that matter, by his “fans” either. In fact, Goldman went out of his way to be disliked — even reviled — by his readers. A 1980 article in Los Angeles Magazine calls Goldman (who by that time was penning a regular column in the L.A. Weekly) “The Most Hated Man In L.A.”
In actuality, Goldman was a far different person offstage (that is, when he wasn’t writing a column) than he was in person. In other words, the original Stuart Goldman — the person whose style we have attempted to continue in this column — was a created persona. Which is why we didn’t feel particularly guilty about conducting our little experiment. Because, as you now see (we hope) the Goldman that caused all the hubbub during his heyday didn’t really exist either — at least as he presented himself to his readers.
We have learned that Goldman was, in fact, a quiet, bookish sort of fellow who kept to himself, and was — according the those who knew him — almost the complete opposite of his caustic, in-print self.
But the truth about Goldman isn’t easy to come by. That’s because Goldman went out of his way to obfuscate the facts of his life. In fact, it appeared that he delighted in keeping his readers off-base by constantly re-inventing himself. From what we have learned from those who knew him, Goldman shunned any public attention. He rarely went out in public, choosing instead to stay home with his wife and young daughter and his massive collection of fish.
On the page, Goldman was something else entirely. He seemed to crave — even live for — attention. He did this by becoming the bad boy of journalism — like Howard Stern is to radio. But comparisons fail to capture the charm and wit of the Stuart Goldman who wrote a syndicated column entitled “Final Cut,” and who was subsequently banned from the pages of four major (need we add “liberal”) papers including the L.A. Times. And in fact, Goldman was arrested — and later cleared of all charges — for hacking into the computers of Fox Television studios — both in Los Angeles and New York — while working on an undercover assignment in which the goal was to expose the tabloids as a criminal organization. Towards the end of the assignment, Goldman was working in tandem with the FBI and a high-powered DA who was formulating a case against the tabloids based upon Violations of the RICO laws.
Rumors abounded about Goldman throughout his career: That he was a Federal agent. That he’d had a previous career as a pornographer. That he’d spent two years in a Costa Rican jail, and was released only through the intervention of his friend, the infamous white-collar criminal, Robert Vesco.
Despite our collective investigative abilities, the true history of Goldman remains shrouded in mystery. In fact, we found that there was little that is verifiable about Stuart Goldman. It quickly became quite obvious that Goldman had gone out of his way to obfuscate the facts of his life. His wife, obviously carrying out her late husband’s wishes, refused to enlighten us about her husband’s past life (or lives as it may be). The one fact we did verify was that Goldman had a penchant for pseudonyms.
During his career, Goldman published articles, critiques, essays and books under some 36 different pen names. He openly admitted to this in several interviews (which are available in various places on the net, if one cares to do an online search).
But let’s get back to the rasion d’etre of this column. The Goldman Hoax.
We — the writers of the S.L. Goldman column in these pages (as well as on
The Tongue) choose to remain anonymous. So you won’t feel completely cheated, we’ll give you some bare bones “facts.” First, we are a markedly disparate lot. (Again, for our own reasons, we choose not to reveal our
exact numbers.) A couple of our team have come and gone since we began our little experiment. We are as varied in backgrounds as you might imagine.
One of us is, in fact (as is the S.L. Goldman whose byline graces this column), a private investigator with a background in law enforcement. Another of us works as an attorney (although he claims to hate all lawyers).
Another of us sits — at this very moment in time — in a federal penitentiary, where he will — if the government has its way — spend the next 33 years in prison for the commission of a series of “white-collar” crimes. Lest we be accused of being “male chauvinist pigs” (a badge of honor that the “real” Goldman wore quite proudly) we inform you that we have one female in our ranks. She currently works as a staff writer for one of the more prominent late night talk shows. Of the remaining members of the group, only one of us makes a living by putting words on paper (as an advertising writer for a computer company). The others have what might be called incredibly boring “day jobs.” Nonetheless, there’s a definite chemistry amongst the group. We’re bound together by a common bond — the name of which we do not know, nor particularly care to define.
Usually we rotate when writing the Goldman column. That is, one person per column (thus accounting for the variation in tone week-by-week). Occasionally two of us (never more) write a column together. But over time we have come to see that these columns have turned out to be the weakest and most disjointed.
As we’ve gone along, we have developed an “S.L. Goldman Bible” (no, not a religious book, you clucks! That’s TV-writer terminology). That is, a book of Goldman characteristics, as it were. The Bible contains all of Goldman’s ideologies (which are extremely difficult to pin down), his beliefs (which seem to change on an almost daily basis), his literary influences, as well as his customs, habits and practices. The Bible is complete with a mountainous list of favorite Goldman words and phrases — phrases that crop up consistently in his writings. (This list can be found in Goldman’s book,The Art Of Verbal Warfare Vol 1: Confessions Of A Poison Pen Artist, and it is continued in the just-released follow-up to the first book, The Art Of Verbal Warfare
Part II: With Malice for All, a collection of Goldman’s most vitriolic columns.
To be clear, both of these books were not written by our group, but rather by the “real”– if you will — Stuart Goldman. Both books are compilations of his writings, complied from the beginning of his career up until the time of his passing. Mr. Goldman’s wife was kind enough to license to us the rights to these books, which are currently offered The Tongue, and will soon be available in bookstores throughout the U.S., Europe and Japan.
We told you before that we had noble reasons for our experiment — that is, reasons other than our natural bent for prankesterism (a wee bit of history: two years before the Goldman Hoax, two of us successfully pulled off a book tour — which included appearances on David Letterman — for a book which, in fact, did not exist). But as we said, the Goldman project was far more than just a prank. It was a true sociological study — and it turned out to be much more illuminating than we realized.
You see, S.L. Goldman — during his tenure in these pages — and now on The
Tongue, has already achieved somewhat of a mythological status on the Net.
In a world that’s populated by literally thousands — make that millions — of people… each one frantically trying their damnedest to make a name for themselves and/or their products — this is a fairly remarkable occurrence.
We have no rational explanation for this. But there you have it.
The collection of letters we’ve amassed — that is letters written to Goldman from you, his readers — is a rather amazing in itself. Of course there are the massive amount of missives penned by the much-vaunted “Goldman haters.” These people have existed from the beginning… and we admit openly that we sought to fan that flame (as did Goldman himself). But oddly, as the weeks went by, the haters began to be outnumbered by the Goldman fans. This was totally unexpected.
In fact, the fan mail got so voluminous, that we were forced to set up an autoresponder on our email account which stated that Mr. Goldman could no longer personally answer all his emails, as he (that is “we” — and even as a “we” it was a daunting task) did at the outset of the column. Early on, we engaged in some very lengthy email correspondences with people who wrote Goldman — but in the end it was simply an impossible task.
And frankly, it was in this area that we felt most culpable. Somehow when you’re dealing one-on-one, the charade takes on a different character. Now you’ve got a person, sitting in a room somewhere, pouring out his/her guts to someone who he/she assumes is an actual living flesh and blood human being — not a committee. And especially not a committee who are scrutinizing their every response under a microscope. (This is not a mere turn of the phrase by the way. The letters written to Goldman were a very major part of this experiment). Were they not digital we would likely have engaged a handwriting expert to aid us in our analysis of the makeup of Goldman readership.
But to get back to the point: when our alter ego stopped answering emails, there were two reasons. One, because we couldn’t deal with the deluge of mail. And two, because — to be honest — we started feeling guilty.
So why, you ask, pull the plug now? To that we’ll have to reply (in true Goldmanesque fashion) that the answer is none of your business. We have our reasons, and that’s all we’re willing to say at this time.
The next question is, will this column (and The Tongue) continue? The answer to both questions is a (somewhat qualified) yes. The “Fair Game” column that appears in these pages will continue to appear and S.L. Goldman will continue to receive a byline. But now that you’ve been informed that the writer of the column is, in fact, a fictitious character — a creation designed specifically to elicit responses, and that YOU — the readership — are the guinea pigs, we expect you to regard the column in a different light. (For the record, only two of us will continue to write “Fair Game.” The rest of our little group have other seeds to sow, so to speak.)
As for The Tongue, since it’s an unqualified hit — a website that has not only achieved Net popularity — but one that is actually making money, the answer is (greedy capitalist pigs that we are) of course it will continue! Why the hell would we dump something that’s putting bread and butter on our tables? (For the record, all of the other columnists who appear on The Tongue are real people). So, yes, The Tongue will continue to exist, as will S.L. Goldman’s column in those pages.
The Tongue is still in the process of defining itself; it’s gone from being a simple “muckraking” site to something much larger. And — truth be told — we don’t quite know what that is. But whatever it is, people like it. Thus, we’re just as anxious as you are to see what form the next mutation takes.
And that, dear readers, brings this little “confession session” to a close.
In winding up, we want to ask you this: How does it feel to know you’ve been “under observation” as it were? That you’ve been the show…the circus act? How does it feel to know you’ve been responding — like so many good little Pavlovian dogs- to words from someone who is nothing more than the creation of a group of middle-aged pranksters?
Does it make you angry? Do you think it’s funny? Perhaps you couldn’t care less. (That’s fine with us. We don’t care that you don’t care.)
We’re not asking how you feel just to be nice guys. Once again, we have a motive. As we’ve stated from the get-go, a huge part of the payoff to this little experiment has always been in seeing how the audience would react once the cat was out of the bag. Thus, your responses will represent the final stage the game. These responses — along with the entire story of the Great Goldman Hoax — soup to nuts — will be published in a forthcoming book.
(You didn’t think we were doing this thing for free did you? Ah no, the book advance — meager though it was — was in-hand from the outset).
So once again, we’re requesting that you send us emails. Tell us how you feel. Feel free to pontificate. Go ahead, deluge us! We dare you!!
Please send your responses to firstname.lastname@example.org (or to the email address at the bottom of the page). For your information, we intend to publish these responses in the final chapter of “The Great Goldman Hoax” (working title). If your letter is selected to be amongst those to be published, we will send you a release form, requesting your permission to publish your letter. You may choose to use your real name, or to use a pseudonym.
To add a little incentive here, (incentive is always good) the writers of the top 10 letters — that is, the letters we find most interesting (and that doesn’t translate into “long”) will receive checks — depending on how much they tickle us) from Harsh Reality Productions. So, with that as bait on the hook, we hope that over the next several days, we’ll find ol’ S.L.’s email box overflowing with your magnificent and wondrous thoughts and opinions.
And with that, friends and neighbors, we think its time to leave you — at least, that is, until next week.
Frankly, we feel better. It’s somewhat of a relief to have spilled the beans.
Oh sure, we know. There are those of you who are saying right this very minute, “This whole column is a joke. It’s just Goldman pulling another stunt.
To those good folks we simply say, No comment.