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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 this week with Roy Blount, Jr., Faith Salie, and Mo Rocca. And here again is your host, at the Fox Theater in Atlanta, Georgia, Peter Sagal.



Thank you, Carl. Thank you, guys. 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!

ROBIN PAETZOLD: Hi, this is Robin, in Iowa City.

SAGAL: Hey, how are things in Iowa City?

PAETZOLD: They're great.

SAGAL: That's great. Iowa City is a beautiful place...

MO ROCCA: That's right.

SAGAL: ...home to the University of Iowa.


SAGAL: The Fighting Hawkeyes.

PAETZOLD: It is the Fighting Hawkeyes.

SAGAL: And what do you do there?

PAETZOLD: I work for the College of Medicine, teaching global health.

SAGAL: Really?



PAETZOLD: Wow, that got received well in Atlanta.

SAGAL: Yeah, this is the home of the CDC. They like global health.

PAETZOLD: I know. I just heard.

SAGAL: Robin, welcome to the show. You're going to play the game in which you must try to tell truth from fiction. Carl, what is Robin's topic?

KASELL: You crushed my dreams, Peter.

SAGAL: We all grow up with certain truths we consider absolute. The sun rises in the east. Santa Claus brings us presents. But this week, our panelists are going to shatter your illusions about one such piece of gospel. Guess the true story; you'll win Carl's voice on your home voicemail. Ready to play?

PAETZOLD: You bet.

SAGAL: All right, let's first hear from Roy Blount, Jr.

ROY BLOUNT JR: While going through some old papers in a small town library recently, University of North Texas' historian Thomas Horn, whose specialty is old cowboy culture, came upon a crumbly manuscript that first thrilled him and then broke his heart.

According to this firsthand account, the real original Texas cowboys did not wear anything resembling cowboy hats. The hats described and sketched in this manuscript were very remarkably like the round, short-brimmed hat that TV's Gilligan wore on the island.


JR: Enough sun protection without the ostentation. But there's more. Back in the old days, only the rich ranch owners rode horses. Working cowhands generally rode the cows.


SAGAL: A discovery that shatters our myths about cowboys.


SAGAL: They wore Gilligan hats and rode cows.


SAGAL: Your next story of truth coming out at last comes from Faith Salie.

FAITH SALIE: We like our Victorian poetesses to be well behaved, hermetic and benignly eccentric, and Emily Dickinson has always delivered. But recently discovered journals, kept by Emily's sister Lavinia, reveal that the Belle of Amherst was more like the hell of Amherst, as in hell raiser. The prim American poet, known for her iconoclastic verse and her rich inner life apparently had a banging nightlife.


SALIE: According to Lavinia's diaries, come sundown, Emily would don men's clothing, enhance her own slight mustache and head out for some carousing.


SALIE: Calling herself, slyly, Dick Emilson.


SALIE: Even in the 1850's, Amherst was a college town and the woman known as Dick had plenty of drinking buddies. She excelled at the 19th century version of quarters, known by the college kids as "Seated Liberty Half Dollars."


SALIE: She also played a mean version of beer pong, which involved chucking bullets into mugs of ale. This revelation has rocked the lit crit world. Fran Kriegel, Professor of Poetry and Folklore at Oberlin College says, with a sigh, "Syntactically speaking, our Emily may have been less innovative than inebriated."


SALIE: Now, scholars are looking at her inimitable style of dashes, slant lines and unorthodox capitalization as a kind of 19th century drunk texting.



SAGAL: Emily Dickinson, party animal. Your last story of something that's not quite what you thought comes from Mo Rocca.

ROCCA: A publicist lying to make his client look better? Eh, what's new pussycat? A publicist manipulating the public with staged events? It's not unusual, not even in the case of legendary lothario and heartthrob Tom Jones.

In a new book, PR kingpin Jay Bernstein says he paid girls to toss room keys and underwear at Tom Jones. Bernstein was inspired by a real event. At New York City's Copacabana Club, Jones was working the crowd when all of the sudden a woman stood up, peeled off her panties and hurled them at a stunned Jones.

So the next year, when Jones was getting a lukewarm reception at Vegas' Flamingo Hotel, Bernstein, armed with a fat wad of Benjamins, rounded up a bunch of women to fling their knickers at Tom Jones. Quote, "I chose the ones who seemed extroverted and hungry for a laugh." The biggest surprise, Tom Jones himself never knew. His likely response to his publicist now?


ROCCA: Why, why, why the lies, lies? Why, why, why, the lies, lies?



SAGAL: That was very good.

ROCCA: Thank you.

SAGAL: All right, here are your choices. From Roy Blount, Jr., it turns out cowboys didn't wear cowboy hats but sort of little silly hats like Gilligan did. From Faith Salie: Emily Dickinson, despite what you've heard, got out and about. Or, from Mo Rocca: those girls throwing their panties at Tom Jones, paid to do so by his own publicist. Which of these is the real story that shattered our dreams?

PAETZOLD: I'm going to guess that you had to pay those Tom Jones fans to get that excited and kind of rig it.

SAGAL: You're going to go for Mo's story then of women being paid...

PAETZOLD: Yep, I go for Mo's story.


SAGAL: ...to throw their panties at Tom Jones. Well, we spoke to one of the people who brought this terrible story to light.

DAVID RUBINI: The women were paid $25 for throwing the room key and $50 for throwing panties.


SAGAL: That was David Rubini. He's one of the co-authors of the book "Starmaker: Life as a Hollywood Publicist." Congratulations, Robin, you got it right.


SAGAL: You earned a point for Mo.


PAETZOLD: Thank you. Thank you.

SAGAL: And you have won Carl Kasell's voice on your home answering machine. He's back, he's better than ever and he's ready to do that for you. Congratulations.

PAETZOLD: Thank you so much.

SAGAL: Thank you, Robin. Thanks for playing.

PAETZOLD: Bye-bye.

SAGAL: Bye-bye.


(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.