Dan's Papers—the Hamptons' weekly which chronicles the goings on about town of the ritzy East Coast vacation spot—celebrates its 50th anniversary this month, honoring a legacy of publishing hard-hitting reportage, intimate celebrity profiles, and a number of highly memorable hoaxes. The first prank in 1963 that founding editor Dan Rattiner inflicted on his unsuspecting readers was actually an earnest mistake. After having incorrectly printed the timetable of trains in the paper, he received a call from the stationmaster. "He said, 'There's a crowd of people down here, waiting for a train that doesn't exist,'" recalls Dan. "It made me realize that I could do things that would get the whole town talking about us." Now the Hoaxer of the Hamptons walks us through 10 of his favorite printed pranks.
Dan's Papers' Top 10 Hamptons Hoaxes
From faux Sarah Palin sightings to bullshit shark attacks, the founding editor of Dan's Papers breaks down his favorite "gotcha" moments.
Raw Meat Drive for Killer Shark (1975)
"In 1975, Jaws premiered in the East Hampton theater. I was very frustrated at the time. The book had been written about East Hampton, the movie was supposed to be set in the Hamptons, but at the last minute they filmed it instead on Martha's Vineyard. We got no visitors, we got no credit. At that time, the Hamptons were actually looking for publicity—we were a pretty backwater place. Somehow, in my mind, it just sparked something, this article that even amazed myself when I wound up having written it. It was a letter to the paper from the chief of police of the Hamptons. The letter said that he wanted to assure us that it was going to be safe to go in the ocean and in the bay in the summer, if you chose the right time to do it. There was a killer shark, maybe two or three sharks, but at least one that they knew of. They were feeding him raw meat by helicopter in the ocean on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, and in the bay Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. On Sunday, the shark sleeps. It was also phrased as a patriotic drive and mentioned that there were several policeman that had lost their lives, pulled out of helicopters by the shark.
That paper came out the afternoon of the premiere of the movie, in stacks all through town." [The hoax gathered such steam that the paper received calls about the shark attacks from the Wall Street Journal, Sports Illustrated, and the Christian Science Monitor.]