I, Libertine: big book hoax

 Photos Uncategorized 2008 06 24 Ilibfront 2 In the 1950, radio host Jean Shepherd played a great prank on New York City bookstores. Annoyed with how bestseller lists worked at the time, Shepherd urged his listeners, aka "the Night People," to descend on all bookstores requesting a book that didn't exist. He even gave them a plot summary, author, and title. Eventually, the fake book "I, Libertine," became a real bestseller. WFMU posted a 1968 radio show of Shepherd telling the whole fantastic story.
I, Libertine hoax (Thanks, COOP!)


  1. I am a huge Jean Shepherd fan. He was one of the best storytellers ever. As kids in the 60s, my brother and I used to listen to his show late at night on our transistor radios (covertly, because he was on past our bed time). I think I’ve read all of his books too. But I have never heard of this hoax. I can’t wait to listen!

  2. I keep a signed copy on the same shelf as autographed books by Calvin M. Knox and Will Stewart.

  3. The Maestro in the 50s was the inspiration for a radio show I did in L.A. in the 60s, Club 86. He was the best of The Best.

  4. I have hours and hours of 1960s Jean Shepherd shows on my MP3 player. I listen to them as I walk the dog.

    I heard one the other day about childhood expeditions into a swamp bordering his neighborhood. And another about going to birthday party at a rich kids’ house.

    I was thinking the other day that a skillful editor could use them as the narration for a series of cartoons, or even live action sketches. Even if they’d be about Jean Shepherd instead of “Ralphie,” they could get a big following from fans of “A Christmas Story.”

  5. Have you listened to the end of the interview? Nobody will be listening to The Beatles in the future lol. Who are The Beatles? I have no clue, their 45’s must be worthless.

  6. Buck Henry managed something similar
    G. Clifford Prout was a man with a mission, and that mission was to put clothes on all the millions of naked animals throughout the world. To realize his dream, Prout founded an organization called the Society for Indecency to Naked Animals, abbreviated as SINA. (It was left unexplained why the society was ‘for indecency’ not ‘against indecency’.)

    Prout first appeared before the American public to promote his unusual organization on May 27, 1959 when he appeared on NBC’s Today Show. His appearance generated a huge viewer response and soon thousands of letters were pouring in to SINA’s headquarters (Prout had provided a New York mailing address while on the air).

    More interviews followed after the success of this first appearance. Wherever he went Prout promoted his anti-animal-nudity philosophy and repeated his society’s catchy slogans: “Decency today means morality tomorrow” or “A nude horse is a rude horse.” Prout also urged SINA members (he claimed there were over 50,000 of them) to take an active role in their communities by handing ‘SINA Summonses’ to people who shamelessly walked their naked pets down the street.

    So was Prout and his quixotic mission for real? Of course not. SINA was actually the creation of the comedian (and professional hoaxer) Alan Abel who played the role of SINA’s Vice President, while actor Buck Henry performed as Prout.

    The SINA hoax ran on for years. People were either outraged by it, or quite supportive of it. Abel records that one woman in Santa Barbara tried to donate $40,000 to the cause (Abel politely turned down the money, insisting that the bylaws of SINA forbade him from taking any money from strangers). But surprisingly few called the bluff of Abel and Henry. Apparently almost everybody was willing to accept that such a society could be real.

    On August 21, 1962 SINA reached a high point when it was featured on the CBS news with Walter Cronkite. As the segment was airing, a few CBS employees recognized that Prout was actually Buck Henry. Henry was, after all, a CBS employee. This brought a formal end to the hoax. But Abel managed to keep the joke going for a few more years by means of a SINA newsletter mailed to the faithful. The newsletter included features such as press releases and sewing patterns for pet clothes.

  7. My friend’s parents were Hornets Attack Victor Mature. They fooled several major entertainment magazines into reviewing their non existant record back in the 70s. I wonder if they were inspired by this.

  8. You didn’t finish “reading” the cover!
    It’s by Kelly Freas, and the pub sign on the right has a crossed (shepherd’s) crook and a sturgeon — the real creators.

  9. perfect timing 86, I’ll be seeing a 90 year old friend soon and I’m sure she’ll enjoy this

  10. If you haven’t heard it, you should try to find and listen to, Alan Abel’s vinyl LP from the 1960s called “Inside SINA The Society for Indecency to Naked Animals. It’s hilarious. Also, Abel appeared, along with other panelists representing equally important and serious interests, on The Amazing Randi Show on WOR AM radio at midnight in the 1960s. I have parts of the show on audio tape but would love to find a copy of the whole thing.
    On another topic – does anyone remember Gene Shepherd reading from Sax Rohmer’s Dr. Fu Manchu – or is my imagination playing tricks on me? Yours in silliness. Karen

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