Remember the movie Catch Me If You Can, starring Leonard DiCaprio as a charming teenage con-artist who scored long-haul flights and a variety of other company benefits through trickery and legerdemain? The reality was much less dashing, according to a new book: Frank Abagnale Jr. was a small-time conman happy to stalk and rip off everyday people and was already jailed by the age depicted in his book (and the movie). The best part? Reporters accused him of a hoax within years of his parole, publishing newspaper articles exposing Abagnale's yarns as long ago as the 1970s. But the truth simply doesn't travel.
Logan writes that these articles debunking Abagnale's claims were no more than a little speed bump in his rise to fame. Abagnale was asked to come back to "The Tonight Show" multiple times after his first appearance. And, when asked about the journalism claiming to have debunked his stories, Abagnale responded that those people the journalists spoke to were too embarrassed to admit that they had been conned. Abagnale went on to write a best-selling book, which was then adapted into both the Spielberg film and a Broadway play. Those adaptations further legitimized Abagnale's larger-than-life tales.
It's the perfect wheeze: a con-artist whose stories about being a con-artist were the con.
Here's the book: The Greatest Hoax On Earth: Catching Truth, While We Can [Amazon]