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Nationally known ad prankster causes stir in Yuma
When Betsy Ross lost her original sewing kit or when Yoko Ono accidentally misplaced her bonsai tree, only one man could come to their rescue.
His name is Rory Emerald and finding imaginary stuff is his art.
But this internationally known prankster doesn't need paint and canvas for the kind of art he makes. Just give him a ridiculous item to claim that he's found, an advertisement in a newspaper and you've got a classic Emerald hoax sure to make his phone ring for weeks.
"It's art in the classifieds!" Emerald exclaims. "I'm the first person in the U.S. to do this. I guess it's just a novelty type thing for me."
During his ad prankster career, he has claimed discovery of everything from the original car from "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang" to the missing arms of the famed Venus De Milo statue.
But folks in Yuma probably had no clue who Emerald was until two weeks ago when his mischievous mind set upon Yuma - and the pages of The Sun. In the lost and found section of the newspaper's classifieds, he placed an item claiming that he found an original Babe Ruth uniform on Madison Avenue.
Who would have known that people would actually believe the ad and call Emerald's home phone number for more information? And who would have known that the man answering the phone would be a 41-year-old stay-at-home dad in Los Angeles?
"Oh, people literally go nuts. The phone rings constantly," he said with delight. "Most of the time I get over 100 calls. The Babe Ruth one in Yuma probably got over 200, though."
The number he lists really is his home phone, but he admits that he eventually takes it off the hook. Friends and family who want to reach him have to call his cell phone.
At first glance these fake ads seem like money-making schemes, but Emerald swears he's not after money. He just wants the attention.
"I tell everyone that calls that it's not true. It's a joke. It's a prank," he says as he begins to giggle. "It's just a friendly hoax."
One of his current ads just struck Fort Wayne, Ind., announcing his discovery of a "uniquely adorable" two-headed kitten.
"People have called offering better medical care than what they would give their own children," Emerald mused. "There were some rappers calling for the cat and someone claiming to
be Rush Limbaugh."
Animal ads are actually his favorites. So far he's found a "pug with amnesia," a wandering baby panda, a baby giraffe and an "ornery camel."
Although it's difficult to imagine that people actually believe his ads, Emerald swears that they do and actually argue with him from time to time.
"Even when you tell people that the ads aren't true, they still want to believe it," he said, using Babe Ruth as an example. "I think people were just glad that someone remembered him in such a way."
His very first bogus ad heralded his find a prosthetic nose outside of Michael Jackson's Neverland Ranch.
Emerald has placed about 40 of these ads from coast to coast, and they're pretty easy to track. Just look for the news articles that follow in the newspapers that he has duped. Emerald says he's also a hot ticket with magazine writers and radio shows looking for something quirky to report.
Surprisingly, though, most newspapers seem to take it all in good humor. Tisha Sullivan, classifieds manager for The Sun, said she's never heard of the newspaper being approached
with a fake advertisement before.
"I'd never really heard of 'classifieds as art,' although I love the idea," Sullivan said. "I knew that finding Babe Ruth's original uniform wasn't a possibility, so I just figured that it was more of a personal ad, possibly one person communicating to another through classifieds, which we sometimes get. I did not predict that the ad would cause such a stir!"
Quite a few readers called The Sun and news of the ad proved to be great chat fodder for local radio shows.
"We definitely took it to be fun and in good humor," Sullivan said. "I hope that it gave some readers a good chuckle too."
Emerald says he'll only place an ad if the newspaper prints lost and found items for free. He also refuses to place an ad twice, so each city gets its own very own ad.
He confirms the suspicion that most newspapers know his ads are bogus when he calls, but he politely declines to say much more.
"I don't want to give away my secrets, which all the merry pranksters would obviously love to know."
These "merry pranksters" are fellow hoax artists around the nation who Emerald claims are such fans of his - or such competition - that they have turned the game on Emerald and take delight in spreading rumors about him. He claims that's how tabloids - and he has the clips to prove it - once claimed that Emerald was a transvestite who met Elizabeth Taylor in rehab prior to getting hitched.
"That was the second-largest hoax in the world," Emerald said. "That's what people say anyway. I don't know if it's true."
Plus there are countless strange claims about Emerald floating around the Internet, ranging from a story about Jackie Onassis telling him "something profound" on her deathbed to a theory that George Lucas based the "Star Wars" character Darth Vader on Emerald (who, even though the ages don't add up, supposedly dated Lucas' mother and didn't make a very nice stepdad).
"I think people are just envious. In order to get into a newspaper or get themselves on TV, they have to say something about me."
The Sun found Internet tidbits asking everything from "Can Rory Emerald make it snow?" to "Does Rory Emerald stay crunchy in napalm?"
Emerald claims that his media and Web fame has even forced him to move several times.
"I'm like Jody Foster. I attract nutty people!" he said, adding that Elizabeth Taylor's fans still hate him.
The supposed truth about Emerald is just as colorful. He said he was born in Pontiac, Mich., and now makes a living as an artist whose forte is making collages.
"I'm separated from my wife. She left me for a rock star," Emerald said, adding that his family isn't quite aware of his penchant for ad hoaxes. "My dad was murdered in 1998, so he doesn't know anything about it. My mom is a Virgo, so she has her own thing going on down in Florida. So I actually don't talk about this much with her."
Emerald also claims to have had bit roles in films such as "Karate Kid" and "Postcards from the Edge."
Even though his art is entirely based on lies, Emerald says that his adoring public has every reason to believe what he says.
"I'm very candid. I lie my butt off when I'm putting an ad in, but when someone's talking to me on the phone, I'm not going to lie.
"I'm very honest and I'm very humble. I'm just thankful to have been able to think up something that someone has never done before. I guess I just really got lucky."
MORE OF EMERALD'S 'FANTASTIC FINDS'
-The original batmobile
-H.G. Wells' time machine
-Leonardo da Vinci's paintbrushes and palette
-First Lady Laura Bush's gold cigarette case and lighter
-Sen. Larry Craig's butterfly net (in a gay magazine)
-An ice sculpture of Spongebob Squarepants
-Uma Thurmon's samurai sword from "Kill Bill"
-Paris Hilton's PDA phone
-An original Elvis Presley tour bus (in Fargo, N.D.)
-The bottle from "I Dream of Jeannie"
Darin Fenger can be reached at
firstname.lastname@example.org or 539-6860.