The New Charlatans

By Christopher C. Happ
©2004, all rights reserved.
Entertainment Magazine

The Encarta Dictionary: English (North America) defines charlatan as:
“somebody who falsely claims a special skill or expertise.”

I recently moved.  While disconnecting utilities and services from the old pad to the new one; I naturally spoke with the Gas Company, electric company, phone and cable companies, et al. 

Perhaps I am just cheap but it seems to me that when one moves it is the perfect time to reevaluate these services.  I weighed the cost vs. benefit of all.  I kept Qwest as my phone service and of course I was stuck with my Electric power provider.  I did switch to Juno for my ISP and dumped EarthLink; saving me a modest $14.05.  I thought about having cable TV service moved to the new place but after thinking about all of the paid advertisements, (translation:  infomercials.), I decided to brave the world without it.  I set up the old-fashioned rabbit ears and got excellent reception on about 10 channels.  I was a happy man, between the cable and new ISP; I was pocketing an extra sixty bucks!


I knew it was too good to be true.  I only rarely watch T.V. and I usually favor PBS, when I do.  On Sunday mornings I like to watch the news programs and being an early riser, I was shocked to find that from 5 a.m. until around noon or football time, the airwaves are saturated with more infomercials than even cable TV can dish up.  There are the bun and thigh rollers, Ab- suckers and butt-lifters, air cleaners, space bags and that idiot, Chef Tony and ads for more supplements than Elvis could handle.  The vitamin shows are set up to look like interviews with real health professionals. There is an M.D. after some of their names; most probably they are seconds away from sanctions by the A.M.A., if not jail time.  Saw-Bones!   


Then of course we have all of Ron Popeil’s products, but at least he is entertaining. What really yanks my chain are the “No-Money Down”and E-bay Secrets revealed; thieves!  We are to believe that some poster-child for birth control is getting $30,000 checks at closing, working less than ten hours a week!  I happen to know a few otherwise intelligent people (You know who you are!) Who have actually purchased these courses.  Each one still doing the work-a-day thing at the same job for the same pay, months later.   If these guys actually had a system to make millions, why would they share it with anybody?  Wouldn’t they be too busy making money? 


These windbags not only eat up programming time but they prey on the dumbest of the dumb among us.  This is nothing but snake-oil sales; pure and simple.  If you have $100,000 or more to lay out for production costs, you too can have an infomercial.  I am sure that many a destitute fool has raided junior’s college fund at 3:00 a.m., worked into frenzy by the empty promises of these crooks.  Then we have the systems for commodities trading at home!  Oh, that’s a smart one.  It reminds me of Steve Martin’s old joke, “How I turned $100,000 of Real Estate into twenty-five dollars in cash!”


Pam Dawber of Mork & Mindy fame is hawking a computerized speed reading course.  Lindsey Wagner of Six Million Dollar whatever fame is pushing over-priced beds.  If I see one more geriatric rocker talking about the Time-Life collection, I will surely hang myself.


Culinary products are huge business.  Popeil’s knife will cut metal shavings from a hammer!  Dinner?, no thanks Ron.  


The rotisserie oven is intriguing but  if you bought every cheap knock-off food chopper or  Micro-Vortex space cooker or vacuum cleaner; you would need  your own nuclear generating station  to run them all.  Just wait that will be next.  THE TRITON III Home Nuclear generator----fits in the cupboard or your trunk.  The fuel rods are guaranteed to be radioactive for millennia to come. 


  I am really intrigued by the vacuum that picks up a bowling ball.  What the hell for? Do we really have an epidemic of stray bowling balls littering carpets in America?


Popeil advertises his knife collection, which he claims would retail separately for over three hundred dollars; for just three easy payments of $13.33!  “But wait! You also get!” Are people really this stupid?  I paid $75 for my Henckel French knife twenty years ago.  I don’t use it to cut hammers; but those who buy this crap have less sense than a sack of hammers!


Then we have Esteban in his pseudo-flamenco ala blues Brother outfit and shades, hawking his $84.98 guitar.  We are told that it is patterned after the $3500 original.   (Genuine Imitation!) Actually, it has a neck, strings and sound board just like the original! Esteban supposedly studied with Segovia and is an adequate player but, Segovia is spinning in his crypt, like a salmon steak in the Showtime rotisserie! 


Why would I need a food chopper that chops concrete or a knife that cuts hammers or a vacuum cleaner that picks up bowling balls?


Perhaps I am just bitter over my comic book purchase of x-ray glasses in the 60’s.  I also bought a seven foot tall, genuine imitation polyethylene Frankenstein with glowing red eyes for $1.95. It turned out to be two plastic sheets with Frankie printed on them. You taped them to the wall and stuck on the two tiny round glow- in- the dark paper circles on his printed eyes! A two-bit, two-piece wall poster.  In the magazine it looked three-dimensional.  My purchase of Sea Monkeys was also disappointing.  I now know that they were dehydrated brine shrimp and looked like ashes in a glass of water.  I was crushed.  Then there was the silent whistle that only dogs could hear; yes a short metal tube, $2.95!

During the days of black and white TV, I remember hearing of a plastic sheet that you could stretch across the screen to make it color.  The bottom-half was green and the top-half blue.  Great for outdoor scenes but it did nothing for The Sullivan Show. 


I must now introduce Christopher Happ’s; Writing secrets revealed!  Mr. Happ has written for major national magazines and newspapers!  Well, I did fill out the subscription cards! 


 ENTER: Moronic busty blonde babe.  “Sure! I always thought writing was a glamorous career but I got rejection after rejection!” 


 That was before Christopher Happ’s “Write and be Rich” course! You get three cassette tapes that explain the whole system. You also get a professional-quality writer’s pen; you can run it over with a steamroller and it still works!  It is made of space-age polymers, (plastic) and is impervious to food choppers and other implements of destruction. 

Tap into the hidden writer’s market that only Mr. Happ knows about.  Have you ever wondered who writes all of those dumb-ass infomercials? Why, you can!  This system is not available in stores.  But it can be yours now for just three easy payments of $33.33!

Operators are standing by! But if you agree to tell a friend to help us advertise this course we’ll throw in 50; that’s right 50!  Jumbo Gold-colored paper clips; patterned after the clips that Hemingway used for his 1920’s manuscript “A Farewell to Arms!” But that’s just the beginning.  If you call in the next twenty minutes, you also get the Jack Kerouac knapsack, flask and notebook set.  I know what you’re thinking: “Why, this is too good to be true!” Not convinced yet?  If you call right now, I’ll throw in a monogrammed Ernest Hemingway shotgun shell and genuine imitation tiger-pelt throw; these free gifts are collector quality!

But wait that’s not all!  I am also including my patented click-clack tape.  Play this tape by your computer and hear the simulated sounds of actual typewriter keys hitting paper! If that doesn’t inspire you nothing will! 

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