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Memorable April Fools’ Day moments in print

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Posted: Wednesday, April 4, 2012 3:32 pm

There are certain things in this world that I think the good Lord has kept me away from as a way of watching out for my well being. Chief on that list is Burger King.

Probably my favorite fast food item is the Burger King Double Cheeseburger. About once or twice a year Burger King will run a special where they sell these for 99 cents each. When that time comes in 2012, you probably won’t see me for about a week. That’s because I’ll be at that Burger King in Bryan gorging myself.

But thankfully, for my waistline at the very least, I’ve never lived anywhere close to a Burger King. If I did, I’d quite literally be twice the man I am today.

Another thing that the good Lord has kept me away from is ever publishing a newspaper on April Fools’ Day. In the eight or so years I’ve been doing this whole newspaper thing, it’s only happened once that we’ve published a paper on April 1, and that was the very first year after I graduated from school. Ironically, my editor at the time’s birthday was also on April Fools’ Day. He used to say that it was the worst day ever to have a birthday, because he can’t even count the number of times he’s gotten an empty box as a birthday/April Fools’ Day present.

If I ever published a newspaper on April Fools’ Day I’m almost certain I’d be fired. The guy upstairs knows this, of course, which is why it’s never happened. That one time I was working at a newspaper that printed on April Fools’ Day, my editor published a joke story about a whale being sighted in one of the nearby lakes. I remember thinking at the time, “can we really do that?”

Newspapers all over the country, mainly major metropolitan daily papers, do this all the time. Generally the jokes they run are not in the copy, but in advertisements. I’ve seen some pretty good ones over the years, but none was better than one I remember seeing a few years back by Taco Bell. Apparently it caused quite a fervor in the Philadelphia region.

I want to say it was in the mid-2000s that Taco Bell ran an ad in one of the major east coast newspapers announcing a new acquisition. I haven’t been able to find a reprint of it online, but the headline was something like, “Philadelphia Landmark Renamed Taco Liberty Bell.”

The story was all about Taco Bell buying the Liberty Bell and renaming it. I have to say, as much of a backlash as that supposedly caused, whoever came up with that one is a genius. I’ve seen some pretty good ones, but that was by far the best.

This year some people apparently got in trouble when one of their pranks got more notoriety than the prankster expected. Forbes magazine published a joke article about Mitt Romney dropping out of the presidential race and throwing his support to Rick Santorum. It was meant to be harmless, until Google News picked it up as its top story. Of course, the way Google News selects which stories go to the top is all controlled by computers. Seems like this is one of those examples of when people would have done a better job than machines.

So going along with the theme of April Fools’ Day, I thought it might be fun to list some of the other good ones I’ve seen over the years. Hopefully one day I’ll be able to do one, but I just hope I’m smart enough not to get myself in trouble.

Here are my top 5, with the Taco Liberty Bell ranking in at No. 1.

• The Left-Handed Whopper – A couple of years ago Burger King ran a full-page ad, I want to say in the New York Times, advertising the left-handed whopper. It was designed for easy access to left-handed diners and supposedly more aerodynamic in some way.

• The Starbucks 64 – I believe this one was in 2010, when Starbucks advertised it was going to sell a 64-ounce coffee. In the ad, they had a very short individual holding the cup, which was about the size of his head.

• Colour television – This one was before my time, but apparently in 1962 a television company in Sweden told its viewers that their TV sets would convert to color if the viewer pulled a pair of nylon stocking over it. It did not work.

• April Fools’ Day Parade – A press release was circulated to New York City media outlets in 2000 talking about an upcoming April Fools Day Parade. Despite several obviously joking floats that were listed to be in the parade, CNN still sent a crew out to cover it.

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