So you’re in a relationship, and you’ve decided to pork someone else. First off, you’re an asshole. Secondly, you’re going to need an airtight plan if you want to get out of this thing alive. Happy Valentine’s Day!
How I Scored Visits to the Nicest Hotels in the World…for Free
In 2010, a friend of mine started a travel magazine and asked if she could publish an article I had written about a Kashmiri tailor, during a month I spent living on a houseboat in Kashmir.
I had stayed on the tailor’s boat during the winter, and I was the only guest. George Harrison had stayed there 47 years earlier, when he was studying the sitar with Ravi Shankar. I typed the piece on the hotel owner’s typewriter. But my friend who ran the magazine, a grifter like me, couldn’t pay real money. She compensated me instead with “hotel trades.”
She explained how it worked: I would approach independently owned hotels with a copy of her media kit and a proposal. In exchange for a two-night stay, I would write a 500-word review. She advised me to avoid big corporate hotels, because press people there had to go through so many chains of command they would often dismiss the request outright. “You need a small place,” my friend said, “where somebody can make the decision right there.” She added, “Don’t bother with inexpensive places. It’s bizarre, but the more expensive they are, the more likely they are to agree.”
I grew up in a state of financial volatility. Until I was 18 and my grandmother died, my grandfather would visit me and my mom at our home in Houston, from his mansion in Lake Charles, Louisiana, and for a week, money would flow like water. One Christmas, he saved all the money wrappers from the cash he’d spent and proudly put them in a photo album: they totaled $10,000. But then he would leave, the money would dry up, and we’d go from feast to famine. Sometimes, our lights, water, or phone would go out. Sometimes we’d spend $80 on tomatoes. Or my mom would spend $8,000 on Chinese antiquities, but we’d run out of gas on the way home. It wasn’t that bad, it was just crazy.
It’s Now Possible to Hire Fake Protesters
Crowds on Demand, as the name suggests, is a company that will organize a crowd for you, on demand.
The main two times this service is required are: A) you’re an aspiring celebrity who wants to make it seem like people give a shit about you, so you hire some fake fans, or B) you believe in a cause and want to make it seem like people give a shit about it, so you hire some fake protesters.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t go along to see one of the company’s fake fan events (as they’re super secret,) so I went along to a fake protest they organized in Los Angeles, instead. While there, I sat down for a chat with their founder and CEO, Adam Swart.
Fake protesters raising tourists’ awareness on Hollywood Blvd.
VICE: So, what’s this event that’s happening now?
Adam Swart, Crowds on Demand: It’s an event we’re doing in coordination with a charity. We’re trying to raise awareness about mental health issues. They want to raise a lot more awareness about mental health, which is an often overlooked issue when it comes to, uh, to policy.
OK. Are they paying you for this?
They get a discount. We give charities discounts.
How many people are protesting here?
Are any of these guys real protesters or are they all provided by you?
They’re all provided by me.
Can I ask how much they’re getting paid for this?
They get $15 an hour.
Every politician lies—but not as much as Mitt Romney. Here’s why that matters.
See that guy in the picture above? He doesn’t look like a 17-year-old, blond, blue-eyed American boy, does he? But, that’s exactly what he managed to convince a lot of people, including the boy’s family, that he was. Forgive me if I’m being too confusing, I’ll take it from the start:
On June 13, 1994, 13-year-old Nicholas Barclay, who was last seen playing basketball with a bunch of his friends, failed to return to his family home in San Antonio, Texas. Nobody heard from him for the next four years, until 1997, when his family (who were suspected to have had something to do with Nicholas’ disappearance in the first place) received a phone call from the US embassy in Spain by a guy claiming to be their lost son who had just escaped a prostitution ring. That man was the then 23-year-old French-Algerian Frédéric Bourdin. He is also the guy in the ugly shirt you can see right up there ^.
Bourdin went on to stay with the Barclays for a good five months, before private investigator Charlie Parker, who was assisting a TV crew with filming the family’s story, grew suspicious. The whole story ended with Bourdin spending the next six years in an American prison for passport fraud and perjury. It also recently just became a film called The Imposter, which premiered at Sundance back in January. I noticed that Bourdin tweeted about disliking the director Bart Layton, even though it didn’t seem like he had seen the film. So I decided to get in touch.
VICE: Hi, Frédéric, did I get you at the right time? I can call back later if you want?
Frédéric Bourdin: Yeah, I’m going to bed very late and I’m very tired, but we can talk now still. Geniuses have great minds. We can think even when we haven’t had any sleep.
Alright, cool. So, I see you’ve been posting your opinions about The Imposter and the people who made it on Twitter and YouTube. Take me back to how this all started.
I was approached by a reporter who told me that he’d heard about my life story and wanted to hear my side of it so he could eventually make a documentary about the whole thing. I’ve always wanted people to understand me, because I don’t like to be pictured as something I’m not, so I agreed to meet with him in London to talk about everything. The reporter quickly disappeared, and I was left with Bart Layton.