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By Pam Burke 

Not to imply any relation to reality

 

January 27, 2017



I sat on this news for a week. A week. A long week. The stress of it — oi vey — but it was worth the trouble out of respect for the Office of the President of the United States.

Now though, the inauguration ceremony of Donald J. Trump as 45th president has occurred in a civil display of the peaceful passing of power, a hallmark of democracy, and the era of the reality show-businessman president has begun, guided by an adherence to “alternative facts.”

No matter which side of the aisle you sit on, I think we can pretty much safely agree that the honeymoon is officially over.

Despite the juicy appeal of the “alternative facts” phrase for a humor column, I am not here to belabor that sound bite. Surely, enough has been said about it. Instead, I would like to focus today on what I decided this week to call “alternative reality.”

It’s a world in which a con artist named Trump shows up in a small Texas town and convinces the townfolk that only he has the secret to saving them from certain death. He puts on a big show, and he threatens to sue whoever disagrees with him.

It’s a real thing, or rather, an alternative reality that parallels real reality.

A TV series from the late 1950s, “Trackdown,” starred Robert Culp as Texas Ranger Hoby Gilman who travels the state to root out criminals.

Think of it as a procedural crime drama joined at the hip with a black and white Western.

In Episode 30 of Season 1 which aired in 1958, Gilman “has to deal with a snake oil salesman selling the end of the world to a town filled with gullible people,” imdb.com, an entertainment database website, says. And Gilman has a sticky booger of a time trying to prove Trump is a fraud. (IMDB did not say sticky booger. That one’s on me.)

The “snake oil salesman” is the character named — no kidding — Trump, played by Lawrence Dobkin. This Trump convinces townspeople that a cosmic rain of fire from meteorites is coming to destroy their town unless they build — I kid you not — his special wall around their homes to protect them from the destruction.

The big scene were he convinces people to invest in his con shows this Trump essentially staging an evening performance like a reality TV show.

I cannot make this stuff up.

Snopes.com, an investigative fact-checking site, reported getting confirmation from MeTV, a Chicago network that airs reruns of the show, that the episode is real. The network gave Snopes a few clips from the episode that can be found online with this dialog:

Narrator: The people were ready to believe. Like sheep they ran to the slaughterhouse. And waiting for them was the high priest of fraud.

Trump: I am the only one. Trust me. I can build a wall around your homes that nothing will penetrate.

Trump goes on to say that it’s “a message I alone was able to read in the fires of the universe. … I also bring you the means with which to save yourself.”

And with all the upbeat enthusiasm of an inauguration address, Trump-the-character ends his pep rally saying, “The world will come to a flaming end at midnight tonight. Without my help and knowledge, every one of you will be dead.”

Truth might be stranger than fiction, but fiction can give you a run for the money.

(You don’t suppose little 12-year-old Donny Trump watched this and got some ideas, do you? Nah. That couldn’t — for sure no, right? Or, y’know, well, maybe at [email protected])

 

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