5 Real People Who Lived Crazy Double Lives (And Succeeded)
In a world full of people with larger-than-life personalities, it should come as no surprise that some of them need more than one life in order to achieve their goals. Sometimes these double lives are direly necessary, sometimes they're for devious purposes, and sometimes it seems like they might want to wind up in an article like this ...
The Teenage Girl Who Found Success As An Awful Adult Man
Becca Schultz was a 13-year-old girl who dreamed of being a sports writer. And like most 13-year-olds, she was super impatient. Probably correctly assuming that no one would hire a barely teenage girl to write about baseball, she began pitching as an adult man named Ryan. And it worked. For eight years.
It could have been a weirdly uplifting Big-style tale, but unfortunately, Schultz decided that she needed to be not merely a dude, but the worst kind of dude. Having ingratiated herself into sports Twitter, she met a variety of like-minded women in the industry ... whom she immediately began to harass and abuse. Hey, maybe she was getting into character.
Schultz had convinced at least two women to send her nude photographs, one of whom claims she only did so because "Ryan" had threatened to hurt himself if she didn't. At some point, Schultz got so cocky that she started doing podcasts with no voice modification at all, but somehow still wasn't found out until she made a misogynistic joke on Twitter. In response, women began speaking out on their abuse by "Ryan," then got together to try to track down the chucklehead's wife, only to find out she didn't exist. Going further down the rabbit hole, they determined that Ryan's kids were also fictional -- supposed pictures of them were in fact of Schultz's niece and nephew -- and that the university he claimed to attend didn't offer classes in what he claimed to study.
Finally, in a twist they surely didn't see coming, Ryan's sexual harassment victims learned that he himself did not exist, and was actually a (now 21-year-old) girl playing pretend. Her scheme and all-around terribleness exposed, Schultz's editors all kicked her to the curb, effectively ending her sports writing career. Until she invents another one.
A Marvel Editor Moonlights As A Japanese Writer, Complete With Detailed Life Story
Around 2004, Marvel associate editor C.B. Cebulski started writing for rival comics company Dark Horse. To be safe, he decided to use a pseudonym. As "Akira Yoshida," he wrote a couple of titles, which it seems were impressive enough that another Marvel editor sought him out over the possibility of writing for their company. Now Cebulski was in a bind. Marvel policy forbade editors from getting paid to write their comics. His options were to either politely decline the offer without explanation or get caught up in a fake-mustache-and-glasses situation that would almost certainly backfire. Guess what he chose?
We'd like to give Cebulski the benefit of the doubt and assume that when he chose an Asian pseudonym, he had no intention of convincing anyone he was an Asian man. That's difficult, though, because his work writing for Marvel focused heavily on Japanese themes, culture, and characters -- to the delight of executives, who loved having a Japanese writer on the team. In a 2005 interview, he went so far as to recall his childhood in Japan, learning English from TV, movies, and superhero comics. His totally fake childhood that, to be clear, absolutely never happened.
After Yoshida became a fairly well-known name in comics, someone sprung a leak, and rumors began to fly that Yoshida was really Cebulski. He was asked about the rumors in 2006 by journalist Rich Johnston and flat out denied them, saying that "numerous office visits and convention appearances" proved Yoshida was real. The photos mysteriously never materialized, but some Marvel execs did confirm that they had met Yoshida. Imagine their surprise when, after Cebulski came up for promotion to editor in chief at Marvel, he decided it was best to come clean before clean came for him. It turns out the person Marvel execs thought was Yoshida was in truth a Japanese translator visiting the Marvel offices, which raises so many more potential sitcom scenarios.
The Female Founder Of A "Tickling League" Was A Shady Porn King
Jane O'Brien was an entrepreneur with a vision: to create a competitive sports league in which fit young men could tickle others without clothing, on camera.
OK, she wanted to make fetish porn.
That's nothing, though. An ambitious lady with a perfectly harmless fetish. O'Brien wouldn't be on this list unless she pulled some needless deception, like misleading her apparently hilariously naive stars about the nature of the videos, then launching terrifying defamation campaigns against them when they tried to get the videos taken down.
After journalist David Farrier got wind of the situation and contacted the company, he "was told they wouldn't help a 'homosexual journalist' ... because 'we desperately not want a homosexual participation base applying for the project.'"
Clearly, something was up.
Turns out that "Jane O'Brien" was the pseudonym of David D'Amato, a multimillionaire who fooled hundreds of hopeful professional ticklers into filming thousands of hours of prime masturbatory material. D'Amato, a former guidance counselor, had previously served time for computer fraud in retaliation against -- surprise -- a male student he had a thing for. A short time after being exposed in Farrier's documentary about the story, Tickled, D'Amato died at the age of 55.
Many people found it suspicious that Jane O'Brien Media still appeared to be active after D'Amato's death, which spun up some particularly bizarre conspiracy theories. But no, he really is dead, and some other guy has taken over the company. The new owner simply kept the man's invented female pseudonym, now famous for its subterfuge and harassment? ... Alright. Maybe that's a sound plan. We don't know; we never went to business school.
The New York Times Writer Who Was Secretly Its Biggest Critic
In 1955, John G. Briggs Jr. was a classical music critic and cultural reporter for The New York Times, but his true passion was racism. Back then, The Times was just as snidely left-wing as it is today, and they had the sheer nerve to frown at racially charged frothing in their paper. What's a boy equally passionate about decrying sloppy strings and black people to do? Take a pseudonym and a second job, that's what.
It started with a letter to the editor of the right-wing Charleston News And Courier, venting about what he saw as left-wing bias at Northern newspapers like The Times. The editor loved Briggs', uh ... enthusiasm so much that he invited him to write a regular column exposing liberal bias in the mainstream media. He did so under the handle "Nicholas Stanford," a down-home Southern boy name if there ever was one.
For five years, Briggs got to review symphonies by day and deny the Holocaust by night. By 1960, he had left both newspapers to take a PR job in Philadelphia, and it appears that no one outed him until after his death 1990. Let this be a lesson, kids: You can hurl as many racial slurs at your co-workers as you want, and ... uh ... nothing will happen?
That can't be right.
The First Vietnamese Time Correspondent Was Also A Communist Spy
When Time hired him in 1969, Pham Xuan An became the first Vietnamese-born man to work as a staff correspondent for a major American news organization. Fortunately, An had a special talent for befriending high-profile American military and media figures, and was even admitted to special off-the-record briefings by the American authorities, a rarity for reporters. Unfortunately, An was also a colonel in the North Vietnamese Army. You know, the guys we were fighting at the time.
This wasn't done solely to pursue his hidden passion for journalism. An gathered information from these top-secret meetings and then smuggled messages, written in invisible ink on egg rolls, out to marked spots in the jungle. By the war's end, An had been made a major general of the Vietnamese Army, and was named a "People's Army Force Hero" by the Vietnamese government on January 15, 1976. He was also awarded with confinement to a reeducation camp after his superiors deemed he had spent too long in South Vietnam and was thus "corrupted by capitalism." He later described his decision to stay in Saigon while his family left as "the stupidest thing I ever did." But after being processed through the camp, he was granted the pension of a retired brigadier general. So, if someone asks you if espionage pays, the answer is $30 a month.
You can find Tiagosvn's false twitter account @letiago. Greg Tuff is a Winnipeg-based writer whose current writing project is his own resume. Please suggest better fake job titles on his Twitter: @Decaps86. Wes Corwin is a stand-up comedian currently based in Dallas. You can like him on Facebook, follow him on Twitter, or if you live in Dallas and enjoy comedy and alcohol, check out his weekly show at Noble Rey Brewery on Thursdays at 7:30 p.m. He also has a Real Rob fan podcast called When Keeping It Real Goes Rob, which has more listeners than it should.
One of the best biographies of Pham Xuan An is actually called Perfect Spy, definitely worth a read.
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