Kent Johnson Lived A Triple Life To Get His Poetry Published
Araki Yasusada was a survivor of Hiroshima whose poetry was discovered by his son after his death in 1972. That's already an Oscar movie all by itself, but the poetry was also deeply personal, describing the experience of seeing his wife and one of his daughters engulfed in flames.
And of course, it was all lies.
When people started digging into Yasusada's life, they discovered that his work was the invention of an obscure Japanese translator named Tosa Motokiyu. They then discovered this was also a lie, and both men were a white, middle-aged poet named Kent Johnson. More accurately, a middle-aged white Spanish teacher at an Illinois community college who really wanted to be a poet. Every publisher who intended to distribute Yasusada's work -- and there were several -- stopped the presses, and Johnson had a lot of explaining to do.
To this day, he's done very little. He admits that Yastusada never existed, but maintains that he was a creation of Motokiyu, "the pseudonym of an author whose express wish, stated in his will, was that his identity never be revealed." That's right, he wanted to be so anonymous that he needed a pseudonym for his pseudonym.
Because society as a whole has the memory of a fetal kitten, the controversy eventually died down, and magazines like The Paris Review once again began to have scholarly discussions of Yasusada's work. So at least not a single person involved learned any kind of lesson about anything, and we're all worse for the experience. Huzzah!
John Roland Redd Posed As A Weird Indian Dude All His Life
The late 1940s weren't a particularly good time to be an African-American entertainer looking to go mainstream. Actually, it wasn't a good time to be an African-American entertainer. Actually, it wasn't a good time to be an African-American. Actually- you get it. Talented keyboardist John Roland Redd knew this very well. But luckily, he had a cheat code: He just became someone completely else.
Possibly aided by his future wife, Disney illustrator Beryl DeBeeson, Redd crafted a fake identity called Korla Pandit. The turban-wearing Pandit was presented as a musical prodigy from New Delhi, the son of a Brahmin priest and a French opera singer who came to America with the sole mission to play your pants off with his sultry tunes. Korla Pandit's Adventures In Music was the first all-music TV show. He hung out with Bob Hope and Errol Flynn. He even had his own float in the 1953 Rose Bowl parade.