Monday, March 25, 2013

Lovely Knickers!

S. J. Taylor, Shock! Horror! The Tabloids in Action (London: Corgi Books, 1992), 267-8.

Standard operating practice is to go undercover to produce the scandals that are the bread and butter of the tabloid press. One of the more common scams is to entrap a prostitute by pretending to be a businessman, asking her to your room and then, after she asks for the money,  revealing you are a reporter.

A standard Fleet Street story on hotel hookers goes like this. A reporter is on an out-of-town assignment with a photographer and is looking for a quickie story. They come up with the idea of ringing an escort service, asking for an escort for the evening. The plan is for the photographer to get into the wardrobe, and when he hears the reporter say a code phrase, like 'Darling, you've got lovely knickers,' he jumps out and snaps the girl. Ideally, this takes place at the very moment the reporter is saying, 'I'm a reporter from the Sun.'

So the agency sends a girl to the hotel and the desk clerk calls them and they say, 'Yes, send her up to Room 204.' The photographer jumps into the wardrobe. The girl comes in, the reporter offers her money for sex, the girl says 'yes' and begins taking her clothes off. At which point, the reporter says in a loud voice, 'Darling, you've got lovely knickers.' And nothing happens. So the reporter repeats the code phrase, 'Darling, you've got lovely knickers.' Again, nothing happens. One last time, the reporter shouts out, 'Darling, you've got lovely knickers!' The girl throws on her clothes and flees, certain that the reporter is a sexual pervert. The reporter opens the wardrobe door to find the photographer fast asleep.

At this juncture, the author of the tale takes a swig from his pint, leans forward, and asserts emphatically one of the catchphrases of Fleet Street: 'True story.'

Friday, March 22, 2013

"Free" Sign Fails, New Sign Succeeds

Times Colonist [Victoria, BC, Canada]
22 March 2013

Adrian Chamberlain

[...] Mary Dowds wrote to suggest a clever way to get rid of undesirable items. A friend’s neighbour once attached a “free” sign to an unwanted piece of furniture and placed it on the curb. For days it sat with no takers. So the fellow took a different tack. He wrote “$100” on a new sign, and affixed it to the furniture.

Within an hour, it had vanished. [...]

Thursday, March 21, 2013

10st 10lb

Sydney Morning Herald
22 March 2013

Column 8

 [...] Richard Boyd, of Gordon, tells of the time in 1972 when his wife Judith filled in a form in Canada that asked for her weight, ''which she wrote down as '10st 10lb'. The official, on checking her answers, said 'We don't want to know how much you've lost, we need to know what you weigh now,''' Richard recalls. ''Back then they used pounds only over there, never stones, so when you look at how it would have read to them ...'' [...]

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Frat House Phone Bill

Telecom Trends
11 March 2013

Mark Goldberg

More than 30 years ago, in my early days in the telecom industry, there was a story circulating – maybe an urban legend or just part of telecom folklore, but it came to mind as we head into March vacation.

As I recall, a group of women from a sorority at a large mid-western university went to a warmer climate for Spring Break. The boyfriends from a nearby frat house remained at school. Thanks to some alcohol inducement, the boys decided to phone the girlfriends Friday night, pre-Skype, pre-competitive long distance, in the days when long distance rates were frequently $3.00 per minute.

It didn’t take long for the boys to realize that they were in for more than $200 – a term’s tuition – in the first hour on the phone. The decision was made to keep the phone off the hook for the whole weekend. It was an intercom for staying in touch like an international baby room monitor. Monday morning, the long-lines technicians knocked down the call and that finally closed off the call billing record. The bill came in for more than $10,000. A call to customer service claimed it had to be a network or billing error. How could there have been a 60 hour long phone call? No one in their right mind would make such a call.

The charge was reversed. Was the story true? I don’t know, but it makes for a good story. [...]

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Dog Thieves Mark Tires

North Yorkshire Police
11 March 2013

Police in Whitby and other areas of the county want to reassure residents that there are no gangs of dog thieves operating in the area and placing stickers on vehicles.

A local officer who was called by concerned residents, has enlisted the advice of a local tyre fitter to prove that marks left on vehicle tyres are not the work of dog-nappers.

Rumours have been circulating on social media sites that dog thieves have been placing stickers on vehicle tyres to mark the homes of dog owners, ready for them to go back and steal the dogs. This is not the case.

The red and yellow dots seen on tyres are placed there by tyre manufacturers. The red dot denotes the heaviest part of the tyre and a yellow dot denotes the lightest. They are not the work of dog thieves. [...]

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Romanian Horse Meat

New York Times
10 March 2013


[...] When it was first discovered that lasagna on sale in France and Britain contained horse meat, Romania, the second-poorest country in the European Union, was immediately cast as the culprit. Fed by mostly fictitious accounts of a mass slaughter of Romanian horses after the introduction of new traffic rules banning horse-drawn carts, the news media in France and Britain reported that hundreds of thousands of Romanian horses had suddenly entered the food chain.

"It is total nonsense," said Lucian Dinita, the chief of Romania's road police. The nation, he said, did introduce a law in 2006 restricting horse-drawn carts on roads, but it was scrapped two years later and led to no mass culling of unemployed horses.

Some of the horse meat that ended up in processed foods sold in France and other countries did originate in Romania, but a French government report issued last month said this had been clearly labeled as coming from horses, not cows. The fraudulent substitution of horse meat for beef - about three times the cost - occurred at a factory in southern France, the report said. [...]

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Examining the Evidence

International Times (London), February 12-25, 1970, p. 4

SOME time ago in a London Magistrate's court, according to a barrister friend of IT, the following exchange took place between a police officer giving evidence on a drug charge and the magistrate:
MAGISTRATE: 'Have you the piece of cannabis found on the defendant?'
OFFICER: 'Yes, your honour'.
MAGISTRATE: 'Has an analyst verified that it is in fact cannabis?'
OFFICER: 'We haven't been able to get an analyst's opinion yet'.
MAGISTRATE: 'How then do you know that was cannabis?'
OFFICER: 'On smelling the substance I decided it was cannabis'.
MAGISTRATE: 'Well I think I am as good a judge as any to whether it is in fact cannabis, let me have a look at it'.
[Judge then proceeds to sniff substance suspiciously and finally licks the offending article just to make sure.]
MAGISTRATE: 'Very well, I am satisfied that it is in fact cannabis. Whereabouts did you find the cannabis?'
OFFICER: 'Up the defendant's rectum, your honour'.
It would not be totally inaccurate to report that something a little more pronounced that a 'slight titter in the courtroom' was evinced by the officer's final remarks