The other week I read that NBC was trying to bring back embattled anchor Brian Williams to the network in some form, whether as a reporter, anchor or something else they have yet to determine. Williams was the most respected newsman of his generation, until famously, he “misrepresented events which occurred while he was covering the Iraq War in 2003,” according to the network news president in a memo that made the rounds.
Obviously, for someone who America trusts to deliver only the truth, this was about as large an error as humanly possible. But it turns out such a thing isn’t that uncommon, at least with us everyday, nonnews-people types.
A new study from Southern Methodist University reveals that a whopping 46 percent of people have heard someone else tell a story and passed it off as their own. Thirty-two percent admit to spicing up their own anecdotes with details stolen from others. Even more telling, and damn ballsy, is that 53 percent of people actually have heard their own experience retold by someone else as though it was their own anecdote.
It appears that a few people are so uninteresting that they must lift the experiences of others to be entertaining in a social setting — and thank heavens for that. How boring would life be without a little deception? We’ve all heard horrible, un-gripping tales of someone’s adventures at the Laundromat. Or the exhilarating narrative of what happened in the grocery store parking lot. And who can forget the he-said, she-said, everyday minutia that can bore the paint off walls? My girlfriend specializes in these very yarns!
But let’s face it, we’re more drawn to people who give us the juicy goods, even if we know they’re lying through their teeth.
I myself am notorious for, uh, adorning my stories with details that may or may not be true. In fact, I rarely give people the truth. Lack of candor is my specialty. Then again, they say there’s a little bit of truth in every lie.
Well, I guess not every lie.
“Let’s just say that McAuliffe and the boys were pretty deep in the cups at that point, and I don’t know whether that check was real or fake, but there were six zeros on it and very little talk of campaign finance reform in the basement of that bar.”
“Then we’re in the back of the limo. It’s Nutzy, Parney, Jon Laaser and four ... we’ll just call them ‘entertainers’ for the sake of the story, and ...”
“... Finally, after all was said and done, it’s just Morrissey and me and we’re drinking 40s outside of the Mills Godwin prom. Needless to say, it was quite a night.”
“Nah, it’s a wig. Yeah well, Melissa Chase was born without the top of her skull and I guess a little bit of her brains were showing and it was grossing everybody out so her mom put this wig on her to cover it up and then the bones grew together and it got all infused and entwined. I mean, I don’t mean to get all scientific with you. ...”
In the lobby of the Jefferson Hotel: “Jefferson once stayed here, hence the name.” … Having drinks at Lemaire: “After Appomattox, Robert E. Lee came here for mint juleps.”
“Yeah, I remember meeting you! How have you been?”
As long as you aren’t a trusted news source, a couple of white lies never hurt anyone.
And maybe the greatest story ever told, whether straight truth, embellished or complete fantasy, has to be when Glenn Frey of Eagles fame explained how he came up with one of the group’s biggest hits: “I was riding shotgun in a Corvette with a drug dealer on the way to a poker game. And the next thing I knew we’re going about 90 miles an hour, holding big time. I say, ‘Hey, man, what are you doing?’ And he looked at me and he grinned and he goes, ‘Life in the fast lane.’ And I thought, immediately, now there’s a song title.”
Did this happen? Probably not, but I bet you’ll think of this next time you hear the Eagles.
Just like how we’ll remember true American hero Brian Williams as the man who rode a flaming helicopter into Iraq before singlehandedly killing Saddam Hussein with a karate chop.
Jack Lauterback also is co-host of “Mornings with Melissa and Jack” on 103.7 Play weekdays from 6-9. Connect with him at email@example.com, or on Twitter at @jackgoesforth.