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April Fool's Day, 1988
The BMW Badgewash System. (1988) BMW announced a new technological innovation that would be incorporated into future versions of its cars—the badgewash system. No longer would BMW drivers have to endure dirt on their enamel bonnet badge:
"A tiny sensor mounted in the wiper arm measures the light reflected back from the white sections of the BMW badge… Even if a film of dirt cuts out as little as 5% of that light, the sensor will detect it and start the wiper."
Phony Gold Nugget. (1988) In late March, Australian fruit grower Bob Boyce revealed that he had unearthed a 10-pound gold nugget worth $70,000 while planting a citrus tree. The story was picked up by the international media, with Reuters reporting that the Australian government had confirmed the worth of the nugget.
But on April 1, Boyce confessed that the gold nugget was phony. He explained, "I didn't plan the joke for personal publicity. I just wanted to bring a smile to people on April Fools' Day."
Privatizing the Army. (1988) The Daily Telegraph reported that Margaret Thatcher was considering privatizing the Army and selling off the Brigade of Guards. According to the article, "Strict flotation terms would prevent hostile foreign interests gaining majority control over the brigade."
The Cumbrian Bogart. (1988) The Independent ran a photo of a rare sighting of the Cumbrian Bogart — a creature that was half-badger, half-fox and roamed the Cumbrian fells in the Lake District. For years a stuffed Bogart had been on display in The Twa Dogs pub in Keswick. The creature and its habitat were tirelessly guarded by a "small group of conservationists" who were members of the British Bogart Preservation Society. The photograph was taken by Brian Duff, a member of this society. BBC's Nationwide news program later ran a follow-up segment about the Bogart, in which they interviewed the members of the society.
Maradona Joins Soviet Soccer Team. (1988) The Soviet newspaper Izvestia reported that the Moscow Spartak soccer team was in negotiations with Argentine star Diego Maradona. On the table was an offer of $6 million for him to come play for them. If all went well, he would join the team within a year. The report was met with astonishment around the world — not because many people believed it, but because it was the first time the normally very serious Izvestia had ever published an April fool's day hoax. Frivolity of this kind had previously been frowned upon by the Kremlin.
Canada Buys Arizona. (1988) NPR's All Things Considered revealed that the Reagan administration had decided to sell the state of Arizona to Canada. Money from the sale would help reduce the national debt, and Canada, for its part, as the Canadian ambassador to the US explained, was eager to acquire a warm-water port "and this was the best we could do."
Former governor of Arizona Bruce Babbitt, who had recently dropped out of the race for the presidency, had been offered the job of running the new province. He had accepted the position, saying it was apparent that Canada had "greater faith in my ability to lead."
The Napoleonic Chunnel. (1988) The Daily Mail revealed the discovery of a tunnel linking England and France that had been constructed during the Napoleonic wars. Supposedly the tunnel was wide enough to allow an ass carrying two barrels of brandy to pass through it. The tunnel had supposedly been discovered beneath Dover Castle. The article explained, "It would have been used to rescue aristocrats from Napoleonic France, to transfer spies and to trade British goods with Europe."
Cerne Abbas Giant Practices Safe Sex. (1988) Pranksters supplied the UK's Cerne Abbas Giant with a condom in the form of a 32-foot plastic sheet. The famous gigantic figure is an ancient chalk-carving of a naked man carrying a club, located in the British countryside in Dorset . The figure is supposed to be a fertility god and is said to possess the power to make childless women pregnant. A landlady at a local hotel commented, "It was quite a shock, but now everyone is laughing about it. We have no idea who did it, but he is now well secured against AIDS."