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April Fool's Day, 1989
Space Needle Collapses. (1989) Seattle's "Almost Live" comedy show started their April 1 program with a news flash: the Seattle Space Needle had collapsed. A reporter presented the news, and then several shots of the Space Needle lying on its side in a pile of rubble were shown.
The show's host, John Keister, appeared after a commercial break and assured viewers the announcement had only been a joke. Nevertheless, many people were fooled. Staff at the Space Needle reported receiving over 700 calls from concerned viewers, and 911 lines jammed from the sudden rush of calls from people seeking more information.
Grandstand’s Newsroom Brawl. (1989) On the BBC Sports show Grandstand, as presenter Desmond Lynam talked about upcoming events to be covered a fight broke out behind him in the newsroom. As the fight escalated, Lynam continued to calmly discuss the news, assuring the audience that, "We'll continue to do our best to cover sport in the way that you like, backed up by our highly professional team." Later in the show, Lyman noted that viewers may have seen "a bit of an altercation" behind him and apologized for this. But then he proceeded to show an instant replay of the fight. After the replay the newsroom brawlers were shown standing together, holding a sign that read "April Fool."
Doug Be’net. (1989) Scott Simon reported for NPR's Weekend Edition about an Iowa company called "Doug Be'net" that sold only descriptions of items, rather than physical items. Customers dialed a toll-free number and chose from 24 monthly selections ranging from under $16 to nearly $40.
Simon reported, "All that exists of the items are those words. Doug Be'net is an inventory of ideas and adjectives rather than products. The company stocks no actual merchandise, and therefore, spends no money on manufacturing, consumer warranties or product maintenance." The company was said to have made $1.5 million in sales the previous year. Its primary market was "the same professionals who rent art movie videos and get gourmet food to go. Consumers with limited time but expansive tastes."
NPR subsequently received numerous calls from listeners interested in contacting the company, including one from a Federal Trade Commission employee who wasn't sure if it was a joke and wanted more information. The president of NPR at the time was Douglas J. Bennet.
Driver’s Weight Sensors. (1989) BMW unveiled a "significant advance in anti-theft technology" — Driver's Weight Sensors:
"DWS stands for Driver's Weight Sensor. A unique system that compares the driver's weight with a pre-programmed value stored in the sensor's computer memory... The sensor weight reading is then compared to the programmed weight in the memory, and provided this falls to within ±5%, the car will start normally.
If, however, the figure exceeds these tolerances, then a discreet gong sounds, and the entire ignition system is shut down."
Interested readers were urged to contact Hugh Phelfrett at BMW.
The Dinosaur Vine. (1989) Garden News magazine revealed that a prehistoric plant had been discovered growing out of a fossilised stegosaurus dropping found preserved within a Mojave Desert cave. The plant, dubbed the dinosaur vine, was being studied by Professor Adge Ufult.
UFO Lands Near London. (1989) On March 31, British policemen were sent to investigate a glowing flying saucer that had settled down in a field in Surrey. As the policemen approached the craft with their truncheons held out, a door opened in the bottom of the ship and a small figure wearing a silver space suit walked out. The policemen immediately took off in the opposite direction. The alien turned out to be a midget, and the flying saucer was a hot air balloon that had been specially built to look like a UFO by Richard Branson, the 36-year-old chairman of Virgin Records.
The Chippy. (1989) The British childrens show Going Live told its viewers about a revolutionary new portable music player called "The Chippy" that would soon be sold in stores. Host Phillip Schofield said that it was no bigger than a credit card but could store hundreds of songs. And soon, Schofield said, such a device might be able to hold an artist's entire back catalogue. Plus, it could play back any song instantly. It achieved this by storing all the songs on a computer chip. Thus, the name. (The name had a double meaning, since in British slang a "chippy" refers to a fish-and-chips shop.)
Schofield invited viewers to call in and request a song for "The Chippy" to play, and thousands phoned the station. Toward the end of the show, he revealed that The Chippy was an April Fool joke.
Road Warmers. (1989) BMW Canada ran an ad in the Globe and Mail announcing a new addition to its luxury cars: road warmers. Pivoting convex lasers mounted in front of each wheel would melt ice and snow on the road as the car was being driven. Turbo fans would then remove excess moisture from the road. According to BMW's press release, this invention would "virtually eliminate the need to clear your driveway during winter." The advertisement assured readers that road warmers would eventually become standard on all new BMWs, but until then dealers would install them on older models free of charge.