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April Fool's Day, 2000
Freewheelz. (2000) Esquire introduced its readers to an exciting new company called Freewheelz in an article titled "There Are No Free Wheels." Freewheelz planned to provide drivers with free cars. In exchange, the drivers had to place large advertisements on the outside of their vehicle (such as ads for StayFresh Maxi Pads). Ads would also play constantly on the radio inside the car. Prospective drivers had to go through a screening process, requiring them to submit stool samples and notarized video-store-rental receipts.
The article satirized the much-touted "new economy" created by the internet. Readers who didn't realize this barraged Esquire with phone calls, wanting to know how they could sign up to drive a StayFresh minivan.
Navel Removal. (2000) Jacki Lyden, of NPR's All Things Considered, discussed a new fad among teenage girls: navel removal. The procedure, called a navelectomy, was being performed in mini malls on both the west and east coasts.
Critics of the procedure pointed to the risk of infection and scarring. But its proponents noted that it made the belly a "blank canvas," which was convenient for getting a tattoo. Also, "the aborigines in South America have it done, so it's totally natural, and it's really safe." One mother was unhappy with her daughter's decision to have the operation because it had removed their connection from the womb.
15th Annual New York City April Fool’s Day Parade. (2000) A news release sent to the media stated that the 15th annual New York City April Fool's Day Parade was scheduled to begin at noon on 59th Street and would proceed down to Fifth Avenue. According to the news release, floats in the parade would include a "Beat 'em, Bust ';em, Book 'em" float created by the New York, Los Angeles, and Seattle police departments. This float would portray “themes of brutality, corruption and incompetence.“ A “Where’s Mars?“ float, reportedly built at a cost of $10 billion, would portray missed Mars missions. Finally, the “Atlanta Braves Baseball Tribute to Racism” float would feature John Rocker who would be “spewing racial epithets at the crowd.“ CNN and the Fox affiliate WNYW sent television news crews to cover the parade. They arrived at 59th Street at noon only to discover that there was no parade. The police informed them that they had received no notification of a parade. Reluctantly, the reporters realized that they had been hoaxed. The prank was the handiwork of Joey Skaggs, a well-known hoaxer.
Miller Lites. (2000) Miller Beer announced it had struck an agreement with the town of Marfa, Texas to become the exclusive sponsor of the phenomenon known as the Marfa Mystery Lights. These are spherical lights which appear south of the town each evening, seeming to bounce around in the sky. They're variously rumored to be caused by ghosts, swamp gas, or uranium (though they're probably caused by the headlights from the nearby highway). Miller announced that under the terms of the agreement the Marfa Lights would be renamed the Miller Lites. The local paper, which was in on the joke, printed the news on its front page.
Viagra For Hamsters. (2000) The Independent reported that Florida researchers had developed a Viagra-like pill to treat sexually frustrated pets, including hamsters. Veterinarians were said to have greeted the news with derision, but the article pointed out that there are few things as sad as a pet suffering from feelings of sexual inadequacy, noting that "It's not unknown for a guinea pig to sit in its cage thinking, 'I haven't had sex for months. Am I so unattractive?'"
Owners were instructed to grind the pills up and sprinkle them in the pet's food. Laying some newspaper down on the floor once the pills began to take effect was also advised. The pills were to be marketed under the brand name Feralmone.
Google Mentalplex. (2000) Google unveiled "MentalPlex" search technology that read the user's mind to determine what the user wanted to search for, thus eliminating the need for typing. Users were invited to peer intently at an animated spinning circle while projecting a mental image of their search request.
If the MentalPlex circle was clicked, search results for "April Fools" appeared, as well as a notice that MentalPlex was "unclear on whether your search is about money or monkeys."
Playboy’s Wife-Beating Advice. (2000) The Romanian edition of Playboy published an article titled "How to beat your wife without leaving a trace." Written from the point of view of a policeman, it offered a step-by-step guide to concealable abuse, suggesting that abuse could lead to a better sex life.
Deputy editor Mihai Galatanu later insisted the article had been an April Fool's joke, and that the abuse methods described "cannot work." Nevertheless, the article generated widespread condemnation. Women marched through central Bucharest in protest.
Playboy Enterprises chairman Christie Hefner soon issued an apology and reprimanded the Romanian chief editor.
OPEC Free Fuel Offer. (2000) An announcement appeared on the website www.opecinfo.com declaring that the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, after 22 hours of emergency negotiations with independent fuel operators, was close to deciding to offer motorists around the world free fill ups on the first Saturday of each month for the next six months. Motorists would simply have to print out and complete an online form which they could then present at any gas station to receive their free fill up.
Some commuters took the announcement seriously and appeared at gas stations with their completed forms, demanding free gas. However, the OPEC website and announcement were the creation of JokeWeb.com, an online humor site. A spokesman for the site claimed that JokeWeb.com would honor the offer and pay all those who had filled out the form $50 worth of gas every Saturday for the next six months.
FatSox. (2000) The Daily Mail revealed that American scientists had invented "FatSox" — socks made out of a revolutionary new material that actually sucked fat out of a person's body as they sweated. The discovery promised to "speed up the fight against flab without any extra effort." The socks employed a nylon polymer that reacted with a newly-patented compound, Tetrafloramezathine, in order to draw fat out of the bloodstream: "As the exerciser warms up, molecules in the sock are activated by the increased blood flow and the material draws out the fatty liquids, or lipds, from the body through the sweat." After a good workout, the socks, and the fat, could simply be thrown away.
M3 Zebra Crossing. (2000) Early morning commuters travelling on the northern carriageway of the M3 near Farnborough, Hampshire encountered a pedestrian zebra crossing painted across the busy highway. The perpetrator of the prank was unknown. A police spokesman speculated that the prank, "must have been done very early in the morning when there was little or no traffic on the motorway." Maintenance workers were quickly summoned to remove the crossing, which was apparently not too difficult to do since the pranksters had used emulsion paint rather than gloss. The police noted that, surprisingly, they had received no calls from the public about the crossing.
IPO for F/rite Air. (2000) By April 2000, the dot.com bubble was rapidly deflating. This didn't deter hundreds of Dutch investors from lining up to buy shares in F/rite Air, which was being billed as a hot new technology company backed by supporters such as Bill Gates, Paul Allen, and George Soros. The announcement about the company's IPO was posted on iex.nl, a financial web site for Dutch investors. It was reported that shares in the IPO could be reserved for $18 each by email, although it was said that analysts anticipated the stock soaring to above $80 on the first day of its filing. The company seemed like a sure thing, and almost immediately orders worth over $7 million flooded in. The orders didn't stop coming in even after the newspapers had revealed the IPO to be an April Fool's Day joke. F/rite air was a pun for 'Fried air' (i.e. Hot Air).
PETA’s Tournament of Sleeping Fish. (2000) People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) warned that it planned to sabotage the bass fishing tournament in East Texas's Lake Palestine by releasing tranquilizers into the lake before the tournament. Their announcement stated that "this year, the fish will be napping, not nibbling." State officials took the threat seriously and stationed rangers around the lake in order to stop any tranquilizer-toting PETA activists from drugging the fish, and numerous newspapers reported the threat. Eventually PETA admitted that it had been joking.
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