I’ve known the real names of The Yes Men ever since we signed a contract with them to publish their book, but I always thought that it was like a state secret known to very few people and never to be divulged … only to find while flipping through the pages of the “Style” section of the New York Times that those names had been casually dropped in what was a very lightweight piece of journalism. Was this the Gray Lady’s way of exacting revenge on the pranksters following their highly publicized fake New York Times?
“USUALLY it’s my shoes,” Andy Bichlbaum said, staring at his feet. “They’re black, but — uh-oh — they’re work boots.” Apparently a small detail like this can give you away when you’re trying to impersonate a corporate spokesman in front of millions of TV viewers.
A glass of whiskey in hand, Mr. Bichlbaum, who is one half of the prankster/activist duo the Yes Men, was greeting fans in the courtyard of the Hammer Museum where “The Yes Men Fix the World” was about to have its Los Angeles premiere. The other Yes Man, Mike Bonanno, was in Washington talking on MSNBC about the film.
Mr. Bichlbaum, 46, had on a dark suit jacket and a dress shirt, which he wore untucked over baggy cargo pants that were tied at the ankles. Nonetheless, he conveyed the same air of authority that helped him when, keeping a straight face, he held a televised news conference two weeks ago as a representative of the United States Chamber of Commerce and announced that the organization had dropped its opposition to climate-change legislation. (On Tuesday the organization sued the Yes Men for trademark infringement.)
Earlier in his career — as documented in the movie — Mr. Bichlbaum posed as a Dow Chemical Company spokesman on the BBC World News and offered $12 billion to compensate the victims of the 1984 disaster in Bhopal, India. His ruse was quickly found out, but not before the price of Dow’s stock dropped precipitously.
In the courtyard, a fan approached and asked if Mr. Bichlbaum was apprehensive when he faked his identity. “I get dry mouth and my heart pounds,” he said, his voice sonorous as a newscaster. “But where else do you get the chance to be that nervous? Bungee jumping?”
After the film started, Mr. Bichlbaum and three friends, including his boyfriend, Carlo Cattaneo Adorno, headed to the green room. “Wow, this is rock star,” Mr. Bichlbaum said upon seeing the makeup table and mirrors. Pizza, heirloom tomato salads and two bottles of wine soon followed, and the talk turned to Mr. Bichlbaum’s beginnings.
His real name is…