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BILL KURTIS: From NPR and WBEZ Chicago, this is WAIT WAIT… DON’T TELL ME, the NPR news quiz. I’m Bill Kurtis. We are playing this week with Adam Felber, Roxanne Roberts and Peter Grosz. And here again is your host at the Chase Bank Auditorium in downtown Chicago, Peter Sagal.
PETER SAGAL, HOST:
Thank you, Bill.
SAGAL: Right now, it’s time for the WAIT WAIT… DON’T TELL ME Bluff the Listener game. Call 1-888-WAIT-WAIT to play our game on the air.
Hi, you are on WAIT WAIT… DON’T TELL ME.
MARK DOHERTY: Hello, Peter.
SAGAL: Hi. Who’s this?
DOHERTY: My name is Mark Doherty, and I’m from Taunton, Mass.
SAGAL: Taunton – I know it well. What do you do there?
DOHERTY: I’m actually going off to Amherst in the fall to UMass Amherst.
SAGAL: That’s great. What are you going to do at UMass Amherst?
DOHERTY: So I’m actually going for a double major in history and Chinese language and literature.
SAGAL: Oh, that’s exciting.
ADAM FELBER: Wow.
SAGAL: That’s cool. That’ll be useful when they finally take over.
DOHERTY: I know it.
SAGAL: Mark, it’s nice to have you with us. You’re going to play our game in which you must try to tell truth from fiction. Bill, what is Mark’s topic?
KURTIS: Where’s my $22,000?
SAGAL: Bill Kurtis is upset because he gets paid $22,000 a word, and there’s a the we shorted him last week.
SAGAL: That’s not the only missing 22 grand. Our panelists are going to tell you about someone that had an unlikely excuse for the $22,000 that were missing that we heard about this week. Pick the one who’s telling the truth, you’ll win our prize – the WAIT WAIT-er of your choice on your voicemail. You ready to play?
DOHERTY: Oh, yeah.
SAGAL: All right. First, let’s hear from Adam Felber.
FELBER: Mr. Palmer Connery (ph) was shocked when his watch repair store called to say that his beloved $22,000 diamond-studded Rolex Yacht-Master II couldn’t be fixed because it was, in fact, a cheap fake. Impossible, he thought. Why, he’d had it appraised only a year ago, and it never left his wrist – except for that one time when it was disappeared and then reappeared by that famous magician. And – wait a minute.
FELBER: Yes, police last week arrested Glasgow, Scotland’s beloved illusionist, the Amazing Ferguson (ph). Ferguson, they discovered, had a second career selling high-end watches on the Internet. It turns out that Ferguson would inspect his audience with a security cam before the show, select a patsy with a nice watch, and then he’d choose his mark to volunteer during the show, get him on stage and make his watch disappear. Moments later, he’d cut open a fresh watermelon with a hatchet, and inside would be – ta-da. Here’s your watch, sir. But, of course, it wasn’t.
Police say that the Internet records show that over the past five years, the Amazing Ferguson has racked up sales of more than $1.5 million in stolen watches through his online boutique called, appropriately enough, magictime.com.
FELBER: When confronted by police, Ferguson’s excuse was that he’s just a bad magician. Quote, “See. I never figured out how to get that trick to work and get the real watch into that melon, so I just replaced the watches. And then, well, I had to get rid of all those watches.”
SAGAL: A bad magician….
SAGAL: …The Amazing Ferguson, says he had to steal a $22,000 watch because he didn’t know how to make it really disappear. Your next story of missing money comes from Roxanne Roberts.
ROXANNE ROBERTS: Colin Williamson (ph) was supposed to be in tax court Monday. Instead, he was in front of a Toronto judge explaining why he couldn’t pay the $22,000 past due taxes on his mother’s estate. Before closing on his late mom’s home, Williamson withdrew the money from the bank on Friday and held a giant garage sale on the property Saturday. Because his son is, quote, “obsessed with money,” Williamson allowed the 6-year-old to man a toy cash register using monopoly money according to the Toronto Star.
At some point during the day, his son, quote, sold some puzzles, a Yahtzee game and an old copy of monopoly, replacing the fake bills with the $22,000 in cash. Williamson said during the (unintelligible) day he had no idea what happened until hours later and zero clue who bought the game nor how his son found the real currency and replaced it. He’s asking the judge to forgive the debt, arguing that he shouldn’t be forced to pay twice to satisfy the tax bill. The judge has given Williamson 30 days to recover the money or, quote, do not pass go. Do not collect 200.
SAGAL: The cash used for monopoly money, and then it went out with the game at a garage sale. Your last story of a surprising excuse comes from Peter Grosz.
PETER GROSZ: It was drama, crime and intrigue at the Kano Zoological Gardens in Abuja, Nigeria, earlier this week when 6.8 million naira – the equivalent of $22,000 – went missing from the zoo’s office. At the end of the week, officials finally cleared the suspect who had been blamed for the theft – a hungry gorilla. Let’s rewind. When the money first disappeared…
GROSZ: …A local radio station interviewed an employee from the zoo’s finance department who claimed with a straight face – even though it was on radio – that a gorilla had broken into the office, taken the money and then eaten it. If that seems too strange and foreign to wrap your head around, just use the international news story exchange rate. A gorilla breaking into a Nigerian zoo and eating 6.8 million naira is like a bear breaking into a Waffle House and eating $22,000 of fidget spinners.
Then came a shocking update – run-of-the-mill human criminals were guilty, and the gorilla was innocent. And how were the cops so sure they could exonerate the suspected simian? Well, as Abdullahi Ganduje, governor of the Kano state, told reporters, the issue of the gorilla is junk journalism. This is because there is no gorilla in that zoo.
GROSZ: That’s right. The Kano Zoological Gardens doesn’t even have a gorilla. Police initially considered the possibility that the culprit could be a different gorilla from a totally different zoo. He was just visiting this zoo with his family….
GROSZ: …But then realized that this was ridiculous, and the whole gorilla eating the money story was a hoax. So a word of advice, kids – if you’re going to say the dog ate your homework, make sure you own a dog.
SAGAL: All right. So $22,000, in one form or another, went missing. What was the excuse offered for it? From Adam Felber, was it a magician who made people’s watches disappear but never could figure out a way to give them back? From Roxanne Roberts, money used by a child for a Monopoly set who then sold the Monopoly set at a garage sale? Or, from Peter Grosz, a gorilla broke into the office at the zoo and ate it at a zoo that doesn’t have a gorilla? Which of these is the real story of an excuse for losing money that we found in the news?
DOHERTY: Oh, man. Well, I think it’d either be a tie between the monopoly and the fake gorilla.
DOHERTY: But – the fake gorilla.
SAGAL: All right. Your choice, then, is Peter’s story about the gorilla. To find out the correct answer, we spoke with someone who has lots of expertise about the real story.
ERIN CONNELLY: It’s not that crazy to say that a gorilla might come across a stack of paper, like cash, and eat it.
SAGAL: That was Erin Connelly, who studies primate behavior and ecology at Central Washington University, talking about the putative cash-eating gorilla who did not exist but now we know could have.
SAGAL: Congratulations. You got it right. Peter was telling the truth the whole time. You knew that.
SAGAL: You win our prize. You get to choose any voice you might like on your voicemail. Peter gets a point. Everything’s great. Thank you so much for playing.
DOHERTY: Thank you very much.
SAGAL: Thank you. Take care.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, “BAD CASE OF MISSING YOU”)
THE OAK RIDGE BOYS: (Singing) Help me, tell me, honey, what can I do? Hey, baby, got a bad case of missing you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.