Ever wonder how rigorous the Dominion Post are about investigating their stories? Did you notice how the Dom had a really weird George W story on the front page last Tuesday? Since when does the Dom put World News on the front page? It may be because Branpower had them totally fooled. But for the conscience of an actor, the following was potentially going to be a front-page story. This is all true – not a word is made up.
Dominion Post: M— here.
Bran Power: G’day, I’m just calling from Wellington. I just saw Mel Gibson on the street, I was just wondering if you guys know anything about it
DP: No we didn’t, whereabouts did you see him?
B: Just on the waterfront. I was sure it was him, so I went up and asked for his signature.
DP: How long ago?
B: About 11 o’clock.
DP: All right, can I just grab your name and your mobile?
B: Yep, my name’s Geoff.
B: And my number’s — — —–
DP: All right. Someone will be in touch. Hey thanks mate.
[A couple of hours later, the Dom calls an durgently asks for an interview. I can’t say no – the guy is extremely insistent. When I say I left the autograph in Newtown, they offer to drive me during rush hour traffic to get it. I realize I can’t pass off as Geoff, so I need to organise an actor, and buy time by saying I’m tutoring until 5. I get a mate to come on up to pretend to be Geoff, brief him, get Salient staffers to forge a signature (there’s lots of websites) and just wait…] ‘Geoff’ meets a reporter in the Atrium.
Geoff: Yeah hey, how’s it going?
R: Now we’ve got a car, let’s take you to your place in Newtown.
G: I’ve got it here!
R: Well come down here and we’ll get a photo.
G: It’s bizarre. He was standing on the waterfront having a coffee.
R: Are you absolutely sure it was him?
G: Absolutely dead certain. I was a bit unsure at first, you know, it’s Mel Gibson. I didn’t want to make a fool of myself, and go ‘hey you’re Mel’. It was definitely him. I was on my way to class and I just got his autograph. [Meets photographer, introduces himself]
R: So whereabouts was it?
G: It was on C-… on the waterfront, you know Frank Kitts Park, it was very close to Frank Kitts Park. He was just looking at the harbour.
R: He was drinking a coffee?
G: Yeah, just a takeaway coffee.
R: We could go down to the waterfront and grab a photo, or do you want to do it here?
G: I’ve got to head away. Just here?
R: What time was it?
G: It was 11 o’clock.
P: You sure it was him.
G: I was skeptical at first. I didn’t want to make a fool of myself. I didn’t want to ask him too many questions, or be too intrusive. I guess, all this public profile in Wellington, it’s a bit bizarre. He was very pleasant, and you know, he looked like he was enjoying himself.
P: It’s not the best day.
G: Yeah, it’s a bit murky.
P: Was anyone else around?
G: No there was hardly anybody about. At that time of the day, and because of the weather.
P: Could you take it out of there [it’s in a cover].
G: I just don’t want to get it wet.
P: Have you seen his movies?
G: Yeah, probably my favourite would be the Lethal Weapon series. And Mad Max is one of my all-time favourite movies….of Mel Gibson. Just keeps going, talk about Peter Jackson, isolation, Jewish remarks, movies about Maya, being anti-Iraq War, how hard it is being a celebrity etc. They talk on a bit about study, clarify spelling of name, future plans etc., and then grab heaps of photos.
Unfortunately the actor playing Geoff got a little worried about potential legal ramifications. To be fair, we didn’t give ‘Geoff’ much notice about it, but we certainly didn’t expect this level of interest from the Dom, which meant acting quicker than expected. So ‘Geoff’ confessed all to the Dom around 7pm, which we were pretty gutted about.] Post-script – the Dominion Post had my cell-phone number.
M: Hi, is this Geoff?
M: This is the number I rang about a story involving Mel Gibson.
B: I’m Brannavan.
M: Oh….do you know what I’m talking about?
M: Well we had a look at the story. Can you please, in the future, not waste our time.
M: Who are you?
B: Student media.
M: [pause] oh. Why…why’d you do it?
B: Oh I was just seeing how well you guys investigate and report your stories.
M: [long pause] In the future can you not waste our time.
[M hangs up]
That’s the epic story of how Branpower almost made the front page of the Dom.. If I was going to give one piece of advice to fellow pranksters, attack a weakness and don’t show mercy. The Dom loves celebrity gossip, and while the prank didn’t go all the way through, at least, I forced some real news onto the cover to replace my prank. That’s no consolation though. I had them good.