And other fake stories about famous people. (This article was originally published in Uncle John’s Weird Weird World EPIC.)
THE TRUTH: Richards has admitted to heroin addiction and has made several attempts to break it over the years. In 1973, some accounts say, he did receive some sort of dialysis-type treatment to “filter” his blood, but the idea of getting a “blood change” to treat an addiction isn’t medically possible.
HOW IT SPREAD: Richards says he started the rumor himself: “Someone asked me how I cleaned up, so I told them I went to Switzerland and had my blood completely changed. I was just fooling around. I opened my jacket and said, ‘How do you like my blood change?’ That’s all it was, a joke. I was sick of answering that question. So I gave them a story.” Also, in his 2003 book I Was Keith Richards’ Drug Dealer, onetime Richards friend (and drug dealer, by his account) Tony Sanchez also claims that Richards had his blood “changed.”
LEGEND: When singer Mariah Carey was asked about the death of King Hussein of Jordan in February 1999, she confused him with basketball player Michael Jordan. “I’m inconsolable at the present time,” she told CNN. “I was a very good friend of Jordan. He was probably the greatest basketball player this country has ever seen. We will never see his like again.”
THE TRUTH: It never happened.
HOW IT SPREAD: The story appeared on an Internet chat site, falsely attributed to USA Today and CNN, and it spread from there.
THE TRUTH: Denver never served in the Army or any other branch of the military. He was inducted in 1964, but he was classified 1-Y—not qualified for service—because he was missing two toes due to a lawnmower accident when he was a boy.
HOW IT SPREAD: Nobody knows exactly who started this one, but it began in the early 1970s. Similar stories have been spread about another “nice guy,” Fred Rogers of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. He wasn’t a sniper, either.
THE TRUTH: From The Real Frank Zappa: “For the record, folks: I never took a sh*t on stage, and the closest I ever came to eating sh*t anywhere was at a Holiday Inn buffet in Fayetteville, North Carolina, in 1973.”
HOW IT SPREAD: “This legend originated in the mid-1960s,” according to urban-legend investigators Snopes.com, “no doubt inspired by the eccentricities of Frank Zappa’s music and appearance.” In a 1993 interview in Playboy, Zappa called it “somebody’s imagination run wild. Chemically bonded imagination.”
LEGEND: Country-music singer Keith Urban, at a concert in North Dakota in July 2006, made all the Canadians in the audience leave—because their government hadn’t supported the United States in the war in Iraq.
THE TRUTH: Urban played at the North Dakota State Fair in Minot on July 21, 2006, but no credible reports have ever been found of him having asked any Canadians to leave. And several Canadians who were at the concert wrote to various Internet sites, saying that they hadn’t been thrown out of the show.
HOW IT SPREAD: Via fake e-mails that made the rounds of the Internet sometime in late 2006. Here’s a sample: “What an ass!!! No more Keith Urban for me!!! (or Garth Brooks) This big-shot western singer asked all Canadians to stand up at the Minot Fair. After everyone stood up, he asked them all to leave the stands because they were not helping out fighting with USA troops…Pass this around and see how his record sales do in Canada!”
LEGEND: U2 frontman Bono, while performing a show in Glasgow, Scotland, asked the crowd for a moment of silence. Then he slowly clapped his hands for a few moments and said, “Every time I clap my hands, a child in Africa dies.” An audience member then yelled out in a thick Scottish brogue, “Well, stop f*cking doing it, then!”
THE TRUTH: It was actually British comedian Jimmy Carr who said the famous line…in his comedy act. Carr was making fun of Bono and other celebrities who appeared in a 2005 charity commercial in which they said a child died from extreme poverty every three seconds—every time they snapped their fingers. Carr quipped, “I watched that, and couldn’t help thinking, ‘Well, stop clicking your fingers!’”
HOW IT SPREAD: Via hoax e-mails in 2006 regarding the concert in Glasgow—or New York, or London, or various other places. Even some newspapers fell for it and reprinted the stories, including Australia’s Sunday Mail.