Hiding in Plain Sight, Five Great Imposters


This Week on the 5:  Five Famous Fakers

The last thing a con wants is to become famous.  A famous imposter, is a failed imposter.  But these 5 con men were infamously successful at their game  until they got caught.  They were so good, that Hollywood made movies about all five of em.

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  • Frank Abagnale Jr.  One of the most famous imposters in history started in check fraud, and later posed as an airline pilot, the chief resident pediatrician in a hospital, and a lawyer (he actually did pass the bar exam, but never went to law school). He was finally caught and arrested in France in 1969 and eventually deported back to the US.   He served a few years and was paroled with the condition that he assist federal authorities in investigating and catching other scam artists.   The 2002 movie, Catch Me If You Can stars Leonardo DiCaprio as Abagnale.
  • Alan Conway.  Travel agent Alan Conaway  became famous for convincing others he was the elusive Stanley Kubrick.  Although he looked nothing like him, Kubrick was in a kind of self-exile, and so Conway’s victims either didn’t know what Kubrick looked like or had only seen him with a heavy beard.  The con he ran was relatively small time –using the ruse to get rides, entrance to  clubs, expensive dinners, and trips in return for promises of studio reimbursement, exclusive interviews, or roles in his films.  He was discovered by Kubrick’s assistant and outted in a Vanity Fair article.  In the 2005 film Color Me Kubrick he was played by John Malkovich.
  • David Hampton.  Much like Alan Conway’s con, David Hampton used his false identity to get into clubs, get free meals, trips and other  perks.   But instead of trying to pass himself off as an actual celebrity, he conned others by pretending to be the son of actor Sidney Portier.    He started by using the lie to get into Studio 54. After being treated like a celebrity he continued to con others to get star treatment and to gain his way into the homes of celebrities.  His story formed the basis for the play  Six Degrees of Separation, and the 1993 film of the same name.  Will Smith plays the lead– an impersonator named Paul– based on David’s life.
  • Ferdinand Demara.  Much like Abagnale, Demara had many identities.  With the help of a photographic memory, he assumed the identities of a doctor, a civil engineer, many law enforcement authorities, several monks.  He even performed surgery as a trauma surgeon by speed reading a medical book.  His true identity was discovered after he actually performed surgery  that saved a man’s life, but he was never arrested for any crimes.   He was said to be using his cons to get respectability more than any monetary gain, and he didn’t seem to have any real ‘victims’ as everyone he worked with was happy with his performances in the various identities.   Or at least that’s how the media portrayed him.  His story became the subject of several books, a primetime drama, and the 1961 film, The Great Imposter, in which he is played by Tony Curtis.
  • Frederic Bourdin.  Nicknamed “the Chameleon” Bourdin assumed countless identities– starting as a young child.  His most famous child impersonation took place when  he assumed the identify of a 16-year-old Texas boy who had been missing for 3 years.  He convinced authorities and the boy’s family that he was the missing kid for five months.  At the time he pulled this off, he was 23, French, and didn’t even share the boy’s eye color.  He has been said to have over 40 cons in 16 different countries.  Incredibly smart, and persuasive he has convinced people he was a teenager when he was 30, and has also posed as a tiger healer, a tourist, and a long list of missing children. His story inspired a 2010 French film, The Chameleon, and a 2012 documentary film, The Imposter.

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catch me if you can color me kubrick six degrees separation the great imposter the imposter

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68 comments
sidwasout
sidwasout

There was the guy who murdered his family (midwest?), stuck them in a storage facility, then spent several years (decades?) living as the perfect family man outside Richmond under another name.

pepperjackb
pepperjackb

Kip Litton, the marathon imposter.  He would run super fast times, sometimes changing clothes on course, even fabricated an entire race--The West Wyoming Marathon... 

Clover leaf
Clover leaf

Radio shark should have been number one on this list.

Vickroy
Vickroy

Two Stories but both about my Dad.

1) when he worked in Mahatten for the VA, he and his buddy would be mistaken for NYPD Detectives all the time. Uniformed cops would lift up the yellow tape and let them walk through crime scenes to get wherever they were going.

2) Another time, he had lunch at a brand new Italian resteraunt in NY with a coworker. His coworker was named Gallo, which also happened to be the name of some famous mob guy at the time. The staff got wind of it anf thought he was the dude and they just wined and dined them like mad - all for free.

REDDYROG
REDDYROG

Cubs faking being a Major league baseball team for 100 years..............sorry Ollie.

OllieInChicago
OllieInChicago

I've been in the minors for a few years.  I think I'll be a September call-up this year.  

REDDYROG
REDDYROG

Lets not forget all the 40 year old men pretending to be young girls in the AOL chat rooms

brushmonkey
brushmonkey

My sister met this guy posing as a guy whose sperm was in retirement.  Now I have the best niece in the world.

Christopher Brooklyn
Christopher Brooklyn

I try to pretend I am a talented poster as Liz sets fire..but I can't be as bitchy

Vickroy
Vickroy

Fez finally Cracked! Hope Ron and Pepper are OK!

Danieldaniels
Danieldaniels

I look exactly like michal phelps and im the same hieght and build and I have signed plenty of autographs and taken plenty of pictures

Ray in Pittsburgh
Ray in Pittsburgh

Back in the 80's here in Pittsburgh there was this guy from West Virginia who claimed his Chinese grandfather taught him Chinese Kung fu. So he starts teaching here for years. Students of his actually started teaching too.

He dies of an overdose and when they find his family in WV turns out they were Lebonese and didn't even know anyone Chinese. Must of watched a lot of movies to pull it off.

harlequincy
harlequincy

Anyone who's stayed in a Holiday Inn Express.

OllieInChicago
OllieInChicago

There have been several people who have practiced law without a license.  

Anthony From California
Anthony From California

I'm still trying to figure out who the Midnight Rider was. At first I thought it was Eastside Dave, but then they had that wrestling match www.youtube.com/watch?v=zH5fluZ5bhk

FanBoy1
FanBoy1

I can believe no one has stated the Obvious by now.

MikePal75
MikePal75

Was it UCB Fred who posed as a college student to get an intern gig for Ron & Fez?

Roefmli
Roefmli

My husband said he was a Doctor waiting for his tee time so he could get into the bathroom at a Connecticut country club.

FanBoy1
FanBoy1

ATF POS Jay Dobyns and the Hells Angels story comes to mind.

OllieInChicago
OllieInChicago

@REDDYROG Just you wait.  When Wrigley's renovated, we trade all of our veterans for young talent, develop the talent, fire the manager, hire Buck Showalter, we'll be in contention!

SarahMcPants
SarahMcPants

We are going to need photographic evidence. Preferably nude for comparison.

sidwasout
sidwasout

The Undertaker is not an undertaker, and Jimmy Snuka was not an insect. But Nate Archibald was, relatively speaking, tiny.

FanBoy1
FanBoy1

I had to re-word it a few times. and it should say "Can't". I hate not having an edit function.

SarahMcPants
SarahMcPants

Yeah but with the winky face it seems you got shot in the eye, been there. Get some visine and tell your boyfriend to work on his aim.