It was inevitable: Alan Abel’s obituary would mention that this was not his first.
The “professional hoaxer” — who first got his death notice into the New York Times in 1980 — is now actually dead.
The Times reports that the former Westporter died Friday, in Southbury. He was 94.
Abel was a jazz drummer, stand-up comic, writer, campus lecturer and filmmaker, the Times said. The paper also called him “a master psychologist, keen strategist and possessor of an enviable deadpan and a string of handy aliases.”
Among his hoaxes: creating the Society for Indecency to Naked Animals, which purported to want to put clothes on horses, cows, dogs and cats. He also created the fictitious Yetta Bronstein, a Jewish grandmother from the Bronx, who “ran for president” in 1964 advocating fluoridation, national bingo tournaments and truth serum for congressional water fountains.
Following the Watergate scandal, he hired an actor to pose as Deep Throat. The press conference drew 150 reporters.
For some it’s a home office — a converted bedroom perhaps, or the attic. For others it’s Starbucks.
For GiGi New, it’s a caboose.
Since the early 1970s, the red, real train car has sat in the woods off Newtown Turnpike, between the Country Store and Bette Davis’ old house. For anyone driving, biking or walking by, it’s an object of wonder and awe.
GiGi New’s caboose.
For GiGi, it’s a special, creative sanctuary.
She and her husband — actor/director Nicholas Sadler (“Scent of a Woman,” “Disclosure,” “Twister”) — moved to Westport in April, with their young son Cooper. They fell in love with the house and caboose, and sent a heartfelt letter to the owner promising to honor and take care of both.
GiGi was already a well-established TV and film writer. In Minneapolis, where she lived during the 2007-08 Writers Guild of America strike, she began teaching her craft. Garrison Keillor became an avid pupil.
She continued to teach after arriving here — first with the Westport Writers’ Workshop and through area libraries, now on her own.
Which brings us to the funky, not-quite-level caboose, where Gigi works with individuals and groups, and continues writing for TV and movies. (Her current project is in development with Killer Films.)
The caboose is said to have been some sort of “payment” to Alan Abel, a well-known prankster who 40 years ago owned GiGi’s 1847 house. (One hoax: Following the Watergate scandal, he hired an actor to pose as Deep Throat. The press conference drew 150 reporters.)
The caboose was delivered via 3 flatbed trucks, and a crane. It sits on actual tracks, though those were brought in too. Someone had a permit for it — and it’s been grandfathered in ever since.
The interior, from the back of the caboose.
GiGi says the caboose belonged to the Pittsburgh and Lake Erie Railroad. One wall is filled with actual P&LE tickets. (They were placed there by HGTV, which gutted the interior, and re-decorated it for one of their shows — click here for the fascinating video.)
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