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On Pranking the Powerful

Contributing editor Talia Lavin gets Rudy Giuliani's cell phone number. Hilarity ensues.
By Talia Lavin|
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The American news cycle has never been so gaudy, so garish, so overwhelming — and so petty in its scabrous, overt immorality. Following the news is frankly dizzying, much like a ride at a small-town carnival without a safety rating: nausea and bodily injury are likely to follow. The country is run by decrepit septuagenarians with no moral fiber and, let’s be honest, probably not enough dietary fiber either. In all this muck, it’s easy to feel helpless. And I hate feeling helpless. It makes me feel too big in my skin, itchy, like I can’t get a hold on anything. I get punchy and irritable and generally inclined to do unwise things. And that’s how I wound up spending last Saturday night prank-texting Rudolph W. Giuliani, the president’s unpaid lawyer, a man embroiled in the thick of the impeachment scandal. I live in New York City, so pranking our one-time fascist mayor was an extra bonus. But most of all, I went into it wondering just how senile the goons that drive our news cycles into madness really are. Would a man at the center of this much legal scandal answer a text from a random stranger? What if the random stranger was posing as a girl reporter from the 1940s? What if the stranger said she found Rudolph W. Giuliani sexually attractive, even though he looks like Nosferatu lightly warmed over?

It started fairly innocently: I jokingly challenged my followers on Twitter to get me Rudy’s cell number so I could ask him to confess his crimes in exchange for a lifetime supply of snacks. (He is 75, just three years shy of the average male life expectancy in the U.S., so I figured a lifetime supply of snacks for him wouldn’t bankrupt me.) Then, to my surprise, a reputable journalist whom I will never name even under duress, actually … sent me Rudy Giuliani’s phone number, which this person had been using for quite serious research. It was an unexpected gift, and one I intended to take as unseriously as possible. I was armed with two separate cell numbers and an intent to do a prank. Although the word “intent” probably undermines how unseriously I took this whole affair. I did it all while my boyfriend was building me an IKEA desk and I was just looking for something to do that didn’t involve Allen wrenches. I was willing to throw a salvo out into the wind, but not expecting a response at all.

“hi rudy, talia lavin, girl reporter, speaking,” I wrote. “wondering if you have time to talk about some crimes. specifically, have you done any big crimes you wanna talk about? im here for ya rudy.”

And that’s when the president’s lawyer responded. A man who had made headlines mere hours before for corrupt favor-trading. A man who was on the brink of deposition before Congress. A man with a chin so protruding Jay Leno feels emasculated beside him.

Rudy: “No crimes big or little just going through necessary attack by Dem cover up media. All stupid. Let them knock themselves out.”

Me: “OK but are you sure? Maybe just a little bit of crime. Crime time with the boys amirite?” 

Rudy: “You can’t believe how I am careful I know the wolves are out there and Corrupt Media is in tank for them.”

Me: “Aww I’m not a wolf! I’m just a nice gal with a hunger for a scoop! What can you tell me about Ukraine?”

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It went on like that for about four hours – me adopting steadily more exaggerated 1940s mid-Atlantic diction and then claiming to work for the Daily Bugle, the newspaper famously featured in the Spider-Man comic books and movies, Rudy not swaying from his incoherent, drunk-Fox-news-appearance rants. I offered to buy him a drink and told him he was handsome and probably smelled good. He said I was unprofessional. I said I had to meet a beau for a drinkie-poo. 

“Time to end this. It’s either too silly or worse,” he wrote, finally, a full four hours after his initial response. 

In my case, it was silliness. A lark. A mix between a very mild desire to humiliate one of the senescent crime goons ruining my country and just seeing what I could get away with. But as to “worse,” well – if the president’s lawyer is this willing to answer texts from total strangers, surely one of them was ready and willing to offer a bargain he couldn’t refuse? 

“Time to end this. It’s either too silly or worse” – Rudy Giuliani

I spent a few days basking in the clout – and backlash – of posting my stunt to twitter in real time. Then I got really depressed. I mean, this is still the lawyer of the actual president of the actual United States, one who, according to a full legion of news reports, has been pursuing a shadow foreign policy to mire Trump’s political foes in artificial scandal. And the guy is fantastically gullible. At this point, I wouldn’t be surprised if Rudy had sold or laundered money through an entire fake Nigerian royal family. He probably has an enormous collection of penis enlargement equipment acquired through direct e-mail marketing. He buys gold directly off infomercials. And he has the power to sell access to the president. It’s just upsetting.

So I sulked for a few more days and prank-called Alan Dershowitz, another presidential legal proxy and member of the American elite. I convinced him I had dirt on one of his enemies involving hair cream and a gazelle. He called me four times and when I picked up I chose to emulate a drunk female relative of Gilbert Gottfried. Listen. Everybody has to let off steam somehow. If my country is going to drive straight into the depths of hell, I want to be hanging out the window pantsing demons as I go.

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