I just finished a splendid book, "The Forger's Spell" by Edward Dolnick, about how a mediocre painter named Han Van Meegeren painted a series of "Vermeers" in the 1930s and 1940s and conned the European art establishment into believing they were real. One of his forgeries was the crown jewel in the collection of the world's greatest art thief, Reichsmarschall Hermann Goering. It was a delicious hoax.
When I put the book down and started looking for news stories to pin this column to, I found August was an extraordinary month for hoaxes, fakes, scams, scandals and pranks. Let's start with Wine Spectator.
Thomas Matthews, Executive Editor of Wine Spectator, is pissed. For starters:
Wine Spectator learned yesterday that, for the first time in the 27-year history of our Restaurant Awards program, a fictitious restaurant has entered its wine list for judging. To orchestrate his publicity-seeking scam, Robin Goldstein created a fictitious restaurant in Milan, Italy, called Osteria L'Intrepido, and then submitted a menu and wine list to Wine Spectator's Restaurant Awards as a new entry in 2008. The wine list earned an Award of Excellence, the most basic of our three award levels. Goldstein revealed his elaborate hoax at a meeting in Oregon last week. He is now crowing about the fraud on his own Web site. The story has been picked up in the blogosphere, and now Wine Spectator would like to set forth the actual facts of the matter.
"Facts of the matter?"
Mr. Matthews, you were bamboozled. Hornswoggled. Thimblerigged. Flimflammed. Your awards program is a deeply flawed business model.