Howard Stern

Denny Hatch is the author of six books on marketing and four novels, and is a direct marketing writer, designer and consultant. His latest book is “Write Everything Right!” Visit him at dennyhatch.com.

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.

Gotcha!

Judith Regan, a 53-year-old self-proclaimed hottie, has been called by Vanity Fair “the Angriest Woman in Media.” She reportedly cussed out employees on a regular basis with the “f” word, the “s” word and, in doing so, routinely alluded to male and female anatomies—her own included—with various “c” words. According to one former editor, Regan went through 18 personal assistants in 2005. “Say what you want about the fearless, foul-mouthed former publisher of ReganBooks,” wrote Steve Kettmann in the San Francisco Chronicle, “it would be hard to deny she has probably been the single most influential force in publishing over the past decade.” She

The dry test is a beautiful thing. If you have an itch to start a magazine, two ways exist to scratch that itch: 1. Dry test. Spend $100,000 to find a universe of likely subscribers, create a direct mail package that makes your magazine so real that people believe it exists, offer three issues free, and see if anybody responds. You won’t know retention, which only comes after the publication has started and readers either love it or are ho-hummed by it. But a dry test will let you see if your idea fogs the mirror. 2. Spend millions starting a magazine and hope someone buys it. A

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