Catch them if you can: The top five con men in pop-culture history
2. Hunter Thompson ducks the massive bills for Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
Hunter Thompson sincerely believed the world owed its artists more than a simple paycheck, so this entry falls into a special category: If you believe what you're doing is just, are you a con man? Either way, Thompson was known throughout his career for gouging publishers with outrageous expense bills and abandoning hotel fees for destruction and Dionysian room-service orders. All this reached its peak during his Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas project. Explaining the necessary high cost of covering the American dream in a letter to his editor, he explained "ordering two servings of 'Crab Louey' in the Flamingo, then sending it back, uneaten, but covered with broken light-bulb glass, with cigarettes put out in the sauce, and maybe a condom full of Coca-Cola on the tray. . . . Renting a Cadillac convertible and then soaking the bastard with the hard-crusted, sun-baked scum of 100 grapefruits and 2 dozen coconuts and 26 pounds of catsup and french fry residue."
When the expenses and hotel bills were denied, he wrote this back to his employer: "Don't blame me when you get castrated leaving the building one of these nights. Rumormongers of your stripe shouldn't be allowed to procreate anyway."
1. Frank Abagnale, the con-man wunderkind
What makes a good con man is the nerve and talent to constantly take it to the next level. Few could pull this off quite like Frank Abagnale, a man (boy, really) who from the age of 16 to 21 impersonated an airline pilot, a lawyer, a doctor and a university professor, cashed $2.5 million in bad checks and escaped from police custody twice. After being caught and surviving a torturous six months in a French prison (as well as less horrendous sentences in other countries), Abagnale reformed and began working for free solving fraud cases for the U.S. government, then opened a firm advising banks on how to spot paper-hangers, earning him millions more than he'd originally stolen. Oh, and he's probably not doing too badly with his autobiography now adapted into a commercially successful film and musical.
Catch Me If You Can was set to start its run tonight, but it's been pushed back to 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, February 27, and will run through March 10 at the Temple Buell Theatre. Tickets are $65 to 90; for more information, visit www.denvercenter.org