Calling All Liars To Old Town
Friday, August 17, 2012
Aired 8/17/12 on KPBS News.
If you consider yourself a good liar, why not test your tall tales against other liars? This weekend, an actual liars contest will take place in Old Town as part of TwainFest. KPBS arts reporter Angela Carone says the day-long festival celebrates Mark Twain and his love of the lie.
Walter Ritter always has a Mark Twain quote at the ready. "You know a lie can travel halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to put its shoes on," Ritter announces in his deep baritone voice, his flawless delivery perfected during years of acting on San Diego stages.
Ritter, the executive director of Write Out Loud, helped organize this Saturday’s festival of all things Twain known as TwainFest. He says Mark Twain loved a good lie and would surely be disappointed with today’s liars. "We should be ashamed of ourselves with all this shabby lying," says Ritter.
Ritter and his fellow TwainFest organizer Todd Blakesley are asking liars to dust off their best lies and compete in the festival's first Liars Contest. There will be judges and prizes. I asked Blakesley what makes a first-rate liar. "The most important criteria is believability, that you believe in what you’re saying," says Blakesley. "If you have that in your soul, then you’re more than halfway there in telling a good tall tale."
Blakesly himself is a practiced liar. He even has props. He pulls out a wooden box with pretty little antique bottles. "What we have here is a specially formulated product from the Elixir of the Muse corporation."
Blakely’s mark? Frustrated writers in need of inspiration. He takes a cap off of one of the bottles.
"Take a sniff of the muse of your choice. We have 14 different famous authors from which we’ve extracted their essence," says Blakesley. I see bottles for Henry David Thoreau, Mark Twain, Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman.
I pick up one bottle that looks like a bargain, and Blakesley delves deeper into snake-oil-salesman mode. "Here we have all three Bronte sisters in one bottle." Taken in, I ask surprisingly, "In one bottle?" Blakesley, emboldened, confirms: "Yup, in one bottle. It’s triple strength."
With every lie, a sucker is born.
TwainFest is free and will include games, readings, music and food along with the Liars Contest, which is open to all. TwainFest takes place Saturda,y August 18th from 11:00 am to 5:00 pm at Old Town San Diego State Historic Park.