Remember When Mayor Menino Died in a Car Crash?
April Fool’s Day is upon us, which means we’ll spend the rest of the day being treated to an endless stream of pranks. As always, some will be silly and some will be inspired. But none will be as insanely brazen as the one that happened here 15 years ago. On April 1, 1998, Gregg “Opie” Hughes and Anthony Cumia, who at the time were hosts at rock radio station WAAF, declared that Mayor Tom Menino had died in a car accident in Florida.
The hoax only lasted a few minutes, but to many, it seemed terrifyingly real. According to a Globe story about the incident, friends began showing up at the home of Menino’s sister-in-law to offer condolences. At the time, Menino actually was flying home from Florida. “I got off the plane,” Menino told the Globe, “and my driver said, ‘You’re dead.’”
Shockingly, the joke didn’t go over well with Menino, who reportedly fired off a letter urging the Federal Communications Commission to fine WAAF. Hoping to make amends, the station offered to raise money for Menino’s favorite charity. According to the Globe, the mayor said no, asserting that “it’s not about money, it’s about professional ethics.” That’s when the heads started rolling. A few days later, the Herald reported that the station suspended general manager Bruce Mittman and program director Dave Douglas. Opie and Anthony, on the other hand, got fired.
A few months later, a station in New York hired the duo. A 1998 New York Times article even mentioned that Opie and Anthony’s agent claimed that his clients’ new contract did “not contain a no-prank clause.” Hughes and Cumia became national stars over the next decade, eventually landing a gig on XM satellite radio. (They seem to have a knack for tasteless pranks.)