"I got bettah..."
August 22, 2005 12:35 PM   Subscribe

Remember the mysterious Piano Man? Well, he got better.
posted by LordSludge (33 comments total)
Damnit. I so wanted to say "this looks like a hoax" to somebody when this first came out. Ah, well...too little too late.
posted by punkbitch at 12:41 PM on August 22, 2005

"his four-hour performance was described by Michael Camp, his social worker, as 'really amazing'
Now it is suggested that he merely tapped at one key repeatedly."

Yeah, but the rhythm, man. The rhythm.
posted by NinjaPirate at 12:47 PM on August 22, 2005

(I wanted to believe)
posted by NinjaPirate at 12:47 PM on August 22, 2005

It is unclear whether the Piano Man was genuinely ill - or playing a uniquely peculiar prank.

IMHO, anyone who pushes a prank that far (four months!) has some issues, whether it started as a prank or not.

What is/was the motive for the caregivers to make up stories about his piano-playing ability? That couldn't have made it easier to find out who he was.
posted by Western Infidels at 12:59 PM on August 22, 2005

I'm guessing that they thought his piano playing was good based on the fact that that was the only skill he appeared to have, and the fact that he appeared to be mute. I think your standards become lower when working with the mentally ill.

And I agree with WI: IMHO, anyone who pushes a prank that far (four months!) has some issues, whether it started as a prank or not.
posted by Moral Animal at 1:10 PM on August 22, 2005

I think maybe this just shows that people like a good story. Man refuses to talk, draws a piano, then can't really play isn't much of a story, but if he turns out to be a virtuoso, the story's much better.

Also, our perception of "crazy people" is seriously skewed. After movies like Rain Man, Shine, A Beautiful Mind, etc., we almost expect people with mental problems to have some sort of "gift" that will "make up for it". This story ties neatly into that expectation.

People who think like that and thought A Beautiful Mind was a great movie about schizophrenia should maybe watch David Cronenberg's "Spider" some day, to get a dose of reality. And it's a much better movie, too.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 1:10 PM on August 22, 2005

Aww maaaaan!
posted by redteam at 1:11 PM on August 22, 2005

Wait a second, he pretended to be mute, they pretended he was a piano virtuoso and now he's stopped pretending and gone home?

Was it a bet or did he just want a long vacation to be paid for by someone else?

And now I'm sure there are book deals, movie deals, a reality show and probably even an action figure line based on his gripping story.

The world's unfair.
posted by fenriq at 1:31 PM on August 22, 2005

It can't be "just" a prank, can it? I have a feeling if you pulled something like that, SOMEONE would be getting a bill in the mail. There has to be some reasonable doubt as to the validity of his story as I'm sure he'd be in the midst of getting sued, if not arrested for fraud. Either way, I sure hope this guy doesn't ever actually have a fugue... just slap his German address to his forehead and throw him in a cab...
posted by Debaser626 at 1:48 PM on August 22, 2005

Where is the concrete evidence that it was a prank or that he couldn't really play the piano? All you have in that article is the word of an "insider", so basically you're just reading gossip and taking it as the truth. Mystery unsolved.
posted by zarah at 1:53 PM on August 22, 2005

I have a feeling if you pulled something like that, SOMEONE would be getting a bill in the mail.

Someone's at least thinking about it:
"The Trust refused to comment on suggestions that it was considering making a claim for compensation from the man for the tens of thousands of pounds spent on his treatment."
posted by Moral Animal at 1:57 PM on August 22, 2005

Of course I don't know The Truth about it either, but I thought all along it was a hoax, that the kid just wanted a vacation. It too reminded me too much of too many movie and TV show plots to take it seriously.

I wonder how many of the staff believed it till the end?
posted by davy at 2:22 PM on August 22, 2005

He wandering out of the sea, and into our hearts.
And now we must let him go.
Fly Pianoman, Fly!
posted by blue_beetle at 2:58 PM on August 22, 2005

The emphasis on what a great piano player he was, followed by the "expose" that he was just hitting one key over and over doesn't sit well with me. I wonder if some of this "He's just playing a prank, he sucks at piano, nothing to see here, thanks" may be part of an effort to get the media off this guy--I mean, if his entire story were true he wouldn't have privacy again until he sold every piece of his life away.

I'm guessing the facts are somewhere between "prank-playing depressed dude" and "brilliant amnesiac musician".
posted by schroedinger at 3:02 PM on August 22, 2005

Yeah, a four month vacation in a mental home. Woohoo! The guy has problems. He just doesn't have a special musical talent as well - and that makes him a HOAXXOR
posted by Elmore at 3:03 PM on August 22, 2005

The Mirror reported today...
It was at that point that I stopped reading the article. We'll never know what the deal was with this guy, and nor do the Mirror, which is why they've made up a story attributed to "sources".
posted by chill at 3:04 PM on August 22, 2005

Piano man saves widow and infant from peril and flames
Piano man Time Man Of The Year 2006
Piano man awarded Nobel Peace prize
Piano man discovers cure for cancer
Piano man to end Iraq conflict peacefully
Piano man captures Bin Laden
Piano man favorite in US presidential election

Go piano man, go!
posted by NewBornHippy at 3:07 PM on August 22, 2005

I want to believe punch him.
posted by mr.marx at 3:45 PM on August 22, 2005

I don't know one way or the other whether this was a hoax or not. There are plenty of indicators each way. But how you consider a one finger piano player a virtuoso is a little bit of a stretch (unless he's playing like a ten fingered player with only one finger and then he's definitely a virtuoso but I don't think that was the case here).

Anyway, if he was really ill, I'm glad he's better. If he was shaming then I expect they'll send him a rather large bill for his vacation.
posted by fenriq at 4:02 PM on August 22, 2005

I want to punch emulate him.

What a great scheme this guy had.
posted by cmonkey at 4:06 PM on August 22, 2005

This case was publicised all over the world, including Germany and France, where he has connections.

How come no-one 'claimed' him?

There's more to this, I'm guessing.
posted by dash_slot- at 4:25 PM on August 22, 2005

I can't wait to be the American Piano Man, but I don't play instruments. Maybe I can be the mysterious political fortune telling guy who forgot where he was vacationing.
posted by Balisong at 4:47 PM on August 22, 2005

This story hints at something unknowable.

It reminds me of the Islamic proverb that "he who kills a man, destroys the Universe".

But then, mental illness is always like that. We see ourselves, somehow, broken, in their eyes.

It's good when people recover.

Best of luck to him.
posted by cleardawn at 4:53 PM on August 22, 2005

And, in a final revelation which will forever shatter the enigma of a man often compared to the pianist David Helfgott whose battles with mental illness were portrayed in the film Shine, the source told the paper that he was in fact "rubbish" at the piano.

I heard many a music expert say David Helfgott was rubbish at the piano too!
posted by uncanny hengeman at 5:06 PM on August 22, 2005

He's gay? Ah, shit. Here we go...
posted by mediareport at 6:05 PM on August 22, 2005

Oh, I thought you meant this piano man.
posted by Wet Spot at 6:50 PM on August 22, 2005

I think "really amazing" is an apt description of someone tapping one piano key for four hours -- though in retrospect quite vague and therefore ultimately misleading (in a telephonic way).

Early on, some eager reporter must have mistakenly equated "really amazing" with "really talented," and no one bothered to correct the misapprehension. Or the corrections didn't stick (people already had the idea of this guy as a Shine-type individual).

Oh, well. My lack of faith in humanity hasn't been affected in the slightest by this odd case.
posted by gohlkus at 7:24 PM on August 22, 2005

People who think like that and thought A Beautiful Mind was a great movie about schizophrenia
The book was a great book about schizophrenia. The movie shuffled everything around until he was cute and interesting, the book made you want to punch him.
posted by queen zixi at 8:57 PM on August 22, 2005

The biggest problem with Beautiful Mind, the movie, was the insertion of the fiction that Nash's ultimate recovery was due to "newer medications," when in fact he'd sworn off anti-psychotic drugs in 1970. The facts were accurate in the book, but apparently they were too much for Hollywood:

Apparently bowing to political correctness, the filmmakers instead had Nash claim he was taking "newer medications" at the time he received his Nobel Prize. John Nash and his biographer have confirmed this statement is fictitious. Nash was drug free.

This film is helping millions admire the resilience of psychiatric survivors. But this film also seriously misleads the public. The fact is, many people -- like Nash -- recover without taking psychiatric drugs. By caving in to pressure, the film has become an advertisement for the psychiatric drug industry. Nash himself wonders if the fact that one of the film's writers is related to a psychiatric professional played a role in this distortion.

Isn't that a really strange editorial decision? Anyway, there's more at that page about recovery from schizophrenia without drugs, including some provocative statements about recovery rates in developed/drugged vs. undeveloped/undrugged countries. Worth a tangential look.
posted by mediareport at 11:20 PM on August 22, 2005

Deutsche-Welle buys the suicide story, and know how melodramatic young teens (and 20-year-olds) can be, I could believe it. I don't think it was a prank; I think there's more to the story than what's in the press.
posted by somethingotherthan at 1:11 AM on August 23, 2005


So he loved the internet and used the name "scatman" in chat channels. Any German-speakers here want to try tracking any signs of him around the net?
posted by DirtyCreature at 12:59 PM on August 23, 2005

You know, I can't think of any research I would rather less do than peruse German-language chat rooms looking for posts by someone named "Scatman".
posted by yhbc at 1:04 PM on August 23, 2005

Sure. It's obvious you have much more important things to do like post to a bunch of anonymous strangers on an internet forum the things you would least like to research.
posted by DirtyCreature at 1:20 PM on August 23, 2005

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