“Excuse me, sir, would you like to take part in a hidden camera prank show?” I asked the man in the Hawaiian shirt.
He looked around him, as if he couldn’t believe his good fortune. “Me? Oh no, I’m not an actor or anything like that!”
I assured him it wasn’t an issue, he would just have to be himself. After some gentle cajoling from his wife and kids, not to mention me and my associate producer, Angela, he agreed.
We took him in the bathrooms behind New Orleans Square and wired him up with our tiny camera.
It was a ridiculously hot summer day at Disneyland and the lines for the more popular attractions were an hour or more. Splash Mountain was over two hours, so we knew it would be perfect what we had in store.
As we tested the equipment out and he signed his release forms, we explained the premise of the show. Fast Passholes was an exciting new hidden camera prank show that took place entirely within the walls of the Happiest Place on Earth.
Well, Jim Connors, from Cragler’s Gulch, Ohio, was no dummy. “The Disney Corporation is allowing you to shoot a show inside its park with the word “asshole” in the title?”, he asked, in disbelief.
I explained that it was merely a working title and would surely be changed to something more family-friendly for broadcast. That was good enough for him.
We went over what he had to do. It was pretty simple: he would just take the Fastpass tickets we gave him and head to the front of the line of Splash Mountain. The camera hidden in the pin we stuck to his shirt lapel would record peoples’ reactions as he repeatedly skipped past the 2 hour line in the 100 degree heat.
The first couple of times nobody seemed to notice. Jim was a little wary that maybe he wasn’t getting us the best footage, which played right into our hands.
“Well, make them notice! Draw attention to yourself. Feel free to taunt people, remember Jim: you’re the show here!” The secret to good reality TV is to threaten people, but do it in an encouraging kind of way.
On his next time around, Jim hammed it up like a pro.
“Excuse me, suckers!” he announced as he passed a family of six.
People took notice. The rumbling started.
Jim’s fears of reprisal were assuaged by our enthusiasm for the work he was doing. He would report back to us each time, give us a quick synopsis of what had happened and then be back to the front of line within 5 minutes, confident in our assurances that he was doing a great job.
For good measure, we let him know that we had plants throughout the whole line, incognito Disney employees, who were ready to step in, should somebody confront him in a violent way.
It was about his eighth pass or so when things really started to go south. Everyone in the line was now watching as this prick would prance past them, holding aloft his Fastpass, as if to show them he was their better. We genuinely feared for his safety.
In case you aren’t aware, Fastpasses are a great tool for saving time by avoiding lines for the most popular rides, but they are pretty limited. You are only allowed to get one within any two-hour window, so the fact that Jim seemed to have an endless supply of them spoke volumes to these people.
“Disney corporate scum!”, yelled one angry youth, to the delight of his punk friends.
“C’mon, that’s not fair!”, pleaded a woman in her 20’s, who was standing there with several crying young children.
We had told Jim he really needed to rub it in these peoples’ faces that he was having the time of his life. People were pissed and we knew we were reaching the breaking point.
I explained to Jim that even though people wanted to kill him right now, as soon as they discovered they were going to be on TV, they would forget all of that. People loved to be a part of something like this. It would be a story they would tell their friends and family for years to come. They would have parties at their homes to watch themselves and laugh about how silly they looked, getting all worked up for nothing.
For the big reveal, we thought a song would be the perfect thing to really push people over the edge. And we were right.
Jim was now wearing a t-shirt we had given him that said, “I’m better than you” and as he strode through the line, he sang a jaunty ditty we had written for him, set to the tune of “America The Beautiful”. It was so effective, he only got through the first verse.
You will wait there in the sun
While I go on rides all day
It’s 98, but I stay cool
And plus your kids are gay!
Your family sucks, your family sucks
Your wife is way too fat
And while you stand there in that line
I’ll have sex with your cat!
This was simply too much for the crowd to take. Several men grabbed him by the collar and started shaking him, asking him if he thought he was funny. He looked around for help, but there was none.
Where were those secret Disney employees waiting in line to assist him?
Eventually, the regular Disney employees did arrive on the scene to break up the fight and take Jim to the infirmary. His face was badly bruised and he had a few broken ribs, but other than that, he was fine.
His wife screamed when she saw him hobble over to her and the kids, who were all crying.
Jim had tried to explain to the crowd that he was working on a Hollywood TV show. He showed them the Pirates of the Caribbean pin with the hidden camera in it. The one that wasn’t there.
He looked around for the lady with the clipboard and the tall, lanky guy who kept feeding him lines and Fastpass tickets, but they were nowhere to be found.
They did find some people who seemed to partly back up the guy’s story. They had been paid ten bucks each for their Splash Mountain Fastpass tickets, though they had all been told it was for the benefit of a group of kids with Leukemia who were visiting the park that day.
Nobody at Disney seemed to know anything about a television show.
Jim Connors had been had. The look on his children’s faces broke his heart as he told them, with tears in his eyes, that they had all been banned from the Disney parks for life. They were only on day one of what was supposed to be a 5 day vacation, but now they might as well go home.
Mrs. Connors, who was running low on sympathy, stared straight ahead as she drove them back to their hotel. She didn’t respond while her husband held an ice pack over his eye and recounted the events of the day and how it had all seemed so convincing.
As they parked, he asked her why someone would do this to them. She didn’t answer, she merely gathered up their sleeping children and told him he should probably get his own room for the night.
I remember reading about the Milgram Experiment as a college student taking an intro psych course and having a hard time believing the lengths people would go to, in order to please an authority figure.
I believe we, as a society, must be constantly vigilant against those who value obedience above all else, even at the expense of their human decency and common sense.
You can sit here and judge me, you can think that I am a monster, but who is the real monster? The monster or the monster who follows the monster?
If you’re really that willing to sympathize with Jim Connors, then perhaps you need to re-evaluate your feelings about things like The Holocaust, because maybe those Nazis weren’t so bad? Maybe, like Jim, they were just following orders?