Hair Today, Ltd.
Fall, 1990, New York,
New York

In the Fall of 1990, Joey Skaggs launched two hoaxes simultaneously. While Dr. Joseph Schlafer (a.k.a. Joey Skaggs) was marketing Comacocoon, the perfect vacation alternative, Dr. Joseph Chenango (a.k.a. Joey Skaggs), Native American surgeon, began to market his new permanent cure for baldness -- scalp transplants from cadavers. Skaggs' studio at 107 Waverly Place in New York served as the telephone command post for both hoaxes.

Dr. Chenango was soliciting scalp donors with no history of male pattern baldness, who, because of their high risk occupations, would be suitable donors in the event of their untimely death. He was also soliciting new scalp recipients. He promoted his nationwide search with a brochure designed in the venerable style of questionable hair replacement marketing schemes, which he mailed to 1,500 journalists as if they were potential clients.

He enclosed an ad he had created that looked like it had been placed in the Village Voice which said "Wanted: Healthy Scalps..." He also included a questionnaire and a diagram for the client to draw in his hair line.

The questionnaire for potential donors asked such questions as:

  • Are you in a high risk profession?
  • Do you have a terminal disease?
  • Do you have any scabs, scars, moles or tattoos on your scalp?
  • What is your natural hair color?
  • Are you currently carrying an organ donor card?

The questionnaire for potential recipients asked:

  • At what age did you begin to experience hair loss?
  • Approximately how much money have you spent on hair replacement methods?
  • Do you have any nervous disorders?
  • Are you willing to wait an average of three years for an acceptable donor and for the surgery to take place?
  • Are you willing to put $3,500 into an escrow account while you wait for your donor?
  • Would you be interested in purchasing a franchise of Hair Today, Ltd.?

The brochure sported before and after photos of satisfied clients. No matter that there were only three styles of healthy heads, all of which looked as if they were wigs owned by the good doctor's grandmother.

Hundreds of phone calls, letters, and faxes were logged. When the hoax was revealed, there were many very disappointed people. Wrote Tom Rademacher of the Grand Rapids Press Metro, "When I spot an alleged cure for baldness, I take note. You would too if every time the sun shone you had to wear a baseball cap, which can be pretty embarrassing at dressy outdoor affairs..." And, said Mike Barnicle from the Boston Globe, "Each and every morning of my life, sad but true, a little more of me goes right down the drain. That's why I got so upset the other day after reading in the newspaper that Dr. Joseph Chenango was a total fraud...I placed my trust in Dr. Chenango. I believed him because I wanted to and needed to believe him. Like a host of others, my hairline has receded so badly that the top of my head resembles the landscape near Kuwait."

© 1997 Joey Skaggs