Friday, August 3, 2012


I used to lie about my credentials, but I grew up and learned to tell the true truth, not exaggerate -- accurately list what I've done on my resumé.

The other day I read about Yahoo's CEO, Scott Thompson being ousted after a false college degree was discovered in his official biography, and learned that other well-established guys I've counted on, have lied about their accomplishments.

Robert Irving, food network host, claimed he's served presidents and the British royal family. He apologized and was replaced, but later, became host of the show, with a corrected bio. (Hmm -- apparently his lies didn't really hurt him.)

Tom Willis, Yale Football coach, used his personal experience to convince a player to play in a game, rather than head for London to be interviewed for a Rhodes scholarship. When the university's administration learned that Willis had never been a candidate or applied for a Rhodes scholarship, Willis resigned. (Did he do a good deed for Yale, or ruin the players life? )

Marilee Jones was head of MIT admissions for 28 years. When the administration learned that she'd padded her resume with fake degrees, she resigned. Today, Jones is just an admissions consultant. (Hey, lucky lady -- she's still got a job.)

When David Edmondson became CEO of Radio Shack in 1994, he said he had degrees in theology and psychology. In 2005, the board of directors learned he didn't have those degrees. Though the board didn't press him, he resigned. (Nice guy -- we wrote him in 2000, praising the manager at our Radio Shack. Edmondson wrote back praising John Cullum's work in a show he'd seen. Maybe Edmondson's studying theology, psychology and theater arts, acting, pursing his real interests.)

Jayson Blair, NY Times reporter, fabricated some stories that the paper published. An editor discovered he'd plagiarized a lot of material, and never graduated from college. Blair resigned. His wrong-doings were front page news. Subsequently. Blair wrote a book about his transgressions (Has he turned over a new leaf? He's currently earning $130 an hour as a life coach.)

Michael Brown, FEMA director in 2005, who led the flawed hurricane Katrina response, said he oversaw emergency services in Edmond Okla. Time reported that he was just an intern there, not an executive. Brown resigned and now hosts a radio show. (So he's still working, earning a good living. )

What does this mean to you and me? Go ahead and fake? Fake a little but do it carefully? Fake and then grow up and tell the truth, apologize, undo what you did?

My post,"Credentials," about how I faked mine, is on Em's Talkery, CREDENTIALS, 4/5/09. but here's the essentials.

Age 11, on Saturdays I sold blouses; at 12, I cashiered at a men's store. At 14, claiming to be 16, I worked as a clerk-typist for Hearst Publications in NYC -- mostly alphabetizing file cards . (I'd taught myself touch-typing, but mostly I had to hunt-and-peck.) A few months later, I became "advertising director" for Dance Magazine. They liked my work, but I had to quit when they asked for a copy of my college degree so I could get a raise. (I was 15, claiming to be a 21-year-old college graduate.)

It happened again a year later when I was teaching dance for $2 an hour, at Forest Neighborhood Settlement House. With my invented credentials, the job paid for my own dance lessons. I had to resign when they gave me a paper to fill out for their NY Board of Education files.

At the Humphrey Weidman Studio Theater, studying modern dance on a work scholarship, I ran errands, addressed envelopes, mopped floors, scrubbed toilets, and painted the walls, till one day, after folding and stuffing brochures about their summer course -- with ridiculous bravado -- I borrowed their card file. It was a list of colleges where they'd performed.

I put together a brochure with photos -- posed in improvised costumes with handsome tall Mark Ryder (one of Martha Graham's partners), whom I'd met when I was "Costume Lady" at a summer theater. I typed a few hundred letters about the Ryder-Frankel Duo and after we got two bookings, we choreographed a program.

And that's how my career, my marriage to Ryder, my Dance Drama Company, my world tours came to be.

I did what I thought I had to do.

So what am I advising? You do what you need to do to get the job.

Sandra Bullock said: “After a while, you have no idea how old you are because you've lied too many times.” Al Pacino said, “I always tell the truth. Even when I lie.”

Nowadays, mostly I write fiction.
Post a Comment