“The Republican who won a congressional seat on Long Island before his claims of being a wealthy, biracial, Ukrainian descendant of Holocaust survivors were debunked had, for a while, been generally consistent about two details in his improbable life: He has long said his first name is George and his last name is Santos.
“But not always.” — The Washington Post, 31 December 2022
All of us pad our resumés a little or present ourselves in the best light. It is human nature to polish our personal histories, the better to gain respect or advantage from others, and to stroke our own egos. But recently I have been accused of making up many of the facts of my life, and I can’t let that go without responding.
I am not a fabulist! though I did coin the term. (While commuting to the Berlin State Opera I kept a list of U-Bahn stops that my friend Marlene Dietrich said was, “Fabulous, darling!” and the word fab-u-list came to me. Call it genius if you want, such things just happen to me that way.)
My life may seem like a fairy tale, and therefore too good to be true, but it is neither fable nor fiction. My upbringing in the Eastern Roman Orthodox Church teaches me that lying is a sin (which is not a word I came up with, though I am uniquely qualified to own it.)
Perhaps I have not always been as clear as I could have been in a few of my statements, and thus they have been misinterpreted. So, herewith I want to clear up some of my personal history.
I am the red-blooded, gender-neutral son of pig farmers in British Palestine. They came to the United States after the State of Israel was created and the pork business mysteriously collapsed. So you could say they were survivors of the Holocaust.
Which is not to say that I’m not Jewish. My wife’s father was part of the Polish diaspora in Chicago, though he was shiksa-adjacent and converted to Unitarianism. As for me, I’ve eaten bagels nearly every morning of my life, always complaining that, Oy! they are not fresh enough, so clearly I must be Jew-ish.
I am proud of my heritage as a rare Black Caucasian, with enough Native American genotype to qualify for a casino license. I can’t explain why my many Latino friends always address me in Spanish, nor why I always feel hungry during Ramadan.
Yes, I invented the internet. Not single-handedly, of course, there were several of us, all self-effacing altruists who did not want to take any credit. Did you really believe Al Gore did it all by himself? I was writing for Monty Python in those days, and we needed a way to transmit silliness “across the Pond” without anything being lost in translation. I had wanted to title one of their movies after my son Ryan, but somehow Cleese and Palin heard Life of Brian. So I plugged a telephone line into my Atari and the rest is history.
After that, MIT tried to recruit me. But instead I studied at Yale and Stanford. I would have graduated both at the same time, but a glitch was discovered. My high school had specialized in teaching cheerleading, and my would-be alma maters were not amused that I had only gone to pep school.
I lost my mother on 9/11. I’ll never forget that dark day. It was nine minutes to eleven at the 7-Eleven when she said, “I’ll be right back,” as the aluminum door clanged shut behind her. Soon after my father declined into a pathetic pile of pasties and pork rinds.
Despite such humble beginnings, my career has been as successful as it is varied, working for many marquee companies. From Apple to Zoom, Disney to Deutsche Bank, I’ve used credit cards for them all. I don’t like to talk about my wealth, and my tax returns from 1970 to now are under audit, so I can’t go into detail anyway. I can say that a business is only a failure if you pay taxes on it, and I am very grateful for the charitable contributions I have made to myself.
NASA says they have no record of me being an astronaut. That may be objectively factual in the strictest sense. But isn’t every American kid an astronaut at heart? I have a full punch-pass to the National Air and Space Museum, grew up on a diet of Tang and dehydrated bacon, and still sleep in a Buzz Lightyear onesie. My claiming history with the Apollo missions is just one small step for a man, one giant leap from reality.
There is so much more I could say: how as a young man I swam the English Channel, then swam back because I could not afford return fare on the ferry; that Megan Fox is still too depressed about our breakup to speak about it; or details of my short bout of long COVID. And of course I can’t reveal anything about my covert ops for the Navy SEALs.
But as Pinocchio as my witness, the stories are all true, as real as an honest politician, and as bona fide as my curriculum vitae. (Both of which are terms I invented very, very early in my life.)