Tuesday, January 11, 2005
Who was that man butchering the national anthem?
When asked if it was Ali G, his publicist e-mailed, "The show is not in production right now so other than that, I have no further comment."
Did the people who came to see bucking broncos at the Salem rodeo get taken for a ride by a British comedian?
Representatives from "Da Ali G Show" would not confirm Monday that it was the show's star who pulled the perfect prank Friday night at the Salem Civic Center. After persuading rodeo producers to let him sing the national anthem, a man posing as a Russian immigrant delivered an anti-American rant and a contorted version of "The Star-Spangled Banner" that galled a crowd of nearly 4,000.
Who was that guy?
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Television footage of the man, who wore an American flag shirt and a black cowboy hat, bears a striking resemblance to a photograph of Ali G on the show's Web site.
"If he isn't the guy, he has an uncanny resemblance to him," civic center director Carey Harveycutter said.
An official with HBO, which has been carrying the late-night show for the past two years, referred questions to Ali G's publicist in California.
"News to me," Matthew Labov said in an e-mail when asked if Ali G - who has a history of catching his subjects unaware and airing their responses to material both silly and shocking - was in Salem to film an episode.
"The show is not in production right now so other than that, I have no further comment," Labov wrote back when pressed for details.
Yet some people who attended the rodeo are convinced that the man introduced as Boraq Sagdiyev from Kazakhstan was in fact Borat, a character on "Da Ali G Show" who is an easily confused television reporter from Kazakhstan trying to understand the ways of America.
According to online magazine Slate, Borat had landed interviews with high-profile newsmakers who may now regret appearing on his show. Former EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman was forced to concede under questioning that whale feces "have got to be massive," the article reported, and former CIA official Richard Kerr found himself debating whether terrorists could drive a train into the White House.
Borat once asked Gen. Alexander Haig, a former U.S. secretary of state, "Is it true that Reagan and Thatcher was doin' it?" according to The Washington Post.
The roving reporter is just one of several characters played by Ali G, who in real life is Sacha Baron Cohen, a British comedian who also portrays a white gangsta rapper wannabe.
Bobby Rowe, the 70-year-old cowboy who has been bringing his Imperial Rodeo Productions to Salem for years, had never heard of the show when he got a call about five months ago. Rowe said the caller claimed to be from a film company doing a documentary on a Russian immigrant touring the country. The man could sing, Rowe was told, and he wanted to show his appreciation by singing the national anthem at the Salem rodeo.
It was only later - after the man riled up the audience with comments like "may George W. Bush drink the blood of every man, woman and child in Iraq" - that Rowe figured out he had been duped. The performer also told everyone to be seated before launching into a butchered version of "The Star-Spangled Banner" that ended with the words: "your home in the grave."
"I learned a lesson, that's for sure," Rowe said.
But judging from the crowd's hostile reaction, the performer may have learned something about trying to stir up a rodeo crowd in Southwest Virginia as he made a hasty retreat.
Said Rowe: "I told him: You done the wrong thing at the wrong place."