By the time candles supposedly made from remains of a deceased ExxonMobil janitor named Reggie Watts were handed out, an audience of oil and gas professionals attending a keynote luncheon at Calgary’s Gas and Oil Exposition realized they’d been had.
A man named “S.K. Wolff,” claiming to be an analyst for the Washington-based National Petroleum Council, and co-speaker “Florian Osenberg,” said to represent ExxonMobil, were getting ready to show a memorial video made by Watts when security officers forcibly ushered the two men from the stage.
Wolff is really Andy Bichlbaum and Osenberg is Mike Bonanno — or so they say.
As the Yes Men, the pair have travelled the world with an anti-globalization agenda perpetrating hoaxes on groups ranging from the World Trade Organization to the BBC.
In Calgary, ostensibly to promote their book and a documentary they filmed three years ago at the Plaza Theatre tonight, the activists said they couldn’t resist taking a shot at the oil and gas trade show, held over three days this week at Stampede Park.
“This was a great opportunity for us, like the holy grail, really,” said Bichlbaum. “We’ve never had an audience like this. These people are wrecking the Earth and they’re quite conscious of it.”
The premise of the presentation, which included a PowerPoint lecture by “S.K. Wolff,” was that as humans begin to die as a result of calamities caused by climate change, their remains could be harvested for an alternative fuel source called “vivoleum” that would eventually replace oil.
Osenberg, supposedly the director of human resources with the vivoleum program, took the stage carrying a lit candle while volunteers handed out candles to the audience.
The approximately 250 assembled guests were told the vivoleum for the candles had been “sourced” from an ExxonMobil maintenance worker who donated it before dying of cancer.
The candles were actually made of wax and human hair gathered from barbershops.
Organizers of GO-Expo were not impressed with the stunt.
Officials from dmg world media, the company that runs GO-Expo, apologized profusely for the incident.
Police were called in, but no charges were laid and no investigation will be launched, said a spokesman.
Bichlbaum and Bonanno said they were each issued a $287 fine for trespassing.
“The organizers were furious,” said Bichlbaum. “They thought we should be charged with crimes against humanity or something. The police were great. They were just going to let us go, but the organizers insisted we be charged with criminal trespass.”
The Yes Men started their unique form of protesting when they created a fake WTO website to protest the Seattle summit in 1999. When conferences began inviting them to speak, thinking they were actual representatives of the WTO, they began accepting.
Bichlbaum said he was invited to the GO-Expo event by organizers who saw the vivoleum website the duo concocted.
The Yes Men are appearing at the Plaza Theatre tonight to present a multimedia show of their past hoaxes.
With files from Ashok Dutta and Gina Teel, Calgary Herald
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