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Behind the Scenes of the April Fool's 'Bullet Train' Story

Apr 02, 2016 07:38AM ● Published by Jeanne Fratello

Realtor Dave Fratello of Manhattan Beach Confidential and Manhattan Beach Mayor Mark Burton

Manhattan Beach residents were greeted on April 1 with the news that a massive bullet train project was headed their way, with a new 12-story structure in downtown Manhattan Beach and a high-speed train coursing down the greenbelt.

There was momentary anguish, gnashing of teeth, and an outcry, until the realization set in... April Fool's, folks!

Of course, any good prank takes a lot of preparation. To get the story out in convincing fashion, it took a handful of people with a good sense of humor and a willingness to keep up the act for as long as possible.

The joke started with Dave Fratello, the Realtor behind Manhattan Beach Confidential, who loves a good April Fool's Day story.

On just about every year since he started writing his local real estate blog, he's published an April Fool's Day hoax that has ruffled feathers and/or tickled funny bones. Past years' stories have included "President to Regulate Real Estate Prices," "Agents Declare 7-Day Moratorium on Purchases," "Shiller Ditches Yale for SC, MB," and of course, "MBC: The Musical."

This year, Fratello decided that he needed an accomplice, so he roped in Mayor Mark Burton.

"The mayor was such a good sport about the whole thing," said Fratello. "When I first reached out to him, I wasn't even ready to tell him what the story was about. I wasn't telling anyone. But I asked if he would be willing to play along with an April Fool's joke. His response was basically, 'Count me in!'"

Fratello drafted a story and, with the help of graphic designer Chris Thomas, put together a convincing graphic of a high-speed train running smack down the middle of the Manhattan Beach greenbelt.

He also created placards with the bullet train's hashtag #IWillRide for the mayor to hold for a photo shoot.

As they met for photos, Fratello finally had to sheepishly break the news to Burton that the story was going to be about a touchy subject: a bullet train being slated for downtown Manhattan Beach.

Moreover, the mayor would be advocating, in the "story," for an even more enormously unpopular concept: A gigantic 8-story parking structure and mega-mall-by-any-other-name right in the heart of little Manhattan Beach's downtown. In one quote, Mayor Burton sounded proud to say that the new structure would be visible from space.

But any misgivings Fratello might have had before telling the mayor about the story were quickly forgotten as soon as Burton heard the description and burst out laughing.

"I'm so glad you brought me into this. I love it! All in!" declared Burton.

During the photo shoot, Mayor Burton hammed it up, standing in the supermarket parking lot, gesturing toward the sky and crowing about the beautiful new 8-story tower that would soon replace the "Beach Vons."

On Friday morning, as the story spread across social media, Burton enthusiastically shared the story on his Facebook page. He reported back to Fratello that his colleagues and constituents were having a ball with the Manhattan Beach Confidential and DigMB stories.

Burton later inserted an addendum on his Facebook post; a quote from American philosopher William James: "Common sense and a sense of humor are the same things, moving at different speeds. A sense of humor is just common sense, dancing."

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