The Guardian has a fascinating piece by their Berlin correspondent Helen Pidd, all about the Swiss journalist Tom Kummer. A new documentary is out now, Bad Boy Kummer, telling the story of how Kummer made up interviews with Hollywood stars during the 90s for the German broadsheet Süddeutsche Zeitung and the Swiss magazine Das Magazin.
It all came out in the year 2000, and heads rolled. What I love about the story is that Kummer put the most preposterous words in the mouths of people like Pamela Anderson, Mike Tyson and Sharon Stone. He hadn't ever met any of them, needless to say. Whether his editors believed him or not is one thing, but I suspect a good few readers were fooled. I do wonder whether that was plain naivety - I'm imagining German intellectuals genuinely believing that Sean Penn had read Kierkegaard, simply because their own horizons are so narrow that they couldn't imagine he hadn't. Or maybe he has, what do I know?
Kummer himself seems happy enough, refusing to apologise. A lot of people - and I have to admit I'm one of them - are impressed by his chutzpah. Pushing back the boundaries of journalism, blending fiction and fact, adding a little mischief to the mix. I'm sure he's inspired a lot of youngish hipsters writing in German today, most notably Rafael Horzon with his White Book, in which he eulogises his own rise to fame with what they call the Münchhausen touch.
What Pidd leaves out in her article of course is the infamous 1983 Hitler Diaries scoop in Stern magazine, Hitler being the most marketable of all German celebrities. Tom Kummer himself seems to have been lured by fame rather than fortune - you can read his own version of events in the book Blow Up. The collection of his "interviews" published in 1997, though, is out of print.