Hearne: Out-of-Town Writer Puts one Over on Star with Bogus Cow Stampede Story

I didn’t fare too well asking venerable Boulevard Drive In owner Wes Neal for his most twisted tale…

I mean, c’mon. Kids sneaking up on the movie projector, making finger puppets on the screen?

That’s it?

Nearly 60 years of lording over one of Kansas City’s top passion pits and no streaking stories, no shootouts, no plane crashes, no public sex. Just bunny ears on the big screen. Pretty pathetic.

Turns out there was one thing that jumps out….

And wouldn’t you know it, one of Neal’s most memorable moments was a story recounted in the pages of the Kansas City Star about something that never happened.

That’s right, fake news.

"Here’s a story that’s completely false," Neal says, pointing to a newspaper clipping on the lobby wall that ran in Star Magazine on September 17, 2000.

"Somebody sent that into the Star and they printed it," Neal says. "I didn’t see it until a long time later."

Which is why Neal didn’t bother to call the newspaper to ask for a correction.

"They didn’t verify it," Neal says. "I’ve been here every day and it never happened. It never happened."

Made a good yarn though for readers of the Sunday newspaper..

"Cattle night at the drive -in," the headline reads.

"One hot, summer night though, we were watching a western with the usual exciting cattle drive and the cowboys rounding up the large, bellowing herd. But then we actually began smelling those cattle, and the lowing seemed more real and closer. It soon became apparent that a cattle train had derailed next to the drive-in…The bawling cattle let everyone know they were scared and uncomfortable…"

If the above yarn sounds a bit to pat, take a number…

One minute, the cowpokes up on the screen are rounding up doggies. Next thing anybody knows, the doggies are stinking up the drive in?

Good one!

Now allow me to explain how the game is played at the Star and where it likely went awry.

The Star solicits letters and essays from the public. When they arrive a staffer is charged with contacting the writer, confirming their identity and sorting out any loose ends. Like if the writer says she got flashed by Chiefs owner Clark Hunt, the Star would require confirmation.

That’s an exaggeration, but you get the idea. If the writer talked of getting drenched during Mamma Mia at Starlight and it never rained, the Star’s job would be to catch it before it was published.

Here’s how history can and sometimes does get re-written.

A writer recounts an innocuous tale that flies under the radar of the staffer confirming and/or editing the submission. Then off it goes into print.

"Essays about memories of Kansas City and the region are preferred," reads an editor’s solicitation at the end of the Star‘s bogus cattle drive story. "Include your complete address, phone number and social security number…and you will recieve a payment of $25."

The bottom line: the Star should have contacted – not just the writer – but Neal to confirm the suspicious story.

They did not, Neal swears it never happened and tens of thousands of Kansas Citians think they know differently. Not that it’s life and death, but fiction is fiction.

By the way, I have made (and continue to make) several attempts to contact the woman identified as the writer.  I’ve one more lead to follow in the morning. If I break through, I’ll report back.

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11 Responses to Hearne: Out-of-Town Writer Puts one Over on Star with Bogus Cow Stampede Story

  1. chuck says:

    Suburban Legend
    Richard Gere was there too in a car filled with gerbils.

  2. Gerald Bostock says:

    New career
    All you need is to get Bill Kurtis and A&E on board, and your next fabulous career will take off:

    “Kansas City Star Corrections: The Cold Case Files”

    I’m sure Gusewelle made a lot of errors in those 80’s columns from Paris. Not to mention all those Hearne Christopher columns from the 90’s.

  3. Hearne Christopher says:

    Hey, don’t sell me short. I was just getting started in the 90s, G Man.

  4. rick says:

    No need to
    Nick Wright, Greg Hall, and Jason Whitlock say no need to contact anyone to confirm story.

  5. Hearne Christopher says:

    Some stories require it, some don’t.

    Columnists expressing mostly opinion generally do not need to contact the subject of their ire. Unless they are reporting news in some manner or another – as often was and is the case with my column at the Star and now. Then you need to check.

    Making fun of Mike Hendricks for his Facebook and PR job-seeking faux pas didn’t require me giving him a call. Although he bristled about it. Mike’s a thin skin, so whatever.

    But had I specifically caught Mike in an unconfirmed act, I’d have needed to call him to allow him to deny it and/or explain it away.

    Just as Greg Hall needed to – but did not – call Nick Wright to hear Nick’s answer and explanation as to whether he’d read that fateful tweet. And to further explain that he’d gone far further into the story than the one sentence, anonymous tweet. And confirmed it with the Chiefs.

    The Star is FAR MORE STRICT on this type of thing. But they’re human and the story above seemed innocuous

  6. Hearne Christopher says:

    enough to let it pass. However, by not playing it safe since it did involve news, and checking with the theater, the Star fucked up.

    You have to admit it did sound a little pat. Gazing at the cattle on the screen and listening to them moo. Then hearing the real life mooing and smelling the cattle poop.

    So whoever edited that story gambled…and 11 years later lost. That’s the bad news.

    The good news is, whoever it was probably got laid off or left by now, so….

  7. checkpoint says:

    awesome investigative journalism on an 11-year-old story from a guy who was responsible for about 8 corrections a year every year he was at the Star.

  8. Cliffy says:

    Wow, Hearne. You really blew the lid off this one. Certainly glad we got this straightened out.

    Seriously … was this worthy of a stand alone article?

  9. Dave says:

    The pinnacle of professionalism
    I looked at this article last week. Seems Hearne has deleted one of the first responses, in which an astute reader pointed out that Hearne once resurrected a long-dead local sports legend and made him into a landscaper.

    Hearne + Facts = 0

  10. Dave says:

    Checkpoint ….
    Eight is a conservative estimate.

  11. History Buff says:

    Now Wait A Minute!
    Hearne, you forgot the most important detail! A few weeks after “Shirley Williams” submitted this fiction about cattle at the Boulevard Drive-In, she got real cocky and submitted ANOTHER tale to Star Magazine, this time claiming that she and her family were snuggled in the Buick, eating popcorn and watching “The Day the Earth Stood Still” at the Boulevard Drive-In when suddenly, a real UFO landed at the back of the drive-in and eighteen little bug-eyed aliens got out and zapped everyone working in the concession stand — vaporized them! — and they grabbed all the hot dogs and frozen chocolate malt cups and hopped back in the cigar-shaped flying object and took off into the atmosphere. The next day, Shirley walked out of her house and found Klaatu sitting on the front porch, playing Yahtzee with the neighborhood kids. For some reason, The Star wouldn’t publish this one.

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