"Dirty Rotten Scoundrels" is a musical about two con men, each uses different tricks and techniques to swindle people out of their money by "giving them what they want." This takes audiences on a journey through songs, laughs and a fun evening at the theatre. While researching this show I found a wealth of fun information about the history of con men (well fun, unless you've been a vicitim of any of these scams).
The first known usage of the term "confidence man" was in 1849. It was used by the press during the trial of a man named William Thompson. He would come up to strangers talk with them build their confidence in him and then ask to borrow their watch, after which he'd walk off never to be seen again.
Most con jobs deal with people's greed. The grafter will present the mark with a situation in which they think they are come into some easy money, when in fact they are about to loose money. That is why there's an old saying among con men that "you can't cheat an honest man."
For your own protection, and so you can keep your eyes pealed for the techniques that the main characters Lawrence and Freddy may use throughout the show here are a few common types of scams.
Get Rich Quick Schemes: Basically just as it sounds, the con presents a situation where the griftee thinks they can make a lot of money very quickly. We see these nightly on TV, you know those commercials "I made $100,000 just working from home!"
Here's one dates back to the days before color photocopiers. A man would sell a "money-printing machine" which could exactly copy a $100 bill, which the con would demonstrate. The client would happily pay $30,000 for the machine thinking they'll quickly make up the money. After they buy the machine it would spit out two more $100 bills and then nothing but blank paper.
Another type of scam is known as the Romance Tricks: This involves seducing people only to target their money. The fraud got a lot of attention in 1950 in Sweden when a man was caught romancing more than 100 lonely women and being engaged to several of them at the same time.
A modern variation of this is used on Internet dating sites. The con contacts someone and thru emails and chat they "fall in love". Then the con says they are from another country and will gladly move to the country of their love, if they will send them the money to make the trip, or do some money transfer scheme to get them the cash. As soon as the money is sent, bam, bye bye baby and all the mark has is an empty bank account and a broken heart.
Then there's the, False-injury or extortion tricks: This involves setting up the mark in a situation in which they will pay anything to get it resolved quickly and quietly. This can include things like taking pictures of a married person in a compromising position, or you bump into someone on the street and they drop the package they were carrying and you hear it shatter and they demand you pay for it. Only the item in the package was broken before you bumped into them.
We've all heard of the "snake oil" salesmen. Buy this and it will rain. Or rub this on your head and you'll grow hair. Another that made me laugh was the psychic surgery. Someone uses simple slight of hand to "miraculously" remove growths from a person's body.
A final con job I want to share is called the glim-dropper (by the way, don't you love all this circa 1920s slang?). A one-eyed man walks into a store and pretends that his glass eye has suddenly fallen out. He gets everyone to help him look for it, but no one can find it, so he leaves his contact information and says he will give a $1,000 reward to the person who finds his glass eye. The next day an accomplice comes in and pretends to find the eye. Now the store keeper thinking he can get some money offers to take it and return it to the owner. The finder insists he will return it himself, so the storekeeper offers the guy $100 for the eye. The finder eventually talks him up to $250 and leaves. Of course the one-eyed man never returns to the store and the contact information he left is false.
No scams are tricks involved for you to get your money's worth with fun and laughs and "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels" click the link to left to order your tickets!
CP Artistic Director