Posted on: December 9, 2022, 09:05h.
Last updated on: December 9, 2022, 12:39h.
“Never let the truth get in the way of a good story,” Mark Twain once said.
According to one persistent Vegas myth, dim-witted bandits once robbed a Vegas Chips truck, thinking it carried casino chips. Brandishing knives, they jumped into the truck alongside driver Rodney Dwayne Bont, 30, and forced him to drive it to a remote area. Here, they made Bont open the back of the truck, revealing a bunch of sealed cardboard boxes.
“Open ’em up!” one of the bandits commanded.
When they saw the cargo was the potato kind of Vegas chips, the bandits got angry. They beat Bont up and robbed him of all the money he had on him: $680.
The crime made national headlines in September 1992. And the police were just as convinced as the media, asking for the public’s help in finding the assailants. So was Vegas Chips, which paid $10K for a TV commercial campaign exploiting the crime.
“Commandeering our trucks will only delay service to stores,” said an actor holding a newspaper in one hand and a bag of Vegas Chips in the other. “And that’s not fair to others. Oh, and by the way, our new slogan is ‘You gotta hold ’em, not hold ’em up.’”
Then the Story Crumbled
Only a week later, however, authorities cracked the case. They determined that Bont – who had three previous theft-related felony convictions – invented the robbery to help pay off gambling debts.
Bont had faced the possibility of five years in prison, but pleaded it down to two for a reduced count of attempted embezzlement. His public defender told the judge that her client had a gambling problem, for which he was receiving counseling. Bont served only one year, according to Nevada State Prison records.
“We’re just glad that it was not true, that we didn’t have people out there this stupid,” Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department lieutenant Carl Fruge told the Los Angeles Times in a story that ran Sept. 19, 1992.
But the true story only drew a fraction of the attention that the fake one did – which is why you can still revisit it all over the internet. And Vegas Chips still ran its commercial after the hoax was revealed.
We still ran with the campaign,” former Vegas Chips president Kevin Holden told KSNV-TV last year. “Actually, when it became a hoax, the story got even bigger. Because then it had a neat little twist in it … And because of that, we got into all the Smith grocery stores in Nevada and all the way up to Utah, and we actually got into all the Vons supermarkets in California.”
The original Vegas Chips went out of business in the ’90s. Another company resurrected the name a decade later, but has also since folded.
Incidentally, Mark Twain never said “Never let the truth get in the way of a good story.” That’s another myth. What he did say – as quoted by Rudyard Kipling in his 1899 collection of notes, letters, and essays called “From Sea to Sea” – was: “Get your facts first, and then you can distort them as much as you please.”
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