Americana: The World Is One Big Put-On

In one of his more memorable stunts, Yippie Abbie Hoffman gleefully showered dollar bills onto the floor of the New York Stock Exchange—pour épater le bourgeois, to freak out the straights. Michael James Brody Jr. can work on a grander scale. He began by passing out $25,000 in tips during his honeymoon in Jamaica. Back in New York by way of a 707 jet chartered for $7,066, Brody announced that he had $25 million to give away to anyone who asked.

People believed him, for when he passed his 21st birthday last October,...

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