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UB Yesterday: 1964

The Thallus of Marchantia

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Photo: University Archives

UB’s most infamous student spoof began innocently enough. In late 1964, friends were studying for a botany final when they came across the odd term “thallus of Marchantia.” They looked it up to find it refers to the stem of a liverwort plant—but by that time Shep Gordon (BA ’68) was already hatching a crazy plan.

“I said, ‘That sounds like the head of a country. Let’s see if we can pull off a spoof on the city and send a letter to the mayor that this sultan of Arabia is visiting Buffalo,’” Gordon recalled in a Miami Herald interview late last year. “One guy had a friend who worked at the U.N., so we had him send the mayor a telegram. Next day [the visit] is on the front page of the paper. We flew in a guy wearing a sheet. People start protesting; there was a mob. That was when I realized you can create history.”

The “guy wearing a sheet” was Gordon’s pal, fellow UB student Arthur Schein. According to UB Today, which wrote about the escapade in 1996, the pranksters booked Schein a round-trip ticket to Newark, N.J., and sent a press release to the Buffalo Evening News. On Dec. 16, Schein stepped off his return flight in a traditional kaffiyeh, posing as purported Arabian monarch Aveillugd Urubod. The police snatched him from the tarmac and rushed him to safety, as hundreds of UB students ran wild through the airport in a mock protest of the supposedly nefarious leader. Needless to say, local authorities were not amused by the prank, although they did drop all charges against Schein after students raised funds to pay for damages.