Buyer Beware|

Photo: Bootsy Collins (from his Facebook page) | By David Browne, Rolling Stone | [Note the difference between “imposter” and “impersonator”] As the Eighties began winding down, Bootsy Collins was in his element during nights on the town in Washington, D.C. Flashing his signature star-shaped shades, according to one report, he was chilling with fellow musicians — including some who’d played with Miles Davis — and sharing stories about his former boss and colleague George Clinton from their Parliament- Funkadelic days. Every so often he’d slip into one of the giddy, over-the-top voices heard on Bootsy stompers like “Bootzilla.” And he was living as large as one would expect: “We’re gonna have fun with this plastic here!” he told a crowd in a restaurant, waving around a credit card.

But as the hours and days went on, the musicians he was spending time with began to think something was amiss. For starters, Bootsy didn’t live in D.C. Despite being one of pop’s monster bass players, he never picked up the instrument either, and kept complaining that Clinton and others in the P-Funk world had ripped him off. “He started going in on how George did this to him and so-and-so did that to him, and that he was starting to have hard times,” recalls Davis’ bass player Foley, a.k.a Joseph Lee McCreary Jr. When Collins began asking him for money, Foley really began growing suspicious. “I said, ‘What did you do with your royalties?’” Foley says. “He couldn’t really answer that. You’re Bootsy — you should be loaded. He would go into the Bootsy voice and try to change the subject.”

As it turns out, it wasn’t Bootsy Collins at all, but instead one of the most brazen impostors in music history. What’s more, this fake Bootsy wasn’t the only one strutting around.

Almost as long as there have been rock stars, there have been impostors: not tribute-band impersonators, but con artists claiming to actually be that person and hustling people out of cash or cadging free goods along the way. In 1964, a group of fake Beatles got away with playing shows in South America; around the same time, an unscrupulous promoter hired a bunch of ex-bank robbers, bus drivers, and lingerie salespeople to pretend to be the Ronettes and Temptations for a tour in the U.K. In 1977, a David Bowie impostor made his way around the U.S., persuading a woman to leave her husband and run off to Hawaii with the Thin Fake Duke. Faux versions of Steve Miller and the Eagles’ Randy Meisner were also scamming in various cities, as was, notoriously, a fake of Kiss drummer Peter Criss. The Criss impostor told a tabloid that he was a homeless drunk scuffling for change, leading the real Criss to confront the fraud on The Phil Donahue Show.

But few have had to swat away fakers for as long as Collins has. Nearly 50 years after William Earl Collins transformed into the larger-than-life character known as Bootsy, he remains a singular icon in pop — the man who rocketed R&B to new universes, with a costume to match (star glasses and top hat to this day, with star-spangled flared pants and open-chested jumpsuits during his Seventies pinnacle). Even Collins’ smile was dynamic, capable of winning over invading armies. “He is full of the joy of language, joy of sound, joy of life,” says Dr. Cornel West, who saw Parliament-Funkadelic live during their heyday and later befriended and worked with Collins. “He is the highest level of what it is to be a soulful human being. That’s the most courageous and liberating thing anybody can be.”
> > > > > > > > >
“You can look at it two ways,” she adds. “You can look at it as a positive, because that means Bootsy is still popular. People want to be him, they want to have that iconic look. Or you can look at it as a negative: ‘How dare you do that?’ Bootsy chooses to look at it in a positive way. It’s kept his brand alive. We’re thankful for all of that.”

Meanwhile, from his home in Cincinnati, Collins continues to keep a watchful eye on his online fakes. He diligently monitors social media for Almost Bootsies, and even flagged a faux Bootsy Beer to his followers. Sometimes he reports them to ALG, the New York-based branding company he employs, which shuts down the accounts. But other times, his wife says, he lets it slide, feeling sorry for the low-rent scammers and their lot in life. After all these years, he understands, at least to a degree. “The lesson I took was, there will always be Fake-a-Teers,” he says. “They just can’t help themselves. I don’t like it, but I understand wanting to be somebody else. If I had not made good on being myself, that impostor may have been me. I totally get it.”

Read the rest of this very interesting, absolutely disgusting, $$$ lost, story here:

[Thanks to Alex Teitz for contributing this article!]

Photo: Bootsy Collins – from his Facebook page:

Leave a Reply

Close Search Window