Some time ago, while perusing my Facebook page, I was extremely surprised to receive a friend request from João Gilberto. For those of you who may not know, JG is probably Brazil’s most famous musician, a national and international treasure, often referred to as the creator of bossa nova, and associated with famous songs like “The Girl From Ipanema” and “Quiet Nights.”
Why would JG friend me? Why would he friend anybody? Why would he even be on Facebook? His well-known reputation is that of an inveterate, now octogenarian recluse who rarely goes out and spends his days playing his guitar…in his pajamas.
Out of curiosity, I accepted the “friendship” and as soon as I got on his wall I saw several messages saying that it was a fake profile and others that it was really the master himself. I was skeptical, so I cancelled.
A few days later I got another request from the same João Gilberto. Hmmm. I accepted, and thought well maybe it really is him…who knows? I’d heard that he liked to talk for hours on the phone with his friends, so maybe this was his new way of making contact without having to leave his apartment. I was curious. Really, really curious.
And so it began. Next thing I knew, JG had thousands of friends, including some famous people from the music world, and every time he showed up, a bunch of us would gather around the great Brazilian master to hear his pearls of wisdom, listen to the wonderful music he posted, and look at the fun pictures he put up.
After awhile, some of us got to know each other and started friending each other. Good relationships were developed, all because of João Gilberto, so we thought.
I had read several books about him, and it seemed to me that the Facebook João must be the real thing, because his personality and character seemed to match, almost uncannily, the person I had read about. I put any lingering doubts away, and just enjoyed myself on the long, long “conversations” we had every few evenings with our favorite musician.
But then things started getting weird. JG seemed to have abrupt personality changes, as if we were someone else. He started accusing people of being “fakes.” We all started to wonder. This went on, back and forth for quite some time. But through it all, I was learning more about bossa nova and Brazilian music than I had ever known before, so I didn’t give it much thought. I was having too much fun.
Then one day it all came crashing down, after more than a year of exchanging ideas, opinions, jokes, arguments, etc., with JG and all my new friends. João Gilberto’s son, who lives in the USA, got wind of his father’s supposed Facebook profile and exposed it as a lie and a fraud. He even managed to ferret out the perp…a handsome young plastic surgeon living in Brazil. But even after this exposure and the closing down of the profile, this guy tried to start it up again…!!??
My first thought after all this happened was why would anyone take so much precious time out of his life to mastermind such a thing? I still can’t answer that question. The only one who can is the perp himself. One thing is clear though: he knows a lot about João Gilberto, either that or he had someone else helping him who knows a lot about João Gilberto.
But the fact is that even though some of us felt emotionally cheated, angry, and chagrined that we had fallen for this scam, hook, line and sinker, we were really happy and grateful that we’d met a whole bunch of interesting, intelligent friends as a result of it, and these friendships continue to grow on Facebook. We’ll never hang out with João Gilberto, but at least we have each other!