In the mid-’80s, John became fascinated with the subculture of mail order: classified ads, ad sheets, and mailers. He was not alone; in that pre-Internet culture, many infophiles were swapping zines, booklets, and mail art. (Ivan Stang’s book High Weirdness by Mail was typical of the time.) Reverting to his old pseudonym, Jakeel, he went on an ad binge: “During the past two years I have systematically placed all kinds of classified ads in the many different newspapers and weekly tabloids here in New York City, testing various mail order scams and schemes, even making all sorts of free offers.” He printed an array of booklets, flyers, and ad sheets, which he sold or traded through similar ephemeral publications. He liked to get mail, particularly if it had dollar bills in it.
“Madison Avenue Confidential” (from which the above quote was taken) was a series of one-page ruminations on publishing and advertising; “Bamboozle,” “Big Apple News,” and “Filthy Rich Digest” offered clippings, jokes, and ads: for typesetting, mailing lists, how-to books, and other Jakeel sheets. “The Unicorn Review” reprinted a couple of clippings about unicorn sightings, and urged the reader to send in money to save the unicorns.
How to Rob the Mail promised the reader a lesson in scams. Instead, it delivered a mail-order primer: warnings against chain letters and pyramid schemes, advice on copy and marketing, and anecdotes about legal and illegal get-rich schemes, all with the usual Keel humor. At $2, it was no swindle.