The Sly Fox

Header image by NormaliltyRelief via Flickr.  CC 2.0

Today’s post comes from Renee in North Dakota.

In the Summer of 1978, I accompanied my mother to Los Angeles so that she could receive treatment for Multiple Sclerosis. I was home on break from college, and my parents let me know in no uncertain terms that it was my duty to go with mom for the treatment. I was miserable, since I knew that the treatment was a sham and a fraud, but they wouldn’t listen, so off we went.

Mom had an initial manifestation of MS when she was 30 years old.  It was pretty typical, with visual anomalies and numbness in the lower extremities. It was quite difficult to diagnose MS in the days before neuroimaging, and she was never officially diagnosed with the disease at the time.  Her symptoms disappeared,  and she had no more signs of the disease until 24 years later. The diagnosis was confirmed at the Mayo Clinic in 1977.  Mom was devastated. She had to quit teaching, but remained able to walk unassisted and drive.  She set out to find a cure for herself, and the treatment in Los Angeles held out great hope for her.

MS is an autoimmune disease in which the body destroys  the lining of the motor nerves so that electic impulses can’t travel down the nerves efficiently. People lose the ability to move their limbs.  There is no cure.

Mom heard from other local people with MS about a surgeon in Los Angeles who claimed to have great success in increasing blood flow to the brain and reducing or eliminating MS symptoms.  It was interesting how the information  about the treatment travelled in the days before the internet and social media. Mom talked to people who either had the treatment or knew of someone who had, and all swore by it. Mom contacted the doctor, who was more than happy to take her as a patient.

We arrived in LA and spent the first night in a residential hotel that the doctor had arranged for us. Mom had an initial examination at the doctor’s office. He declared her a perfect candidate for the procedure, and she was admitted to a private hospital in the Century City area of LA.  The doctor was a vascular surgeon. He claimed that the medical establishment and insurance  companies wouldn’t accept his treatment as legitimate for MS, (although he and his patients knew the truth of the matter), so it was billed as vascular treatment for clogged arteries. He reamed out his patients’ carotid arteries, thereby increasing blood flow to the brain. That was it. No repairing of the nerve linings, an impossible task that is the only thing that would have made a difference. He  just removed what little accumulation of fat that lined the carotid arteries.  His patients stayed in bed in the hospital for a couple of days after the surgery. By the time they were ready for discharge they were quite well rested and of course told the doctor they felt better.  They were discharged home and never saw the doctor again.

I spent my time hanging around the hospital talking with other patients and their family members. They came from all over the US, from Florida to Illinois, to Nevada. All were so hopeful, and talked of the doctor as a misunderstood saint. I slept on a cot in my mom’s hospital room.  Somehow I found that a nearby theatre, the Century City Shubert Theatre, was putting on a production of The Sly Fox,  a modern adaptation of Ben Jonson’s Volpone, with George  C. Scott in the title role. He had initially done the play on Broadway. I managed to get a ticket to a matinée. I had never seen a professional production like this before. It was wonderful. It was so ironic to see that play about a con artist when I knew my mom and the other patients were in the hands of such a sympathetic and sincere con artist. I knew he was a fraud, but how can you dash people’s hopes.  He had set up a perfect scam, founded on the hopes of desperate and trusting people.

We returned home after a week.  We heard several years later that the doctor had lost his medical licence due to insurance fraud. Mom had very little to say about her LA experiences, but eventually agreed with me that the doctor was a con artist. She lived to be 91, still living at home, able to walk using a walker, still a fighter.

What are your experiences with sly  foxes? 

89 thoughts on “The Sly Fox”

  1. I’ll think about this more. My initial thought is that I have been spared from dealing with such foxes as your mom’s doctor, with just a single exception. I once worked for a man who was a sly fox. He created a hostile work environment, then drove his employees batty with insincere gestures of accommodation. I was in a prominent position, so I might have suffered more than most employees. To preserve my mental health, I mostly have consigned thoughts of this part of my past to a ugly little corner of memory, and then I just don’t “go there” in spite of my tendency to cultivate my past like a flower garden.

    I didn’t handle my fox with the restraint you showed while supporting your mom. You were in an impossible situation. Had lashed out at this sleazy doctor you could only have made things worse for her. I don’t see how you could have handled the matter better than you did.

    Liked by 4 people

  2. In brief…my husband was “taken in” by a tv/radio popular investment guru in Dallas…”we” invested dispite my hesitancey. I thought the guy was sleezy=too good to be true. Husband did fine with a couple of investments but then lost everything…we ended up bankrupt, I was a health mess…but we returned home and recuperated though not financially. The “guru” is in Federal prison for fraud…made us feel better ‘tho we didn’t recover any money….it’s probably in a Bahaman bank awaiting his release from prison.


  3. How terrible. I, too, live with MS. My heart goes out to your mother and the other patients. How awful to be given such hope only to find out that the source of your hope is a con artist. I am happy that your mom has done so well with the disease. It definitely sounds like she’s a fighter! God bless you both. #MSAwareness #MuckFestMS #NationalMSSociety

    Liked by 8 people

    1. Mom also took to folk remedies, like drinking milk from cows that had just had a calf so she could get the colostrum from the milk and thereby improve her immune system. She did that for years. She said it tasted awful.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Sandy was fed colostrum milk at 14 to see if it would fight rheumatic fever. She said it was repulsive. It did not help. That was at the heart hospital at the U where she spent 8 months.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Ugh! That does sound awful. My doc has me take vitamin D supplements. I’ve also read that bee venom and marijuana are supposed to be helpful. I always joke and tell people I’m going to take up milk chugging and pot smoking next to active bee hives.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Hi kids-

    Dodging the question for the moment, I have two tickets for the 2:00 production of “Fun Home” tomorrow at the Orpheum theater. We are not going to make the drive given the weather.
    Who can use them?


  5. I hadn’ t thought about this for years until last week. We received a flier in the mail from the Stratford Festival in Stratford, Ontario, announcing a production of Tartuffe. It reminded me of his brother in fraud, Volpone, which reminded me of the trip to LA.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. I’m interested in your response. I’ve written (too often, I fear) about enjoying old memories. And yet there are a few old memories–bad memories–that I have put fences around. I don’t forget them, but they are isolated by those fences, and I just prefer to live without calling those memories up. I can see how this could lead to trouble, were I to willfully ignore much of the past, but it is equally true that it would be troublesome to give bad memories too much attention.

      Liked by 3 people

  6. Good-looking man here in town. Worked at MSU and was good at his job. Pillar of the church. Son of a famous old Missouri Synod Lutheran Pastor. Loving father and husband.
    Behind all that he was a bully. Also, it turns out his wife was aware of many infidelities. after his death several people came forth claiming him as father or wanting to do a genetic test.
    The wife, of course, as these things often go, and Chekov wrote a play about it, put on the grandest funeral possible for the slimy skunk.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Lots of politicians, some recent presidents. Lots of school administrators.
    I have known a few with the silver fox personality who did in fact deliver.
    OT: I have a PT visit today followed by a key visit to orthopedic surgeon, re my back and my carpel tunnel. They just called to move up both by an hour because of the storm coming in. Only three miles away on flat ground.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Knew a supt. on da Rangh (never know how to render that pronunciation) who was arrogant, obnoxious, never stopped talking, said some very stupid things. The first four letters of his long Eastern European last name were JERK. Manipulative. But he had some of the most brilliant ideas for education I ever heard. His vision of four day a week school was spot on. His ideas for testing made more sense than anything now in law. But he was such a jerk. Complex fascinating personality. i used part of that personality in the first part of the long story on my blog. I think he was probably Aspergers to some degree.

      Liked by 1 person

        1. Yes, that was the intent. He too is based on a person I know. A scientist who worked at high pay a few days a year so he got a teaching license to sub. Very intelligent, had a very analytical mind for a very analytical job, very expert in a very small arena. He stood on the edges. He was an excellent student teacher.


  8. When I was just out on my own (living in a teeny apartment in Northfield), I got hornswoggled by a cookware salesman. He sold me a massive set of pots and pans for $400. I don’t have $400 for pots and pans NOW; I certainly didn’t have it then and buyers’ remorse set in almost immediately. Luckily I am my father’s daughter and so I pulled out the paperwork and read through every single contract clause, eventually finding a 3-day “change your mind” paragraph. I called the company up and cancelled before they had a chance to ship it to me. I even got an apology because the salesman should have pointed out the 3-day clause before I signed. I was nervous that the salesman would call and badger me but I never heard a peep!

    Liked by 3 people

      1. I used to watch the original Danger Mouse cartoon. There was one episode where they went to Texas and met a character named Cactus Jack who used the word ‘hornswoggled.’ Classic line that Danger Mouse, in his posh British accent, asks his assistant, “Penfold…what’s ‘hornswoggled?'”

        Liked by 2 people

  9. I am one. It’s just that I decided to use my powers for good, not evil. It always amazes me how much people will believe you if you can just manage to keep a straight face and sound earnest.

    Liked by 5 people

        1. I think many people have this side to themselves. I do. Most of us learn as kids that it is dangerous and can do harm to ourselves and others when used for short term gratification without itemizing the longer term harm.

          Unfortunately, the PEOTUS (and the Dr., the sales guy, the boyfriends, the christian evangelists….) appears not to have learned that the negatives can outweigh the short term thrills. I don’t get the thrill of an impulsive Twitter post-tweet, tweet–it has something to do with the reinforcement of attention.

          What I find fascinating now is, all the voters who are now regretting their votes because they will lost healthcare, civil rights, etc. Apparently, they were not itemizing that harm either after the “thrill” of casting the vote?

          Liked by 1 person

  10. Rise and Shine Baboons!

    Oh dear. Several boyfriends, a phone sales person who caught me after I had chemotherapy and was drugged and loopy, and the current PEOTUS. ( I dread the consequences of that one.) Then there are the numerous religious Evangelists promising salvation if you believe what they have to say. I never fell for that one, but they sure can manipulate the public.

    My dad had a devastating form of MS that ruined his health and his career. It was so hard on our family. There was never a snake oil salesman promising to cure it though. Renee, I am pleased to hear that at least one good theatre experience resulted.

    Liked by 4 people

  11. We went to one of those Free Dinner come-ons, and ended up signing up for an expensive two-week stay in Hawaii (which we had to use within a couple of years), plus discounts on all the motels in the company, which I can’t recall now. Too late, we remembered that we don’t like staying in cookie-cutter motels. Upside was that it got us to Hawaii for a lovely vacation at a time when we would not otherwise have thought to do that.

    Liked by 2 people

  12. A few minutes ago, I received an email from an out of state acquaintance:

    Very Important !
    Please pass this on

    URGENT News from Glen Eagles Hospital URGENT !!!!!

    Seven women have died after inhaling a free perfume sample that was mailed to them. The product was poisonous . If you receive free samples in the mail such as lotions, perfumes, diapers etc. throw them away . The government is afraid that this might be another terrorist act . They will not announce it in the news because they do not want to create panic or give the terrorists new ideas.

    Send this Fwd: to all your friends and family members.

    Diane J. Ford
    Office of the Chief of Police
    Office of Risk Management
    101 M Street , SW
    Washington , DC,

    I couldn’t believe that she’d not only fallen for it, but had already mass mailed it to everyone she knows. I responded to her saying that everything from exploding cell phone batteries to tainted lettuce is broadcast nationally when there’s a health risk. And that this was one of the sillier fake news stories I’ve seen! But – if I receive a free perfume sample, I will toss it.


        1. That brings to mind a tagline I once suggested semi-seriously for a mattress that went by the name of Spine Support:
          “Spine Support for supine sport”

          Liked by 3 people

  13. While I’ve endured, and in some cases succumbed to, high-pressure sales tactics, I can’t think of any sly foxes who have tricked me into anything. Perhaps they were so sly that I didn’t perceive the deception?

    Liked by 2 people

  14. Surgeon says picture on nerve damage is ambiguous right now. I am doing pretty well on the whole except for hands.nwants to see what rheumatologist says about underlying pain and to see how nerve issues progress. Says to learn voice recognition and reduce typing but not quit entirely.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. It is always last resort for him. My GP, who is used to this surgeon, told me on reading the EMG and other results, that he did no think anything would be done, with which I agree right now. Big questions is what the rheumatoloigist will say. My surgeon considers most rheumatologists sly foxes, as do I.

        Liked by 1 person

  15. My dad told me about a scam that was widespread around Luverne in the 1930’s, of getting people to invest in a venture to find a lost ship of either Christopher Columbus or Sir Walter Raleigh, I can’t remember which, now. People never got their money back from that one, either.


    1. That’s really interesting. It echoes the phenomena of “money digging” that was prevalent in New England in the first half of the nineteenth century. The premise was that pirates or, in some instances, the lost tribes of Israel had buried treasure somewhere and the money diggers had worked out, or had been privy to occult or heavenly information that the treasure was located on the property of a susceptible landowner. One way or another, the money diggers would persuade the landowner to invest in the enterprise of recovering the fabulous fortune. Invariably, something would happen, the diggers would be allegedly confronted by a demon protecting the horde or something like that and the project would collapse. The diggers would abscond with the landowner’s investment.
      Before he founded the Church of Latter Day Saints, Joseph Smith was a money digger. He served some jail time for his activities.

      Liked by 4 people

        1. Which reminds me of this story: An old gentleman lived alone in New Jersey . He wanted to plant his annual tomato garden, but it was very difficult work, as the ground was hard. His only son, Vincent, who used to help him, was in prison. The old man wrote a letter to his son and described his predicament:

          Dear Vincent, I am feeling pretty sad because it looks like I won’t be able to plant my tomato garden this year. I’m just getting too old to be digging up a garden plot. I know if you were here my troubles would be over. I know you would be happy to dig the plot for me, like in the old days. Love, Papa

          A few days later he received a letter from his son.

          Dear Papa, Don’t dig up that garden. That’s where the bodies are buried. Love, Vinnie

          At 4 a.m. the next morning, FBI agents and local police arrived and dug up the entire area without finding any bodies. They apologized to the old man and left. That same day the old man received another letter from his son.

          Dear Papa, Go ahead and plant the tomatoes now. That’s the best I could do under the circumstances.

          Liked by 6 people

  16. Then there was the “weight loss doctor” in Sioux Falls in the late 1950’s or early 1960’s who prescribed speed to patients to lose weight and got them hooked on amphetamines. That happened briefly to my Aunt Leona.


    1. Surely, weight loss “doctors” and proponents of get rich quick schemes must lead the parade of sly foxes trying to pull the wool over our eyes. But I have a feeling we ain’t seen nothing yet! Trump and his cohorts are going to stick it to us big time if we’re not on our toes.

      Liked by 2 people

  17. OT but timely. The air temp here is -24. The wind chill is -39. I see St Paul is a balmy 6 degrees with an invigorating -13 wind xhill.


  18. i have been involved in many cases but i am a sales person. the old line is … do yo know how yo can tell when a salesman is lying? when his lips move….
    i have bought product in china that showed up wrong wrong wrong only to be promised that on the next order they will make it right.
    the best fox story i can think of is the one where the we had the opportunity to take over the menards tile business and went to italy to learn the ceramic tile business and get the factories all lined up. menards gave me 40 feet of space to place my tile and the newly hired sales manager who was brought in to be the knowledgeable tile person kept screwing up the deal. wrong pricing wrong samples wrong information . after a month of jerking me around it turned out he was talking to the powers that were at menards to tell them he cold do a better job with the new company he was going to be starting up than we could do with our limited knowledge of the tile industry.
    he got thrown out on his ear and ended up being ostracized by the industry but he screwed it up badly enough that the tile business at menards went to someone else after a month of screwing around.
    i was disappointed and lost a ton of money but now i know tile. have the same story in teak and another in patio furniture.
    trying to avoid it today in fans and dehumidifiers

    Liked by 2 people

  19. I guess nobody will object to an OT post today.

    My daughter LOVES the Santa myth. She has been nervous about my grandson figuring this thing out. So she was spooked when he reported that kids were talking at school. Some kid caught his parents wrapping gifts, and he was telling others that Santa might not be real.

    “WHAT?” cried my daughter, feigning shock.

    “I know, I know,” said my grandson. “Guys, I told them, that’s not true. Santa’s presents don’t look anything like when my folks wrap them.”

    “You know,” said my daughter, “we should be a little understanding here. Santa and his elves have so many presents to wrap it isn’t surprising if they get a little sloppy.”

    My grandson gave her a look. “Uh, Mom, I don’t want to hurt your feelings, but Santa wraps his presents really, really well. No offense.”

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I was thinking of you, Steve, when I read this mother’s response on Facebook to that dreaded moment when the Santa myth is about to be exposed. I love this idea!

      “In our family, we have a special way of transitioning the kids from receiving from Santa, to becoming a Santa. This way, the Santa construct is not a lie that gets discovered, but an unfolding series of good deeds and Christmas spirit.”

      “When they are 6 or 7, whenever you see that dawning suspicion that Santa may not be a material being, that means the child is ready.”

      “I take them out “for coffee” at the local wherever. We get a booth, order our drinks, and the following pronouncement is made:”

      “‘You sure have grown an awful lot this year. Not only are you taller, but I can see that your heart has grown, too. [ Point out 2-3 examples of empathetic behavior, consideration of people’s feelings, good deeds etc, the kid has done in the past year]. In fact, your heart has grown so much that I think you are ready to become a Santa Claus’.”

      “‘You probably have noticed that most of the Santas you see are people dressed up like him. Some of your friends might have even told you that there is no Santa. A lot of children think that, because they aren’t ready to BE a Santa yet, but YOU ARE.'”

      “‘Tell me the best things about Santa. What does Santa get for all of his trouble? [lead the kid from “cookies” to the good feeling of having done something for someone else]. Well, now YOU are ready to do your first job as a Santa!””

      “Make sure you maintain the proper conspiratorial tone.”

      “We then have the child choose someone they know–a neighbor, usually. The child’s mission is to secretly, deviously, find out something that the person needs, and then provide it, wrap it, deliver it–and never reveal to the target where it came from. Being a Santa isn’t about getting credit, you see. It’s unselfish giving.”

      “My oldest chose the ‘witch lady’ on the corner. She really was horrible–had a fence around the house and would never let the kids go in and get a stray ball or Frisbee. She’d yell at them to play quieter, etc–a real pill. He noticed when we drove to school that she came out every morning to get her paper in bare feet, so he decided she needed slippers. So then he had to go spy and decide how big her feet were. He hid in the bushes one Saturday, and decided she was a medium. We went to Kmart and bought warm slippers. He wrapped them up, and tagged it ‘merry Christmas from Santa.’ After dinner one evening, he slipped down to her house, and slid the package under her driveway gate. The next morning, we watched her waddle out to get the paper, pick up the present, and go inside. My son was all excited, and couldn’t wait to see what would happen next. The next morning, as we drove off, there she was, out getting her paper–wearing the slippers. He was ecstatic. I had to remind him that NO ONE could ever know what he did, or he wouldn’t be a Santa.”

      “Over the years, he chose a good number of targets, always coming up with a unique present just for them. One year, he polished up his bike, put a new seat on it, and gave it to one of our friend’s daughters. These people were and are very poor. We did ask the dad if it was ok. The look on her face, when she saw the bike on the patio with a big bow on it, was almost as good as the look on my son’s face.”

      “When it came time for Son #2 to join the ranks, my oldest came along, and helped with the induction speech. They are both excellent gifters, by the way, and never felt that they had been lied to–because they were let in on the Secret of Being a Santa.”


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