ATLANTA — It had all the elements of an epic prank.
A popular celebrity. Breathless media chronicling his every move. And an affluent Atlanta neighborhood up in arms over a possible new neighbor.
Well, two out of three ain’t bad.
Amid rumors that pop star Justin Bieber was considering a move to Atlanta, The Regular Guys, a morning show on Atlanta radio station Rock 100.5, put together a fake neighborhood group and pulled the wool over the eyes of the world’s news organizations.
They convinced the media that the newly formed Buckhead Neighborhood Coalition wanted no part of Bieber setting up his new digs in the midst of their old-money mansions.
“The Buckhead Neighborhood Coalition is an organization put together by ‘the Regular Guys Show,’ ” host Larry Wachs admitted Monday after the show’s cast completed its “protest” in front of an on-the-market mansion.
The Regular Guys’ Tim Andrews played the role of Harold White, becoming the face of the fictitious protest, doing interviews with CNN, the BBC and a host of other news outlets.
“@theregularguys show got 33 international media outlets including TMZ to generate 45,000 plus news stories,” Wachs claimed on air.
Andrews, as White, claimed to be a retiree and long-time resident in his interview with CNN.
“We’re concerned he’ll bring the wrong type of element into a quiet, residential area,” he said over the weekend. “It is our position that a person with his means could certainly find a neighborhood more suited to his eclectic lifestyle.”
The ploy also included a fake wife he said started a Facebook page to organize the protest.
It warned that “Justin Bieber’s relocation to Atlanta can be nothing but bad for our children, as well as the community. Some can’t even let their children play in the driveway without fear; he has raced vehicles under the influence, before. What’s to say he won’t do it again?”
After the mock disgust, the Regular Guys were all smiles on Monday.
“That’s a big win,” Wachs said of the prank. “That’s a huge win.”
They marveled at how eager news organizations were to report the story, missing the potential warning signs of new Twitter and Facebook accounts.
“And the great thing was, only one outlet kind of thought it was a troll, and that was Creative Loafing,” Wachs said.
As the prank swirled, no one in Bieber’s camp commented on the rumored move, which began with a TMZ report. Still, the very idea of Bieber deciding to make the Georgia capital another home was too good to ignore.
There had been numerous Bieber sightings across the Atlanta area: skating rinks, a fast-food restaurant and a nightclub.
Add to that, Bieber has had several encounters with law enforcement authorities in recent months. He was recently arrested in Toronto, accused of assaulting his limousine driver in December.
He also faces charges of drunken driving, resisting arrest and driving on an expired license after being stopped by police in Miami Beach, Florida, last month.
The Los Angeles County district attorney is considering whether to charge Bieber with felony vandalism in the alleged egging of a neighbor’s house on January 9.