John was a con man. He reveled in the description. He claimed that he did nothing illegal, and his goal was to educate consumers. There was, however, a tuition fee for that education.
He tried to teach his approach and techniques to my friend Bill and me. It amused him greatly to watch us flounder through one of his pitches. He had the best luck with Bill. He was interested in the occult and was actually interested in John’s mystic claptrap. Me? Well, I’d go through some drill he had on poise and use of speech, and John would howl with laughter. Seeing a skinny 19 year old Folkie trying a confidence scam must have been amusing.
John was not an ignorant grifter. He regarded his skills as a gift that he was obliged to master through hard work and determination. He was studious in his study of the English language and the mechanics of physical poise.
He maintained that what the eyes don’t see was an essential part of the con. John was a fan of “enrollment.” The fish, never the victim, became part of the scam and didn’t see the con coming because they were in it. John told us that this was the reason why so many scams went unreported to the police.
Recently, with all the political upset in Washington, I recalled John’s later career on Capitol Hill as a political consultant. It makes things a lot clearer to me.