In A Nutshell
Candid Camera is one of the most famous shows in TV history. Unfortunately, the show’s popularity backfired in a big way for its creator, Allen Funt. In 1969, Funt was flying to Miami when a hijacker took control of the plane. Well, everyone onboard thought it was a Candid Camera stunt.
The Whole Bushel
Even if you’ve never seen a single episode, you’re probably familiar with Candid Camera. It was one of the most popular TV shows of the 1960s and created a classic television catchphrase: “Smile! You’re on Candid Camera!” Just in case you haven’t heard of the program, Candid Camera was a real-life comedy show where host Allen Funt would secretly record strangers while putting them through wild situations.
The program actually got started as a radio show in 1947 called Candid Microphone. Eventually, it made its way onto TV, starting at NBC and ending on CBS. During your typical episode of Candid Camera, some unsuspecting victim would find himself trapped in a crazy predicament. For example, in one segment, a woman asked several mechanics to work on her car . . . only there was no motor. In another episode, a guy asked a tailor to make a suit for his pet kangaroo.
The public thought Candid Camera was hilarious, and Allen Funt’s name became synonymous with “practical joke.” Unfortunately, this backfired in a pretty big way in February 1969. Funt was traveling from Newark to Miami with his then-wife Marilyn and two of his children. At first, everything was going smoothly. It was just your typical flight until a hijacker grabbed a stewardess and put a knife to her throat. He ordered her up into the cockpit and informed the pilots that he had a buddy in the back with a bomb.
They were going to Cuba or else.
While definitely scary, hijackings weren’t out of the ordinary in the 1960s. According to Snopes, there were over 30 hijackings in 1969 alone. This time, there was a celebrity onboard. After the pilot announced they were heading to Havana, people noticed Funt and started pointing at the celebrated prankster. Suddenly, it was all so clear. This wasn’t a real hijacking. They were all on Candid Camera.
According to Marilyn Funt and Juliette Funt (Allen’s daughter), people began laughing and clapping. Some people even asked the TV star to sign their airsickness bags. Only this wasn’t a prank. The hijackers were very real and headed straight to Cuba. Funt tried his best to convince the people that this wasn’t a joke, but nobody believed him until they landed in Havana.
The Americans were stuck in Cuba for 11 hours before they finally returned home. According to Marilyn Funt, the other passengers were quite angry at Allen. For some reason, they blamed the television trickster for the whole incident. In fact, as one disgruntled passenger passed by Allen Funt, he angrily muttered to the Candid Camera host, “Smile my ass.”