This month I will share stories on Black History Month – The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. History isn’t always pretty and sometimes we sanitize that which makes us uncomfortable. Here I will share all facets of Black History and try to focus on people not necessarily in the history books.
The Ugly – David Hampton
He was a con artist who later was the inspiration for a play and movie. David Hampton was born in Buffalo, New York on April 28, 1968. Not much is written on his childhood other than he was the eldest son of an attorney and had a younger brother and sister. He didn’t do well in school and never graduated from high school
Hampton moved to New York City in 1981. He and a friend were trying to get into Studio 54, the famed nightclub known for being the elite hangout of many celebrities. Unable to get in, his friend decided to pose as the son of Gregory Peck. Hampton would be Sidney Poitier’s son. The ruse worked. Hampton started using the persona “David Poitier” to get free meals, lodging, and money. Some who fell for his con were Melanie Griffith, Gary Sinise, Calvin Klein, professors, and doctors. Hampton would claim he missed his plane and his luggage was on it, his things had been stolen, and that he knew the children of his victims.
In one instance he went to the home of Osborn and Inger Elliott (Osborn was the dean of the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism) and before going to sleep asked Inger to wake him early to go jogging. When she went to wake him up the next morning, she found him in bed with a man he claimed was the nephew of Malcolm Forbes, He was then thrown out of the house. It was the end of the con.
On Oct. 18, 1983, Hampton was arrested in Manhattan on charges of petty larceny, criminal impersonation and fraudulent accosting. He pled guilty to attempted burglary. Instead of going to trial, Hampton was ordered to pay $4,490 to his victims.
Unable to make payments, violating a court order banning him from New York City, and again using the name “David Poitier,” in Jan. 1985 he was sentenced to one to four years in prison. He was paroled in Oct. 1986.
Playwright John Guare learned about Hampton’s story and wrote the play “Six Degrees of Separation” in 1990, (which later became a film in 1993). Hampton harassed and threatened Guare, even filed a $100 million lawsuit claiming the play infringed on his copyright. The lawsuit was dismissed.
After the popularity of the play and film, Hampton continued his con using other identities throughout the United States.
On July 18 2003, Hampton died from AIDS-related complications.
David Hampton. (n.d.). In Wikipedia. Retrieved February 1, 2017, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Hampton
Withcel, Alex. (1990, June 21). The Life of Fakery and Delusion In John Guare’s ‘Six Degrees’. New York Times. Retrieved February 1, 2017, from http://www.nytimes.com/1990/06/21/theater/the-life-of-fakery-and-delusion-in-john-guare-s-six-degrees.html