THE BLOG
11/14/2011 02:10 pm ET Updated Jan 14, 2012

The Greatest Stunt That Never Was

As publicity stunts go, the Kim Kardashian divorce is downright unimaginative and obvious. One of the greatest publicity stunts that never happened was cooked up at the New York Post, and it shames me to admit it was my fault it failed.

Ready for this? The Dalai Lama was coming to New York City on a rare visit, and I was supposed to trick him into holding up a game card to publicize the Post's "Wingo" cash giveaway contest.

The Dalai Lama, spiritual leader for millions of Buddhists around the world.

This was an actual assignment, one of those tasks that made me wonder why I ever bothered going to college. Or high school.

Day after day, second-rate show biz people all over town gleefully posed holding Wingo cards to generate publicity for whatever they were selling. I had to write captions to go with those photos, and it was getting a little boring.

Until one day in the early 80s when photo editor Bob Young, a twinkly-eyed Brit with a wonderfully wicked imagination, noticed on the Associated Press daybook that the Dalai Lama was coming to town.

"Mates," he said to me and photographer Bob Kalfus, "Have I got an assignment for you!"

He had it worked out as neatly as a Columbo family hit:

Kalfus and I would attend the Dalai Lama's address, held at a church somewhere on the upper west side. I'd pretend to take notes, and when it was over we'd wait for the holy man outside the church, where I would hand him a big red-and-white Wingo card, facing outward.

"Your holiness, a gift for you," I was to say.

Then I'd duck out of the way so Kalfus could squeeze off a shot or two of the Dalai Lama with the card in his hands, inadvertently endorsing a contest to help Rupert Murdoch sell newspapers. I'd have to write a caption for the photo when we got back to the office:

"Take a 'chants' and play Wingo, the Shangri-la of newspaper contests!"

But it all went wrong. I started to quake as the Dalai Lama was coming down the church steps, wearing sandals and a sheet. He looked so damn innocent. I had the deer hunter's moment, staring down the barrel at Bambi in my crosshairs. I lowered the rifle.

"Bob, I can't do this," I confessed to the photographer.

"I'll do it," he chirped, grabbing the card from my hands.

He bowed to the Dalai Lama, said the line and handed him the game card. The Dalai Lama looked at it in childlike wonder for a moment or two before one of his bodyguards knocked it from his hands.

"You cannot do that!" the bodyguard shouted.

The Wingo card hit the ground before Kalfus could set himself up to take the shot. Precious seconds had been lost. If I'd done my job, we would have hit the jackpot.

Bob Kalfus, bless his heart, never told anybody how I'd messed up the mission. I drowned my sorrows that night with a few Shangri-lagers.

And Bob Young -- if you're reading these words, I apologize now for chickening out on the Dalai Lama assignment.

Because it wouldn't have hurt anybody. Nobody would have believed the Dalai Lama was a New York Post reader, much less a man who checked his lucky Wingo numbers every day.

It would have been a wonderfully naughty stunt, and nothing more. That's where the Kardashian divorce is different. There are people who actually believe in the bilge they're pumping.

I'm also sorry I failed in the Dalai Lama job because it would have been a testament to global unity.

Think of it: a Catholic reporter and a Jewish photographer, sent by a British boss to trick a Buddhist leader for the benefit of an Australian publisher.

We are the world.

Charlie Carillo's first two published novels, Shepherd Avenue and My Ride With Gus are available on Amazon Kindle for 99 cents. He's a producer for the TV show Inside Edition. Visit his Website here.