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Willie skated out of trouble related to the dishwasher matter because the cat didn't exist, and Alice is using the same defense. "That's our mantra," Edwards says. "There was no kitten. There was no kitten." On the other hand, the Alice routine was infinitely more elaborate than was Willie's -- four actors were involved -- and it kept unamused authorities much busier.

The prank revolved around a contest in which listeners were encouraged to attach helium balloons to assorted objects in order to see how many it would take to lift items off the ground. After a Lakewood couple supposedly discovered that it took 21 orbs to get Richard the kitten aloft, a gust of wind bore the feline away. A recording of this key scene provided by Edwards features a woman screaming as Greg and Bo feign disbelief.

Edwards boasts about how much planning went into what he calls "an experiment in the theater of the mind," down to "figuring out wind direction, so we could guess where the kitten might have floated." So convincing was the followup that some listeners called claiming to have seen Richard sailing past. Another phone call came from a 911 dispatcher, who left word about the sudden rash of kitten-related emergency calls on Edwards's voice mail. But even after getting this message, members of the Alice team didn't break character. Rather, they simply instructed listeners to stop dialing 911, "because they're aware of this," Edwards says.

Were they ever. Afterward, Lakewood spokeswoman Stacie Oulton voiced her displeasure on various media outlets, and Edwards received complaints from just plain folks who were still steaming a day later about what many saw as a violation of trust. In response, Edwards posted an apology on the Alice Web site, and Greg and Bo offered sorries all around.

Most of these expressions of regret make William Bennett's recent comments about gambling seem believable by comparison, but Edwards insists they're sincere -- and he expresses his willingness to sponsor future events to compensate Lakewood representatives for the unnecessary kitten-chasing they had to do. At the same time, he feels that plenty of good came out of the episode.

"I think it showed the power of radio," Edwards says. "We made up a story about a fake cat, and it got people talking in their offices, sending e-mails, calling TV stations, calling public-service agencies. It really was a huge reaction, which shows how many people pay attention to what we do. And that's a real positive."

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