Will the real Phill Bender please stand up? Phil Bender on Facebook: real or performance art?

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Late last week, the unthinkable happened. Phil Bender -- founder of Pirate gallery and the generally accepted godfather of the Denver co-op scene -- mysteriously appeared on Facebook. Anyone who knows Phil even the least bit knows that he does not compute: doesn't trust a computer or a tweet, is belligerently disinterested in either and has no e-mail address. Phil does have a phone. Those were invented before he was born.

But, whatever. At 10:41 a.m.on January 12, Phil announced: "No one thought i would get on the interweb jokes on you." And he sent out invitations to a local-arts who's-who of potential FB buddies. Never mind that the invite came from someone named "Phill." It was possible -- Phil is computer-illiterate, remember?

At first, the welcoming friends poured in:

"Congrats on the Facebook page Phil!! :) did u get an email too??"

"Phil Bender is on Facebook! Unbelieveable!"

"oh my god, phil bender on the internet? what is this world coming to?"

"Holy Crap!! can it be true??? PHILL BENDER IS ON FACEBOOK????????"

"Is this a sign of the end of the world?"

Says Phill: "this facebook thing is so strange and new i hope i will not get people mad at me i'm just learning"

And: "this face book thing is crazy i don't know hated the interweb for so long"

Phill discovered YouTube.

"just found out about a thing called youtube it's crazy. if you haven't heard of it check it out."

"thank you all for helping me into facebook this is for you"

Photo-sharing commenced.

"facebook is putting pictures of me up i didn't have anything to do with i love this interweb"

But it wasn't long before the doubters started to surface:

"How does a guy without an email address show up on facebook? With an extra L, no less? Is this the real Phil? Or is this the nefarious Bill Phender?"

Phill: "my name is not phender it's bender get it right. i have an email"

"you fake!"

Phill: "i went to your show"

"fake..for sure. i've always wanted to start a webpage of bender's voicemails...epic."

Phill: "i'm the real bender and got there first"

"There are rumours that this is not the real Phil Bender. What says ye matey?"

"It's an FB mystery. Who IS Phill Bender?"

There were - are - factions.

Phill: "This facebook thing isn't as much fun as I thought. I think I'm going to leave the interweb and go back to the way my life was."

"the real Phil wants you to continue his fb page for him"

"Ok, who is this and what have you done with Phil?"

Phill: "I got a lot of phone calls today from people telling me not to leave Facebook. I don't mean to cry wolf, but I was so touched I decided to stay. My fans need me."

"The real Phil Bender would be on Farmville by now." I started asking people what they thought.

"I think it's probably Phil - with help from someone else .... maybe Jason Gimble? Since his photos were the first loaded up with Phil tagged? That's my theory -- that it's Phil with a friend to help set it up .... What do you think?"

Jason Gimbel: "I asked Phil last night if he was on FB, he said 'no'... I would only be enabling him, if in fact, he were play us all on FB and he was pretending to not be online, when in fact he is... I don't think it's him. Clearly someone is playing a game. At this point no one knows who it is, but it's clearly someone who knows Phil... I have one suspicion but I won't go there cause I could be wrong"

"Phill is now friends with Zippy Pinhead and 10 other people."

In the midst of all this, the spelling of his name was mysteriously corrected.

"The imposter was quick to change that spelling Error...."

"OK, so, as hysterical as this has all been, it occurs to me that Phil might not want an imposter, and realistically speaking it IS identity theft. We don't know who's behind it yet, do we? Should we write to facebook or chalk it up to good clean fun? How did Phil feel about it?"

Phil: "I just don't think I was made for this interweb thing. I think I will go back to my old system of calling people to make my emails and to look things up for me. I think I will delete my profile in 8 hours."

More comments. More and more comments.

"okay, i can't hold myself back. i think it's someone filling in for phil. but i predict the next phil grids are going to be facebook screenshots."

"Given Phil's dislike of all things computer, I'm guessing it's his evil twin ;)"

"It definitely not Phil...but it's someone who knows him well, that's for sure."

"I don't know him well, but facebook is the last place I'd expect to see PB. I bet it's a simulacrum of him made of nine identical shovels."

"LOL... you mean there are false persona on Fakebook, say it aint so..."

"Doppelganger activity."

"Phill Bender - 'I'm Still Here'"

"We are talking about Phil Bender, right? .......I rest my case."

"It's not Phill. I talked to him last night and he thinks he's being punked by someone at Pirate. He had it narrowed down to two people, but wouldn't tell me who he thinks it is. He also wants it known that he doesn't 'work' at a thrift store, he procures his art materials at thrift stores!"

The denouement:

Jason Gimbel posted: "The real Phil Bender is not on Facebook (with one 'L')"

"Who the heck IS on Facebook?"

"I KNEW it!"

"Is he enjoying the specter Phill? Does he have any comments? I think it's a pretty reverential impersonation thus far..."

"♫♪♫ Will the real Phil Bender please stand up, please stand up ♫♪♫"

"I just spoke to him and he rather likes that there are over 300 friends but he would rather that it be identified as a proxy."

"Just spoke to Phil, he wants it to live, but he loves that he's getting all these phone calls from friends, so don't listen to me!"

And yes, Phil Bender is still on Facebook, still making friends and still a love object for half of Denver. Real or unreal, I suspect Phil is here to stay. Is that how things should be? Leave your opinion below in the comments.

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