Urban Legends

Elevator Misunderstanding

The Legend

A Colorado housewife named Karen took her first trip to Las Vegas last year. She had made a "killing" on the slot machines, winning two big buckets full of quarters. Wanting to unburden herself of some of the cash, she headed back to her room in the casino, cradling a bucket of silver in each arm as she entered the elevator.

Just as the elevator doors are about to close, four black men dressed all in black and with sunglasses on crowd in. Karen was happy to have company, because her winnings were so heavy that she didn't have a free hand to push the elevator button. Hoping for some assistance, she said, rather impolitely because her mind was elsewhere, "Hey, hit four."

Almost as soon as the words had left her mouth, all four men dropped to the elevator floor and clasped their hands behind their heads. After an awkward minute of silence, the men look up at her, and then all of them start laughing. It turns out that they are Eddie Murphy, Michael Jordan, Jesse Jackson, and Lionel Ritchie, all in town to attend a seminar on security problems facing famous people of color. Keyed up as they were by a recent seminar on terrorism, they had thought that Karen had bundles of explosives under her arms and had ordered them to "hit the floor."

They all had a good laugh about it, and Eddie Murphy was good enough to press "4" for Karen.

That night, after dinner and a little more luck on the slot machines, Karen returned to her room to find the door ajar. She was worried that she had been robbed, but instead of finding anything missing, she found a dozen roses and a note that the four men from the elevator had taken care of her hotel bill.

It was a delightful surprise, and Karen was very happy until she got home and developed the film that had been in the camera she'd left in the room when she went to get dinner. There were photos of the four men she'd met in the elevator, one of each next to the roses in her room, followed by a single picture of her toothbrush -- wedged bristles first in an unidentifiable black man's backside.

Behind the Legend

The event in question took place in 2001. Embarrassing as it is, the celebrities involved don't like to talk about it. Eddie Murphy probably put it best when, in a 2003 interview in Playboy, he said, "I don't want to talk about the bitch." It is only speculation that he followed this with, "It makes my ass hurt."

This real-life event is distinct from a completely spurious (and obviously tinged with racism) urban legend that has been going around since the 1970s in which the woman on the elevator has a dog named "Holmes" and a black man misunderstands her direction to the dog, "Sit, Holmes." (This legend may have been inspired by an incident in one of the lesser works of Arthur Conan Doyle.)

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