Chicago man’s tale wins Liar’s Club contest for 2021

By Jason Arndt

Staff Writer

The Burlington Liars Club has recognized former area resident Gerard Vail as the winner of the 2021 Lie of the Year.

Vail, who grew up on the north end of Browns Lake in Burlington, now lives in Chicago and became the first person from the Illinois city to win since 1935 when Jim Jordan known as “Fibber McGee” submitted a story related to the weather.

“Our old dog swallowed a bunch of scrabble tiles today. Our vet said the x-rays spell trouble!” Vail wrote in his award-winning lie.

Gerard Vail

Vail said he drew inspiration from a recent family addition – a dog – that oftentimes rummaged through household items.

“We had gotten a dog earlier in the year and my wife and her dad are big Scrabble fans,” Vail said. “The dog was getting into all types of things and imagined to myself, what would happen if she got into those tiles?”

Vail further stated he went one step further, noting he had a friend in veterinary medicine who also provided some inspiration.

“That is when the lie kind of popped up into my head and I wanted to come up with something for the Liars Club,” he said. “I have a friend who is a veterinarian in Milwaukee who grew up in Burlington, too, and I just stuck it in on the spur of the moment.”

Vail won in his second year of entering the contest with the area native receiving honorable mention last year.

In 2020, he made reference to his Little League days, with him stating “Our Little League team was so bad, the opposing coach would tell his players, ‘hit ‘em where they are.’”

However, Vail acknowledged some would not understand, since his 2020 entry consisted of baseball lingo.

“I probably didn’t win last year because not everybody gets the baseball lingo,” he said.

“For those that got it, I think they laughed, but this year I wanted to come up with a better one and I am so proud that I won it.”

Dennis Tully, president of the Liars Club, reported Vail’s submission was one of several entries considered for the award.

Tully called Vail’s submission both clever and original.

“We thought it was sort of a clever thing he came up with. We get a lot of weather-related stuff, politics and stuff, and we shy away from some of that,” Tully said.

“Sometimes people would copy something out of a joke book or some comedian they saw on YouTube. But, this seemed to be pretty original, so we thought it was pretty good.”

Earning honorable mention, in no particular order, includes 2012 winner Richard Schaaf from Devils Lake, North Dakota.

Schaaf found inspiration from conversations with his wife.

“My wife’s clothes were taking over our closet, so I told her that every time she adds a new piece of clothing she has to donate one to the Salvation Army. Today she donated my last shirt to the Salvation Army.”

Others garnering honorable mention include Larry Ellis, of Walworth, and Kenosha’s Tim Repka.

Ellis, an avid golfer, acknowledged he isn’t that great in the sport with his submission.

“I love to play golf, unfortunately, I’m not very good. In fact, I’m so bad I had to have my ball retriever regripped.”

Repka, meanwhile, states: “I once won a hide-n-seek contest by sticking my feet in my mouth and swallowing myself. Still have yet to be found”

As for Vail, he became the first winner from Chicago in nearly nine decades.

Back in 1935 Chicagoan Jordan paid homage to both the weather and a pesky rodent inside his home.

During the extra cold winter, he said, a rat took refuge in his home. He exercised all his wiles, but was unable to trap it. Finally, he hit upon an idea, the Liars Club reported in reference to Jordan’s fib.

“The cold chased you in here,” Jordan wrote, “and the cold will catch you.” So he took one of those big thermometers and hung it in the kitchen with bottom about three feet from the floor. Under it he placed a chunk of cheese. In the morning, sure enough, he had Mr. Rat. The rat had gone for the cheese, and mercury in the thermometer fell so fast that it pinned the rat to the floor!”

Vail, although he lives in Chicago, fondly recalls his time living on Browns Lake.

He spent time on the Aquaducks water ski team, where he once served as vice president, and still has many friends in the area.

“After college, I moved to Chicago, but I still have a ton of Burlington friends and I am up there quite a bit,” he said.


Locally inspired

The Burlington Liars Club began the contest in 1929 when Burlington Police Capt. Anton Delano remembered his adventures on the Great Lakes.

“Captain Delano, who sailed salt water and then skippered sailing vessels on the Great Lakes for years, related a story about a voyage around Cape Horn, when they sighted what they thought to be land – a bleak, barren island, just protruding above the ocean – an uncharted island,” the Liars Club website states.

Apparently, said the Captain, it was a huge island, for they sailed along its shore for three days before they discovered it was not an island at all – only a whale, asleep on the surface.”

A year later, Burlington Police Chief Frank Beller followed up his own award-winning fib, according to the Liars Club.

Beller’s lie took his own relationship with local judges under consideration.

“Judges met at the police station on January 1, 1930, and were just about to award the championship to another man, when one of them asked the chief if he did not want to compete.”

“Me?” replied the chief, in an injured voice. “Me? Why I never told a lie in my life.” And by unanimous consent, the judges, who had known him for years, awarded Chief Beller the 1930 medal.”


Accepting entries

People, both locally and around the world, can enter the 2022 contest by email to or address them to The Burlington Liars Club, P.O. Box 156, Burlington, Wisconsin.