Who duped Slate?

Media criticism.
March 12 2002 7:46 PM

Who Is "Robert Klingler"?

On the trail of the man who duped Slate.

(Continued from Page 2)

The carnival of Desai bunkum uncovered by Sanders goes on and on: Desai also pledged $150,000 to North Carolina's Warren Wilson College. The University of Florida expected to get $2 million from him. He told the University of New Hampshire $1 million was on the way. The pledges, needless to say, have not been fulfilled. He formed the Desai Foundation, placing former U.S. poet laureate (and Slate contributor) Robert Pinsky on the board. Pinsky never received the $2,500 quarterly stipend Desai had offered them. (Desai told the Times that he never offered board members money.) Among Sanders' greatest scoops comes this: He reports that Desai married Christine Klingler on April 2000 at Lake Tahoe, even though he was still wedded to Jennifer Desai. Christine Klingler's father, Paul Klingler of Concord, Calif., hung up on me when I called and asked if he would answer some questions about Ravi Desai.

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In his forthcoming Wall Street memoir, Confessions of a Street Addict, James J. Cramer describes Ravi Desai's unbelievable ascent and descent as TheStreet.com's founding editor in chief and eventual CEO. I urge you to read it when it's published in June. Before their falling out, the dynamic duo of Cramer and Desai were captured on the cover of Hits, the supplement of the new economy magazine Red Herring in the spring of 1997.

Oddly, every falsehood in the Desai résumé can be paired with several demonstrable accomplishments. Harvard testifies that Desai got his bachelor's degree in 1991, and the University of Chicago says it awarded him an MBA in 1994. One Harvard classmate, now a nationally respected writer, remembers the young Desai as a pretty good poet. But no reporter has verified Desai's claim to have climbed Mount Everest. It's a fact that he worked at the high-tech Silicon Valley company Scient, but contrary to the University of Washington party program that listed him as president and CEO of Logical Information Machines, the company says he never worked there, according to the reporting of the Times' Sanders.

In November 1997, Ravi Desai, using his own name, queried Slate editor Judith Shulevitz and got an assignment writing the Diary of a Silicon Valley executive. We struck a check to his Mills Avenue address. The bio note for that Diary lists Desai's occupation as director of "strategic planning for Quantum, a hard-disk-drive manufacturer." As a matter of policy, Quantum will not say whether or not anybody has worked for them. But Desai's estranged wife Jennifer says she once visited the Quantum office, where she saw his name on the door. Whether or not his Diary told the truth about his week at Quantum is anybody's guess. By 1997, Desai had not yet earned his nationwide reputation.

On Tuesday, March 5, after Slate took Klingler's Diary down, he sent an e-mail at 1:07 p.m. PT asking about its removal and promised to file Day 3. At 8:14 p.m. PT, he sent a follow-up e-mail and a one-minute, two-second voice-mail message on Truitt's line from his cell number, (650) 714-4996, saying that he'd filed the third day's Diary but wanted to know where the first two installments had gone. Klingler's number is an SBC wireless line registered in Sunnyvale (Silicon Valley), Calif. [Addendum, March 14, 2002: Maybe not. According to fonefinder.net, the (650) 714 exchange is controled by Nextel out of Palo Alto, Calif.] Repeated efforts to reach the cell phone number have failed. The line appears to be live; the phone appears to be turned off.

On Wednesday, March 6, at 7:43 p.m. PT, Truitt received her last e-mail from Klingler:

I have attached my fourth diary entry to this email so that at least one side of this particular Diary deal is living up to the bargain—namely me. I've just gotten off a 22 hour day including a nine-hour flight back from Europe and have very little energy to wonder why my diaries aren't appearing. I've left you a couple of phone messages and emails and assume that you will explain the mystery of the disappearing diaries to me at some point.

Day 5 of his Diary would be filed the next day, he wrote. "I should be available by phone and email intermittently during the day tomorrow." That's the last Slate heard from Klingler. He hasn't returned e-mail messages sent to either Robertgklingler@aol.com or Rdesai3109@aol.com. The bmw.com account, of course, bounces back as undeliverable. And his cell phone is turned off.

What do Robert G. Klingler and Ravi G. Desai have in common? They share a middle initial. And a first initial. Until last week when his divorce was completed, Klingler's last name hyphenated to include Desai's. Currently, Ravi Desai is married to a woman named Klingler. In that Nov. 7, 2001, e-mail to Slate's Moira Redmond (see above), Klingler claimed that the Rdesai3109@aol.com account belonged to his brother-in-law. Both have AOL e-mail accounts, and as most know, each AOL account comes with up to seven e-mail addresses. Slate asks its Diary writers to submit their signatures for use as space art with their entries. Both Desai's and Klingler's signatures have a doodlesque quality. (Click here for Desai's and Klingler's paw prints.) If they're not the same guy, I'd love to introduce them. I'm sure they'd hit it off.

The two even write alike, both favoring a preening, sneering, pseudo Brit-speak prose style. Not many Slate Diary writers compose their entries in the present tense, but both Klingler and Desai do. Even after Slate stopped publishing Klingler's Diary, he continued to submit them, as noted above, and we took the liberty of comparing them. (To read the entire Desai Diary, click here. For the two published Klingler Diary entries, click here. For the two previously unpublished Klingler entries, click here.)

Both open with Sunday paper descriptions: