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Hugh Gallagher: Man of Many Talents

MSN Desktop Search really is a marvelous tool.  Occasionally it turns up the most unexpected things, such as this hilarious college admissions essay which I received in email in 1995.  It was hidden away in an email archive on my home PC.  Enjoy…


This is an actual essay written by a college applicant. The author, Hugh Gallagher, now attends NYU.


I am a dynamic figure, often seen scaling walls and crushing ice. I have been known to remodel train stations on my lunch breaks, making them more efficient in the area of heat retention. I translate ethnic slurs for Cuban refugees, I write award-winning operas, I manage time efficiently. Occasionally, I tread water for three days in a row.

I woo women with my sensuous and godlike trombone playing, I can pilot bicycles up severe inclines with unflagging speed, and I cook Thirty-Minute Brownies in twenty minutes. I am an expert in stucco, a veteran in love, and an outlaw in Peru.

Using only a hoe and a large glass of water, I once single-handedly defended a small village in the Amazon Basin from a horde of ferocious army ants. I play bluegrass cello, I was scouted by the Mets, I am the subject of numerous documentaries. When I’m bored, I build large suspension bridges in my yard. I enjoy urban hang gliding. On Wednesdays, after school, I repair electrical appliances free of charge.

I am an abstract artist, a concrete analyst, and a ruthless bookie. Critics worldwide swoon over my original line of corduroy evening wear.

I don’t perspire. I am a private citizen, yet I receive fan mail. I have been caller number nine and have won the weekend passes. Last summer I toured New Jersey with a traveling centrifugal-force demonstration. I bat .400. My deft floral arrangements have earned me fame in international botany circles. Children trust me.

I can hurl tennis rackets at small moving objects with deadly accuracy.

I once read Paradise Lost, Moby Dick, and David Copperfield in one day and still had time to refurbish an entire dining room that evening. I know the exact location of every food item in the supermarket. I have performed several covert operations for the CIA. I sleep once a week; when I do sleep, I sleep in a chair. While on vacation in Canada, I successfully negotiated with a group of terrorists who had seized a small bakery. The laws of physics do not apply to me. Years ago I discovered the meaning of life but forgot to write it down.

I have made extraordinary four course meals using only a mouli and a toaster oven. I breed prizewinning clams. I have won bullfights in San Juan, cliff-diving competitions in Sri Lanka, and spelling bees at the Kremlin. I have played Hamlet, I have performed open-heart surgery, and I have spoken with Elvis.

But I have not yet gone to college.

{ 21 comments… add one }

  • Ryan November 28, 2005, 8:02 am

    Musical genius Kevin Gilbert wrote an autobiography in an extremely similar tone. Kevin's autobiography, written for promotion of his solo album "Thud," contains passages like this:

    "I have written number-one singles for a friend. I am an expert in glass bricklaying, a veteran in love, and an outlaw in Brazil. I breed prize-winning clams. I wrote, produced, and played most of Thud in an overgrown home recording facility which I hand-built with money I earned composing innocuous television scores under an assumed name. I pay my bills on time. I don't perspire. I think reverb is dishonest but sometimes necessary. I, too, have written and produced material for Madonna, and refused to have sex with her. Using only a hoe and a glass of water, I once single-handedly defended a small village in the Amazon Basin from an attack of ferocious army ants. I read ancient Egyptian manuscripts in the original Sanskrit."

    Kevin's autobiography also ended similarly to this essay: the last paragraph reads "But I have never released a solo record." His entire essay is available online at http://www.thedebster.com/gilbert/kevnotes.html and is a very entertaining read.

  • Ryan November 28, 2005, 8:08 am

    Also, according to Wikipedia, Gallagher's essay was a satire written for an essay contest for Scholastic Inc. Gallagher's essay won first place in the 1990 contest. Wikipedia mentions various that urban legends have sprung up about the essay, but then claims that he did submit this essay to colleges. I've seen independent confirmation about the essay contest, and that he attended New York University, but nothing else about whether he really did submit this to NYU.

  • Alec November 28, 2005, 9:56 am

    Hey, thanks for the info Ryan! I didn't know anything about Hugh, and couldn't find anything on the web. I didn't check Wikipedia though.

  • Anne November 28, 2005, 11:15 am

    I am a regular reader of your blog and saw your post and thought it was wonderful. So I sent it on to my Aunt & Uncle, the latter being a professor at NYU, thinking they would also find it humorous. In one of those wierd twists of the universe my Aunt replied that Hugh is actually a friend and former student of my Uncle's and they are still in touch!! Also he was a student there and graduated from NYU about 10 years ago.

    I can try and find out some of the answers to these urban legends and let you know.

  • Ryan November 28, 2005, 11:52 am

    I didn't know about Hugh myself, but when I read your post I noticed the similarities with Kevin Gilbert's writing, so I did some sleuthing. I'm preparing graduate school admission essays right now. I wish I had the chutzpah to submit something as creative as this!

  • Alec November 28, 2005, 1:31 pm

    Anne: I'd love to know more about Hugh. According to Wikipedia, he is now performing as VON VON VON, in New York. His website is here: http://www.vonvonvon.com/

    Ryan: I say… just do it! Good luck on your admissions.

  • Shawn November 28, 2005, 3:35 pm

    If he is VON VON VON, he is great! My wife and I chanced into a show a couple of years ago and we still talk about it..

  • cherry blossom January 17, 2006, 9:27 pm

    Hugh Gallagher is a wonderful singer and also a wonderful writer. He wrote a novel "teeth" years ago. I heard that He was recording a CD.

  • admin August 14, 2006, 7:56 am

    Check out the plagiarism at this website (http://www.actionmagazine.com/),, This guy is a magazine publisher? He should be sued for plagiarism, I wonder if this magazine is for real? This person is a POS. I was doing some research about Hugh and came across this corn hole.

  • dave November 30, 2006, 10:42 am

    Hi, I'm a reporter trying to find the origin of this essay, which I love. So, did Hugh really write it? Is he real? At NYU? Any idea how to track him down?


    dave marcus,newsday

  • Alec November 30, 2006, 10:58 am

    Hey Dave, did you see the link above to his website von von von? You can email him at von@vonvonvon.com.

    Also, check out the wikipedia article: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hugh_Gallagher_%28hu

  • Daniel December 3, 2006, 2:07 pm

    Did Kevin Gilbert write his autobiography first or did Hugh Gallagher write his essay first??????


  • Darlene January 3, 2007, 11:13 am

    If this helps, I received from the CBC in Canada in 1994 after I enquired about it.

    "The piece you heard was '3A Essay' by Hugh Gallagher… The record company in the States sent us a compilation of spoken word pieces… the Hugh Gallagher piece was on it".

    The record company mentioned is: Gang of Seven Productions Mill Valley, CA.

    It was apparently published in Harper's Magazine

  • John July 8, 2007, 10:37 am

    I am not sure about the dates referenced here, but I do know that the first time I read this college application essay was in 1989 while working in Seattle. Very funny.

  • susan bertoni August 18, 2008, 8:45 pm

    yes, he does exist and his essay helped him into NYU. I went to middle and high school with him and he used to get me in trouble by making me laugh in math class, etc.

  • Hugh Gallagher February 16, 2009, 4:02 am

    I happened to run across Hugh’s essay due to him having them same name as me.

    A great piece of work. I only wish I could write something as witty :)

  • Anita C May 29, 2009, 6:48 pm

    Hugh Gallagher's essay appears to be one of the most plagiarized pieces on the internet. Strange that something written 20 years ago is still being cut-and-pasted by lazy wanna-be wits.

  • saurelius November 10, 2009, 6:37 pm

    So is Hugh Gallagher and Von Von Von the same man? Was he born in America, not Germany? Does he still perform today?

  • RegCheung June 14, 2010, 3:22 pm

    For people who are confused, this essay was written in 1990. Kevin Gilbert's thing was written in 1994.

  • Andrea June 23, 2010, 8:10 pm

    Thanks for all the info. I have been wondering what happened to Hugh after I read this in 1990ish, in Harper's – and my brother and I have have added the "sensuous and godlike trombone playing" into our persona lexicons.

    I'm going to look up Von Von Von right now!

  • NICK MAYSTER December 7, 2011, 9:06 pm


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