As the Creator and host of the very popular hidden camera prank television show Candid Camera, Allen Funt had a hard time going anywhere without being recognized. Including hijacked Eastern Airline flight 7 on February 3, 1969 where some passengers believed the hijacking was orchestrated by him for the show.
Allen Funt was traveling with his family to Miami, Florida when a Cuban hijacker took a flight attendant hostage by knife and marched her to the cockpit where he instructed the pilot to redirect the flight to Cuba. Not long after that a passenger noticed Allen was aboard the plane and thought the whole hijacking was a prank for the Candid Camera TV show.
There are multiple versions of this story going around but the most widely publicized is that from Allen’s daughter, Juliet Funt.
Juliet was only 2 years old at the time of the flight and claims that the whole plane recognized her dad and began laughing and dancing in the aisle and lining up for autographs because they all thought they were going to be on Candid Camera.
According to Juliet, Allen was begging them to listen to him as he told them it was not a prank for his show but they didn’t believe him.
The passengers were making so much noise that the hijacker opened the cockpit door to see what was going on and the passengers then gave him a standing ovation, still believing the whole thing was a hoax.
Not until the plane actually landed in Cuba and the Cuban military was escorting them off did the passengers realize it was real.
However, other passenger accounts seem to indicate that things were a lot less exciting. Allen himself wrote an article (click here to view (link is external)) which appeared in a Florida paper the following day and he specifically mentions that at least 4 people recognized him and pounced on him but doesn’t go into any more detail.
“At least four people who recognized me pounced on me, certain that it was a Candid Camera stunt. But it was anything in the world but a stunt.” -Allen Funt
Allen also mentions in his article that the biggest joke of the whole incident was the hijacker who did not look the part, and how calm the captain was. He did not mention anything quite as extravegant as Juliet recalls.
Other recorded recounts of the hijacking also mention Allen having been there but nothing about a big scene or everyone believing they were on Candid Camera.
Allen Funt’s Plane Hijacking Story. Juliet Funt, YouTube. 2012.
Summary: This appears to be the most retold version of events that took place.
However, Juliet makes mention to many things that no other passengers have mentioned such as the entire plane believing the hijacking was a Candid Camera prank, stewardesses opening champaign due to their excitement of being on television, or the hijacker getting a standing ovation.
She also states that she was 2 years old at the time of the hijacking which would make remembering what took place difficult as most adults do not remember events from that young of an age.
Hijack No Stunt. Allen Funt, Ocala Star-Banner. 1969.
Summary: This was written by Allen Funt himself and published the day after the hijacking.
He does not make any statements that would support his daughter Juliet’s claims that the most passengers believed they were on the show or that they gave the hijacker a standing ovation thinking he was part of it.
Also, this paper was published on Tuesday February 4, 1969 and states the hijacking was the prior day (February 3) which is contrary to what many popular sources across the internet are currently citing as the date of the incident.
Recounting My Hijacking Experience. xtraspatial, YouTube.
Summary: This is recorded audio from a few passengers when they returned home in the United States after the hijacking was over.
At 11 minutes 40 seconds one of the passengers recounts that Allen Funt was on the plane and traveling with several people, but he makes no mention of there being a belief that the hijacking was a part of his show or anything else beyond just the fact that he was there and apparently traveling for business.