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Fake It to the Limit 

For 10 years, Lewis Peter Morgan impersonated Randy Meisner, an obscure former bass guitar player for the Eagles rock group. Morgan smooth-talked his way into a borrowed lifestyle of guitars, girls, and casinos. He could have checked out of the deception

Wednesday, Apr 29 1998
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You know I've always been a dreamer
(spend my life runnin' round)
And it's so hard to change
(can't seem to settle down)
But the dreams I've seen lately
Keep on turnin' out and burnin' out and turnin' out the same
So put me on a highway and show me a sign
And take it to the limit one more time
-- The Eagles' "Take It to the Limit," sung by Randy Meisner, 1975

Lewis Peter "Buddy" Morgan waits impatiently on a flight of stairs. He leans against the railing, watching for the door to open, wondering who in the hell would come to visit him here.

Maybe Morgan is irritated because of his predicament. He has, after all, just been convicted of fraud. He is in San Francisco County Jail No. 8, and his next stop is San Quentin, where he has been scheduled for a 16-month visit. That kind of future is something to be ticked off about, in and of itself. But Morgan is probably also irritated for another reason.

For the last decade, Morgan traveled between California and Nevada, pretending to be Randy Meisner, a founding member of the 1970s rock group the Eagles. As Meisner, Morgan coasted on the generosity of gullible instrument manufacturers, friendly casino owners, and starry-eyed women with money to burn. He grew fond of the process of fast-talking people out of a custom guitar, or if they happened to be female, out of their pants.

For a long time, Morgan had been living the life of a rock star. And now that's over.

Depending on whom you ask, the case seems tragic or ludicrous. Some victims still smart so much from the emotional and financial loss, they can't talk much, if at all, about their experiences. Others who have been stung burst out laughing at the first mention of Meisner's name.

Randy Meisner! The Eagles! I haven't thought about them for years -- and I still fell for it!

San Francisco police arrested Morgan in February at a card room in Emeryville. Now, he's just another con man in an orange jumpsuit, flip-flops, and white sweat socks, sitting at a table in a communal jailroom full of 100 hollering inmates. The last thing on his mind today was to talk with some damn journalist.

Morgan's victims remember him as chatty, good-humored, energetic, sometimes even to the point of obnoxiousness. Now, though, he's terse and defensive.

"Hearsay," he says, eyes cold and intense, when asked about the specifics of his crimes. "These are fabrications. The numbers are inflated."

Besides, why would anyone want to write a story about him? And why should he participate?

"You're gonna write what you want anyway. It's not interesting. It'd be a bad novel: The Pro and the Con."

SFPD Inspector Curtis Cashen headed a desultory four-year manhunt for Morgan that stretched up and down the states of California and Nevada. Stocky and in his 50s, sporting a prominent graying mustache, Cashen has clocked in many years in the fraud and homicide details. He says the Meisner scam traces back to 1988 in Las Vegas. There, Morgan was arrested on charges of impersonating Eagles member Don Henley.

Henley was in the midst of a successful solo career, and thus was very recognizable; continuing to impersonate him would have been a risky undertaking. But pretending to be an Eagle apparently suited Morgan's taste. After jumping bail on the Henley-related fraud charge, Morgan downsized, adopting the role of the much-lesser-known Eagles bass player, Randy Meisner, to whom Morgan even bore a vague physical resemblance.

"If he had continued with Don Henley, I think people would have caught onto him a lot faster," Cashen says. "To go to Meisner was an excellent choice."

The Eagles, in fact, are both famous and obscure enough to make almost perfect targets for impersonation. Eagles songs are permanently imprinted in the brain of any American within earshot of a radio in the 1970s. The band's first greatest hits collection has sold over 20 million copies. Yet, its members are not particularly well known as individuals, because the Eagles avoided press coverage, preferring to stay in the background and let the music speak for itself. The group's concerts defined the word "unspectacular": a bunch of long-haired guys in beards and bluejeans, singing into microphones and playing guitars.

And if you were to pick the shyest, most obscure guy in this laid-back band of faceless voices, you'd have no better choice than bassist Randy Meisner.

A quiet country boy who grew up on a ranch outside Scottsbluff, Neb., Meisner began playing in rock bands during his teen-age years, then played his way through Colorado and eventually wound up in Los Angeles. There, he gained a reputation as a tremendous harmonizing vocalist who could nail all the high notes, and was briefly a member of the country-rock group Poco. Hanging around the Troubadour club, he eventually got to know two guys -- Glenn Frey and Don Henley -- who were then playing in Linda Ronstadt's backup band, and he joined them for some gigs. Guitarist Bernie Leadon met these three, legend has it, after stumbling onstage drunk and sitting in with the Ronstadt band at a performance in Disneyland.

In 1971, the four took up an outstanding offer from producer David Geffen and formed the Eagles.

Their slickly produced, self-titled debut was immediately successful, and the successful albums just kept coming: Desperado, On the Border, One of These Nights, Hotel California. Meisner contributed at least one song to every record, but was so shy that during live shows, other band members had to beg him to stand in the spotlight to sing his hit single "Take It to the Limit."

Meisner hasn't played with the Eagles since 1977, when the stress of touring led him to leave the group. He was replaced by Poco bassist Timothy B. Schmit for the Eagles' final two recordings. From 1978 to 1982, Meisner contributed to the soundtrack of the film FM and released three solo albums of radio-friendly rock songs and ballads, a few of which cracked the Top 40. Since that time he has played on records by many artists, among them They Might Be Giants, Rick Nelson, Poco (again), and even the little-known country band Black Tie. He still plays publicly, but keeps his world deliberately low-key, devoting himself to music and family.

And since 1988, courtesy of Lewis Peter Morgan, Randy Meisner has also been living it up across California and Nevada.

In October 1990, 29-year-old Anna Dennis slept with a man she thought was Randy Meisner, fell in love, and over the course of two weeks paid his way as they traveled all over Southern California and Las Vegas, running up nearly $3,000 in charges on her American Express card. Then Buddy Morgan dumped her cold.

It's a pathetic tale that is all the more so because it has been repeated, with slight variations, so many times since.

Back then, Anna was living in West Hollywood; one night while she was having a drink at the bar of the swank Ma Maison Sofitel Hotel outside Beverly Hills, she met a ponytailed man in his mid-40s who told her he was Randy Meisner. He said the band was in the area recording a new album in preparation for a tour. He asked her out for drinks and dinner -- and then asked her to go with him to San Diego for the weekend, where he was doing some recording work with frequent Eagles collaborator J.D. Souther.

She rented a car, and according to police records, the next two weeks were a whirlwind of socializing, shopping sprees for clothing and jewelry, and gambling in Las Vegas. Casino dealers and pit bosses greeted Anna's companion as "Buddy," but he explained to her this was a different name he used for security reasons.

During this odyssey, Anna Dennis learned many details about the man she thought was Randy Meisner. Whether one applied these details to Meisner or Morgan, they were all lies:

He told her he had received a degree in industrial engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology (Meisner never studied there; Morgan briefly attended in the '60s but didn't graduate).

Supposedly he held a master's degree in finance from Pepperdine (neither man ever enrolled).

He grew up on a ranch outside Dallas; had parents who both died of cancer in the same month and a twin sister who was a flight attendant; kept a house in Malibu that had just been painted; and owned a German shepherd named Tasha, currently pregnant.

Patently, ridiculously false, all of it.
But Anna Dennis believed everything. To her, he was the guy who sang the hit song "Take It to the Limit." And when he introduced her around the casinos as his girlfriend, she believed that, too.

After they returned from the Vegas spree, Morgan called her, explaining that he had just placed a bet on a football game and the payoff would be more than $4,000, enough to cover all her credit card charges, plus her monthly student-loan payment. But then he said he had to leave immediately for New York, to complain to RCA Records that the Eagles were getting cheated in regard to their international sales. (The Eagles have never recorded for RCA.)

He mentioned another reason for the New York trip: He would be appearing on David Letterman's TV show, to plug the upcoming Eagles album. Anna Dennis gave the man she thought was Randy Meisner a ride to the Delta terminal at the Los Angeles airport, and loaned him another $20 he'd requested (supposedly for shuttles).

She never saw him again.
Less than a year later, in August 1991, Christine Nestle met Buddy Morgan on a Greyhound bus headed toward Eugene, Ore. She was 21, and had just returned from a post-college summer vacation in Europe. Morgan got on the bus at Portland, carrying a guitar and wearing an eagle pendant around his neck. At stopovers, they struck up a conversation, and he bought her lunch. Soon, he mentioned that he was Randy Meisner, but Christine was so young she had never heard of the Eagles, who were most famous before she entered elementary school. He invited her to come to Las Vegas with him. She told him that she had to see her family first; that maybe she'd come later.

The entire encounter struck her as peculiar, even then.
During the drive, he'd asked her, "What do you do best?"
"I spend money," she'd answered.
"Well, I make it," he'd smiled.

But it didn't make sense: If he was Randy Meisner, and he was so good at making money, why was he traveling by Greyhound bus?

"It's the easiest way to travel," Morgan told her. "People don't recognize me when you're taking the bus."

So she rationalized it away. Maybe it did make sense, as a way to avoid the crowds. Besides, stars do unusual things.

They parted ways in Eugene. But she kept thinking about this Randy Meisner person. He had sent her a postcard from the Stardust casino in Las Vegas. She looked at the "Randy" signature. It would be fun to see him again.

Six months or so later, Christine learned that Randy Meisner was playing at a cafe in San Diego. She drove down to catch the show. When he was introduced and came out onstage, something was ... definitely wrong.

"That's not him!" she thought. "This can't be -- everybody should know him, and know who he is."

At her table, she crafted a note that described the meeting on the Grey-hound bus.

"You invited me to Vegas," she wrote. "I just wanted to come by and say hi, and see what you were up to."

The note was passed to Meisner -- the real Randy Meisner -- and Christine was allowed backstage. Standing with his wife and a few band members, Meisner calmly and politely explained that this had been going on with all sorts of women, especially women with a lot of money.

"How much money does he owe you?" Meisner asked.
Christine was one of the lucky few who didn't get taken for anything.
Susan Calhun accepted an offer to go to Las Vegas with someone she thought was Randy Meisner. The jaunt had an ending that was almost as strange as one of Morgan's lies.

Sometime in the early '90s -- Calhun can't remember the precise date -- she and some old friends from high school flew from Houston to Vegas for a weekend of fun. They met Morgan on the plane, traveling by himself. His Meisner impersonation was convincing enough that Susan agreed to meet him later in the evening to go gambling. According to Susan, he had lost everything, and had to borrow money from her for a plane ticket home.

But there was something attractive about him. Susan returned to Vegas with him a few weeks later, and they spent the weekend together. She says that when they arrived back at her Houston apartment, her ex-boyfriend was on the steps.

"I hadn't seen him in a year-and-a-half," she recalls, "but he got drunk one night and decided to wait up for me. They got in a fight. We had to call the police. Hell of a night to wait up, right?"

Like several of the women who fell for Morgan, Susan felt suspicious enough to do a little sleuthing into the life of Mr. Meisner. She discovered Randy Meisner was performing in a small theater in Houston. After the show she talked to security staff, and was able to meet with the real Meisner and his band at a hotel bar.

"He was just kind of shocked that someone would be impersonating him," she says in a soft Texas twang. "Because he's such a kind, quiet, shy person, not anything like the one that was impersonating him. Just totally the opposite. It was like, this is the real person, so who in the hell is this other guy? And where did he come from?

"I keep wondering when it's gonna appear on American Journal."
As more women contacted the Eagles' management to report encounters with the bogus Meisner, staffers often had difficulty convincing callers they did not actually meet the real person. Although the women were told they couldn't have met Meisner -- that he couldn't have been in the city where they supposedly encountered him, because he was definitely, provably in another city at that time -- most of them flat-out refused to accept the explanation. The typical response -- "No, see, you don't understand!" -- was so common it became a joke around the office.

The voices of Lewis Peter "Buddy" Morgan's female victims resonate with unspoken humiliation. The tones of their speech seem to ask questions they don't necessarily put into words, but undoubtedly have asked themselves: How could I let my self-esteem plummet so low as to go to bed with some guy twice my age, just because he had a hit song 20 years ago? Was I so eager to do it that I even loaned him money?

There is one creepy question, however, that most of the women do get around to asking out loud: How many other women were involved? The only single person who could know the answer to that question has probably forgotten, because each of these women represents only a small sliver of a life that has involved decades of grifting across the country.

Lewis Peter Morgan has told very little of his personal history to police. He was born in Atlanta. His rap sheet indicates he was arrested for fraud as far back as 1963, the year he probably finished high school. According to court documents, he is not mentally ill and does not show evidence of alcohol abuse. His last job in San Francisco, as listed in court records, was as a part-time petition passer, but that was three years ago. He is divorced -- court records do not list the name of his ex-wife, or where the action occurred -- homeless, and has no known relatives.

Attempts to follow up clues about Morgan's early history all seem to peter out, or run up against walls of bureaucracy. He did attend Georgia Tech in 1963 and 1964, but the university refuses to release further information. News databases, court records, and police files all fail to turn up any details that help explain who Lewis Peter Morgan might have been, before he was Randy Meisner.

Morgan has admitted one fact: He continued the Meisner scam to support his gambling habit, a habit that kept him in the western U.S., in close proximity to gambling-friendly Nevada.

Janis Isbell has been dealing cards in Reno casinos for 11 years. Sometime in the early 1990s -- she thinks it was either '93 or '94 -- she remembers meeting Morgan at her table at the Circus Circus. He played only blackjack, $5 to $25 maximum; he wasn't a high roller by any means. Morgan dropped lots of names in the music business, and told her he was Meisner, and that he was in the Eagles. But that was nothing unusual. Gambling attracts many kinds of celebrities. He appeared to be tight with several casinos -- the Circus Circus, the Flamingo, Harrah's, the Peppermill. He had VIP preferred customer cards for each casino, printed with Meisner's name.

"He was doing a very convincing job," says Isbell. "He had casino pit bosses, managers, convinced that he was Randy Meisner. He was well known and well liked. Everybody was greeting him by name."

Morgan had obviously done his homework on Meisner, the Eagles, and Meisner's previous band, Poco. He rattled off the names of band members and albums, who played on which songs.

Isbell and Morgan struck up a friendship, and went out to lunch a couple of times. But Isbell found his story more and more unlikely. Most celebrities had a bodyguard. This guy was always alone. And he never seemed to be carrying musical equipment.

Over a hamburger, he confessed to Isbell that he didn't have any money; he claimed he'd been robbed at a casino. She bought him a winter jacket, and loaned him some cash. But one day, when he didn't call when he said he would, she decided to find out what was going on. She called up record companies and left messages for Randy Meisner.

Eventually Meisner returned her call, and she remembers his first words: "What happened this time?"

Isbell spread the word to the pit bosses that this guy was an impostor. Local police told her that it was going to be difficult to do anything about him, that they needed Randy Meisner to be present to arrest the guy. Besides, nobody knew his real name, and they had no photos of him.

And then Morgan stopped showing up at Reno casinos. He moved on to something else.

In April 1994, Don Henley, Joe Walsh, and the rest of the Eagles walked out to greet a cheering audience packed into a Burbank sound stage. It was the first time they had played in public in 14 years. The concert of old hits and a handful of new songs was aired on MTV that October. An accompanying album, Hell Freezes Over, was released the following month. The so-called "Resumption" tour took the band all over the world.

Because he was from a previous incarnation of the band, Randy Meisner was not part of the album or tour.

Even so, for the next four years, Morgan used the Hell Freezes Over tour as his opportunity to fleece the music equipment industry of everything from amplifiers and guitars and strings and cases to clothing and sporting goods.

Brian Moore Guitars had been in business only two years, but the firm, based in Brewster, N.Y., was already getting a solid reputation. Its instruments were beautiful custom creations, priced from $2,000 to $4,000 apiece. Back then, in 1995, it had few celebrity endorsers. And either by design or luck, Morgan's approach played right into the company's deepest promotional needs, says company sales rep Susie Cummings, who was the first to take his call.

"I remember him saying, 'Well, I'm the guy who sang "Take It to the Limit." ' We were like, 'Oh, yeah, cool!' Honestly, I had forgotten about it, until he mentioned it. And I think he was insulted that I hadn't heard of him," Cummings says. "So he was like, 'Oh, well, have you heard of the Eagles?'

"Like, 'You dumb bitch!' "
Morgan also spoke with Patrick Cummings, Susie's husband, and president of Brian Moore.

"We were struggling to try and find an A-level artist," explains Patrick. "Eddie Van Halen, the real big guitar heroes, they want a $100,000 retainer, they want royalties on sales. So we say, 'Hell, let's get a whole roster of B-level artists.' So here we are, in the process of trying to do that, and somebody goes, 'It's the guy from the Eagles! And the Eagles are gonna do this big tour again with Joe Walsh! Holy shit!'

"So I get on the telephone, and he knows the whole rap. He's as smooth as you would never believe. He was name-dropping profusely: 'Oh yeah, man, we did a concert with James Taylor. I'm down the road from Joe Walsh right now. We're gonna be doing rehearsals.' "

Listening to Morgan's pitch, Patrick Cummings became more and more excited. He had just managed to get a Brian Moore in the hands of a guitarist for the Allman Brothers. And now this! Morgan said he wanted a six-string MC/1 guitar -- a top-of-the-line model, then priced at $2,695 -- and gave Cummings his list of custom requests about the guitar's finish, electronics, and pickups. When Morgan began bad-mouthing a competitor's guitar, Cummings was ecstatic.

"He's pressing all the buttons. Strategically amazing. I go out, I run into the shop, and I say, 'Look, we got an opportunity to get the guitar onstage with the Eagles! Drop that, finish this guitar!' "

Cummings rushed the guitar to a hotel in Los Angeles. He called to confirm the delivery. A bad taste developed in his mouth.

"It was just gone, into a black hole. I remember thinking, 'Well, he got me.' "

Morgan picked up the Brian Moore guitar from the hotel and immediately took it to Maytan Music, an instrument store in Reno. Claiming he was Randy Meisner, who was working as a representative for Brian Moore guitars, Morgan made his pitch: If the store bought the guitar from him, he would set up Maytan to be a permanent Brian Moore retail outlet.

The pitch had all the familiar baroque trappings: mad levels of name-dropping; guitar picks printed with Meisner's name. The store's staff was star-struck. This wasn't another casino guitarist -- this was the Eagles!

Maytan manager Marianne Dodd says she wasn't familiar with the Eagles, but store employees examined an old album cover, and assured her Morgan was definitely Meisner. And the Brian Moore instrument was the nicest guitar they'd ever seen. Dodd wrote out two checks, totaling $3,200. Morgan left the guitar, had the checks cashed, and vanished.

Other companies fell for the scam, shipping free merchandise to Morgan/Meisner at a long string of hotels. In San Francisco, Morgan used the Westin St. Francis, the Sheraton Palace, and the Milano; in Sacramento he used the Hyatt.

Some companies are too ashamed to talk about their losses, but others, such as SKB, an Orange, Calif., instrument case manufacturer that got burned for $200 worth of products, just laugh off their encounters with the ersatz Meisner.

"We get a lot of calls from guys who were, like, the lead singer in Rare Earth," says SKB co-owner Steve Kottman, laughing. "They always have to say who they were, because you'll never know who they are unless they tell you. It'd be more believable if he had said [Eagles vocalist/guitarist] Glenn Frey, because we knew that Randy Meisner wasn't going on the tour. I remember saying to Dave, 'Man, I can't believe this. I guess he must have made up with them.' "

"We just kind of figured they were gonna let him get onstage and sing 'Take It to the Limit' and then go back to where he came from," says Kottman's partner, Dave Sanderson.

Morgan spent a full month chatting on the phone with representatives of GMP (Gary Moline Precision Products), a custom guitar manufacturer in Southern California, and eventually convinced the company to ship him two guitars, each worth more than $2,000. Morgan specifically requested serial numbers containing the initials "RM" because, he told them, that would personalize the instruments in case they were stolen. A week after he picked them up, he called GMP to say how happy he was. That was the last they heard of him.

On Nov. 22, 1995, Morgan wandered the main floor of Sherman Clay Pianos, on Mission Street between Second and Third streets. He had already stopped in a few times previously, with a young woman on his arm, sniffing around about whether he might obtain some keyboards. As in for free. A saleswoman and her songwriting son were certainly excited: Randy Meisner said he might buy some of the kid's songs for his next record!

No keyboards were forthcoming for the pseudo-Meisner, but in what seemed to be inexplicable behavior, Morgan returned to the store, and started chatting with sales manager Jerry Phillips, talking in a motormouth stream about the Eagles, the music business, and his reunion with the band Poco.

The phone rang in the grand piano showroom. A representative from Modulus Graphite, a high-end San Francisco guitar company located five blocks away, was returning Meisner's call. In front of the piano store staff, Morgan took the phone, explained that he had a performance tonight in the city -- a Shriners benefit for children -- and talked shop, dropping names from the music industry. As the conversation continued, Morgan asked if he could borrow a guitar for the evening, specifically a Quantum 5 five-string bass, a $2,000 instrument.

Modulus didn't see anything suspicious about the request. Artists often asked to borrow instruments while in town; lending them made for good public relations. Jane McNall, the company's artist liaison, got in her car and drove the bass to Sherman Clay Pianos. Morgan signed Meisner's name to the release form, and McNall left the guitar. Then Morgan asked the store if he could leave the bass there for the afternoon.

A few hours later, Morgan returned and sat in Phillips' office for what would prove to be one of the more bizarre conversations in the 125-year history of Sherman Clay Pianos. Phillips listened in fascination. The store occasionally got celebrity customers, but it wasn't every day they wanted to hang around and chew the fat.

Appearing to let down his professional guard, the counterfeit Meisner talked about how odd it was being a well-known musician, how people seemed to overreact to the fame. Women, he said, often ignored him until they saw him perform onstage. Then something happened; a subtle shift took place in their minds, and they all wanted him. He listed some of the famous women he'd slept with, mentioning, for emphasis, oral sex he'd received from one particularly famous Hollywood actress.

When Morgan found out that Phillips was interested in sailboats, he chatted at length about his own, a beautiful Swan model berthed in Sausalito, and invited Phillips to come sailing with him the next weekend. He talked about the Eagles' reunion tour, and their new album, and apologized for the concert's steep ticket price -- $115.

At some point Phillips glanced across his office at the Modulus guitar, still sitting in the corner. He remarked that he didn't know Meisner played bass. Morgan perked up, announcing, "I'm one of the best bass players in the world." He took the guitar out of its case, noodled briefly on the strings, and quickly put it away again.

"He couldn't play worth shit," remembers Phillips. "I thought, 'Maybe he's been drinking.' "

Morgan chatted a bit more, then bade his goodbyes and walked out with his guitar, leaving Phillips to ponder his odd afternoon with Randy Meisner.

But Morgan was not done. After Thanksgiving, he called McNall at Modulus, gushing over the new bass.

"Everyone loves it!" he told her. "I want to get a six-string guitar. Do you have anything?"

He arranged to meet her over the holiday weekend. McNall opened up the Modulus office, and let Morgan sign for two more guitars. She offered to give him a ride, and he said he was staying at the Sheraton Palace Hotel. During the drive through the city, she started to get a weird feeling. Although the Palace staff greeted "Meisner" by name at the door, something didn't seem right.

The following Monday, McNall dialed all the phone and pager numbers Morgan had left with her. There was no answer at any of them. She was starting to panic. Did she just give a total stranger $8,000 worth of guitars? She called the office of Irving Azoff, who has managed the Eagles since the mid-'70s. Azoff's secretary listened to McNall's story, and confirmed the worst. Yes, it had happened, and it had been happening for years.

Although police eliminated a handful of suspects, the investigation of the Randy Meisner impostor lost momentum. Detectives had managed to turn up a few photos of Morgan, but nobody knew his name. Police circulated fliers at music stores and trade shows, but no further leads surfaced.

The case sat inactive for nearly a year. Actually, Morgan might still be acting as Randy Meisner today, had it not been for an East Bay musical technician -- a roadie -- named Michael Levy.

While browsing San Francisco pawnshops, Levy came across a diamond in the rough -- a beautiful mint-condition GMP five-string bass guitar, with a quilted maple body with hand-oiled finish, and abalone-shell diamond-shaped inlays on the fretboard. He bought it, took it home, then thought he'd better treat this guitar with kid gloves. He phoned GMP in mid-1997 with technical questions, and described his guitar.

The company's technician paused, and asked Levy if he could remove a plate on the guitar and read the serial number out loud. It contained the "RM" that stood for Randy Meisner. GMP immediately called the police.

Levy located the other stolen GMP guitar in a nearby pawnshop. Morgan had pawned the instruments for $500 apiece -- and made three amazing bungles: He had signed his real name to the sales receipts, given an address, and left a fingerprint. Now police had enough evidence for an arrest; they just needed to find him. For the rest of 1997, fliers circulated through the music industry, and notices were posted on the Internet.

On Jan. 12, the Eagles were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland. All present and former members of the band were honored, including Randy Meisner, and for the first time ever, all seven played together.

A little more than a month later, on Feb. 18, police followed up an anonymous tip and paid an afternoon visit to the Oaks Club card room in Emeryville. Sitting in front of his chips at Table 11 was Buddy Morgan. Officers arrested him quietly. He told them he hadn't defrauded anyone for two years, but receipts from music stores and casinos were found in his possession. All bore the name Randy Meisner.

After Morgan's capture, Meisner gave a short statement to the press, saying simply, "I'm just so happy that they finally caught him. Hopefully, he'll learn his lesson and quit."

The Eagles' publicist initially suggested the ex-Eagle might want to discuss the case for this article. But, true to lifelong form, Randy Meisner eventually decided to stay in the background.

Prisoners in orange jumpsuits pace the floor of the jail like cats in a zoo. A few pass by Lewis Peter Morgan, and nod hello. But not many. On the inside, fraud is a white-collar crime, something pussies do. Morgan's restless. He thinks he's been mistreated. When he was busted, he says, the arresting officers played the old game of good cop/bad cop with him. And they actually handcuffed him. He mimes the act of getting cuffed, as if it's the most insane thing that could ever happen to someone accused of a felony crime.

He ran his scams in California and Las Vegas, Morgan says, but he never did anything in Reno. When asked whether he once claimed to own a boat, he reacts with a quick laugh. Yeah, that was a good one.

He doesn't want to talk about himself, though. Other than to say that he's from Atlanta, and that he moved to California as a young man, and that he's worked in sales and marketing, Morgan is tight-lipped and surly.

But he's keenly interested in reading about himself. He wants to see the articles about his arrest, wants to know who's been talking about him.

He is evasive and contradictory. One minute he's boasting that he's been doing what he was convicted of doing for 20 years, all over the world. And the scam was ridiculously easy. He didn't need any identification or other proof -- he just said he was Randy Meisner.

The next minute he's contrite, meek. He just wants to go in, serve the time, and get out. He's tired of living his life like this; he wants to put it behind him and start over.

And then he answers as many questions as he'll probably ever answer about being a long-term Eagles impostor. No, he says, he doesn't know how to play or read music. He's never seen the Eagles in concert, nor was he ever a fan.

Then why pick them?
He shrugs. "Heard 'em on the radio."
Why Randy Meisner?
"No reason."
What do you know about him?
"I heard he's a nice guy." Morgan pauses.

"He's a partier. He's got a reputation. Life in the fast lane." His tone suddenly grows accusatory, as if his own actions pale in comparison. He leans in and makes an extraordinary statement:

"He's an uneducated man."
And that condescending judgment is the last thing Lewis Peter "Buddy" Morgan would like to offer about the 10 years he spent living the life of Randy Meisner.

About The Author

Jack Boulware

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