Will Novak was sitting in front of his computer Jan. 7 when an email flashed across the screen, advising him that his attention was urgently needed. The subject? Angelo’s bachelor party. The 35-year-old did not, however, know anyone named Angelo.
“I was like, ‘This is weird,’ ” Novak told The Washington Post. “What if it’s a phishing scam?”
On a whim, he decided to open it anyway. The email contained an invitation to an ’80s-themed ski weekend at Vermont’s Okemo Mountain Resort this month.
Novak almost deleted the note but impulsively decided to reply with a joke instead. One week later, that response has inspired accolades from a U.S. senator, a crowdfunding campaign that has raised thousands of dollars, offers of free Hawaiian shirts and enough talk of a movie that Novak has had to consider who would play him in the film version of his life.
It all started with an email from Angelo’s younger brother, Devin, asking attendees to contribute $150 toward the cost of beer, snacks, commemorative T-shirts and bunks at the chalet — and to bring “ridiculous awesome get-ups” for skiing. Novak, who lives in Phoenix and works in the economic development department for the city of Mesa, Ariz., quickly realized that the email had been intended for another William Novak with a similar email address. But the party sounded like fun. He decided to write back anyway.
“All, I do not know who Angelo is,” he typed. “I am a Will Novak who lives in Arizona. Vermont seems like a very far way for me to travel for the bachelor party of a guy I’ve never met. That being said: [expletive] count me in! From the contents of this email, Angelo sounds tremendous and I want to help send him off in style. I hope his bride [or groom] to be, is awesome.”
Novak, an Arizona native and self-proclaimed “desert rat,” warned his hosts that he had only been skiing once in his life, and it hadn’t gone particularly well. But he was happy to bring his Nintendo Switch along for games back at the cabin — or Sudoku puzzles, if that was more Angelo’s style. Wrapping up the email, he had just two questions. What airport should he plan to fly into? And was there any way to get a discount on the $150, given that he was flying across the country for someone he had never met?
“If that’s not amenable, I totally get it,” he wrote. “I want to be there and support my man Angelo.”
Novak didn’t expect to hear from Devin and the rest of Angelo’s bachelor party crew again. “I was just trying to make these strangers laugh,” he told The Post. But the next day, the men wrote back, insisting that he fly to Vermont and join in their festivities.
“If you think we are kidding we are not,” the message said. “You better be coming, as we all are all dying to meet you. Not only will this be a weekend Angelo will not forget it will be one you surely will not forget as well.”
Angelo would find the situation hilarious, his friends all agreed. “I think this might be the best present he ever receives,” the other William Novak, a childhood friend of Angelo’s, would later tell KSAZ in a Skype interview from his home in Brooklyn.
No need to worry about bringing any video games, the men wrote, but Angelo did love Sudoku puzzles. As for the cost, they would figure something out. All they asked was that he send over a link to his Facebook page so that they could vet him first — they were “crazy but not stupid,” they wrote.
Back in Phoenix, Novak surveyed his Facebook friends: Should he leave his wife and 10-month-old daughter behind to fly to the other side of the country for a complete stranger’s bachelor party?
The consensus was an unequivocal yes. “On your deathbed, you DON’T want to mumble, ‘[Expletive,] I should have gone to Angelo’s party,' " one friend wrote. “It’s a once in a lifetime offer that won’t happen again. Take the hint: God wants you there.” Others chimed in with promises to babysit while he was gone.
His wife was fine with it — in fact, she was happy to have him out of her hair, Novak said. He was in. But the price of plane tickets had unexpectedly doubled overnight, and booking a spontaneous trip to Vermont wasn’t exactly in the budget. Calculating that attending the bachelor party weekend would cost him $750, Novak set up a GoFundMe page on Wednesday and promised to document the adventure on his Instagram and Twitter accounts if he raised enough money to pay for the trip.
He posted the link on Facebook before heading to dinner. By the time he was done eating, the fundraiser — “Help me go to the bachelor party of a stranger” — had already exceeded its goal.
But it didn’t end there. After Novak shared the unlikely story on Twitter on Thursday, hundreds of people retweeted it, including his congressman, Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.), and Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), who commented that the saga was “worth a read.” Responses began pouring in. A Vermont-based tattoo artist volunteered to give him and Angelo matching tattoos. A Hawaiian shirt company asked to send them matching shirts. A ski instructor at Okemo Valley offered free lessons, which was a relief, Novak said, since he was 14 the last time he went skiing.
As of early Tuesday morning, the GoFundMe campaign had raised almost $2,800, a portion of which appears to have come from complete strangers, Novak said, although for all he knows the donors could be friends of Angelo’s.
“Awesome spirit and sense of adventure,” said one typical comment on the fundraising page. “You’ll have a blast.”
Another donor wrote, “Dude I cannot wait to see what happens next. Please keep us posted.”
Novak freely admits that he has no idea why people keep donating to his fundraiser. “There are much better causes,” he said. “There are sick people, there are people who need to pay for college. This is 100 percent stupid.” Still, he suggested, people want to laugh, and they’re occasionally willing to pay for that entertainment.
Plus, he added, “We live in a fairly depressing news cycle, so it’s nice to have something to break up the monotony.”
Having learned that Angelo and his soon-to-be-wife are expecting a baby, Novak plans to give them all the leftover money from the GoFundMe campaign after he shuts it down at the end of the weekend. He’s also bought them a gift — a diaper cream applicator — and will be delivering several care packages made by his friends and neighbors in Phoenix. One woman, he said, is making a custom Arizona-themed quilt for Angelo’s new baby.
“At this point, if I don’t get invited to be his child’s godfather, I’ll be livid,” he joked.
Angelo, meanwhile, still has no idea that a stranger will be joining his bachelor party. Novak isn’t worried about the potential for an awkwardness, though. “My whole life is awkward,” he explained. “I spent high school playing Dungeons and Dragons.” But just in case anything goes wrong, he’s opted to fly into Boston on Jan. 18 and rent a car at the airport so that he can easily escape.
He’s also been texting with the other William Novak, whom he will meet for the first time in Vermont. “We were joking that we’re going to have a duel,” the Novak from Arizona said.
Plenty of people have suggested that the scenario could be the setup for a movie — “The Hangover” meets “Wedding Crashers” — and if so, Novak imagines that he’ll be played by “the guy that played Napoleon Dynamite.”
“I’m just interested to find out if it’s a comedy or a horror movie,” he said.
Correction: This story has been updated to clarify that the initial party-planning email was sent by the groom’s younger brother, not his friend.
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