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The Fanzine Years

From LOCA Magazine:

 

FARFEL SPEAKS

by

Mark Fletcher

 

Today they are but a dim memory to the millions of then-children who worshipped at the shrine of Saturday morning television. Between 1953 and 1965, Danny O’Day and his lovable dog Farfel were synonymous with Nestle’s Quik, until a political misstep tore them from the public eye and, ultimately, each other. O’Day’s whereabouts are unknown, even to his former partner. Farfel, however, has recently emerged from decades of obscurity. A resident of the Motion Picture and Television Country Home and Hospital since the early 1990s, Farfel is devoting his final years to writing his memoirs. He made an extremely rare public appearance in late February at the Museum of Broadcasting for an event honoring TV’s pioneers of chocolate milk advertising. I caught up with Farfel while he was reminiscing with former Yoo-Hoo spokesman and baseball great Yogi Berra.

FARFEL: Can you believe this yutz is quoted more often than Dorothy Parker and Oscar Levant put together? Swear to God, there’s no justice in the world.

BERRA: Screw off, mutt. See you at Musso and Franks.

FARFEL: Later, goomba! So anyway, kid, what’s on your mind?

LOCA: I’d really like to know what exactly happened to you and Danny O’Day back in ’65? You disappeared so suddenly.

F: First of all, Danny O’Day was not one of the best minds of his generation. When the money started rolling in from Nestle, he got this idea that he was a member of the upper crust. So he gets chummy with the Hollywood Right—Bill Frawley, Walter Brennan, Louella Parsons and that whole crowd—a bunch of closet homos if you ask me. Anyhow, 1964 rolls around and Danny comes out for Goldwater. Big deal, right? It’s a free country. Or so we’re led to believe. Seems (President) Johnson had some dirt on our manager Jimmy Nelson, who got us the Nestle contract. Nothing major, but that doesn’t matter ’cause you don’t fuck with LBJ. Period. Remember Eartha Kitt? Anyhow, me and Jimmy are telling Danny to keep his opinions to himself, but Danny gets all cocky, telling anybody who would listen how sorry Johnson’s gonna be after Goldwater wins the election. So guess what? Johnson wins by a landslide, he blows the whistle on Jimmy and Nestle drops us like the proverbial sack of manure.

Next Danny latches onto Ronald Reagan, the latest poster boy for the hard right. Reagan wants Danny and me to do a series of ads to further his political career. I didn’t want any part of it. I had friends who had been blacklisted, for chrissakes. And I tell this to Danny. Danny tells me to go to hell, he doesn’t need me, “Ron” is gonna fix everything. So farewell and fuck you. It was just as well. Those two barely had half a brain between them.

So Reagan has the brilliant idea of teaming Danny with Bonzo the ape. He books them at a Republican fundraiser where he’s delivering the keynote address. Bonzo must’ve been a Democrat ’cause the minute Reagan opens his mouth the ape takes a dump and heaves it right at him. Danny goes five shades of green and pukes all over Nancy. I just about pissed myself when I saw it in the papers. But Reagan wasn’t called “Teflon Ron” for nothing. A year and a half later he ran for governor and won. He didn’t want any losers stinking up his campaign and cut Danny loose right after the Bonzo incident.  

I guess Danny had a thing for closet homos, ’cause early in ’66 I get a tip from Ben Bradlee at the Washington Post that (Danny) is sucking up to J. Edgar Hoover. Hoover’s out to get Martin Luther King, a personal friend of mine, and Danny convinces him that, with a little “persuasion” from the Bureau, I’d be willing to drop a dime. Well I wasn’t about to rat out Martin, but Hoover was like a Mob boss without the legal restrictions. My only option was to go underground. Danny disappeared a short time later, and my guess is Hoover had something to do with it. 

L: How did you make a living during this period?

F: One of the perks of the Nestle gig was the free stuff. They gave me cases of Quik, Crunch bars, instant coffee—whatever they made I got by the truckload. What they were thinking I can’t say. That stuff is poison to dogs. So I worked out a deal with a few of the neighborhood grocers. If it hadn’t been for Danny and Ms. Hoover, I could’ve retired on that money. Instead it had to support me when there wasn’t any work, which had become most of the time. I got turned down by Paul Winchell, Jim Henson, Fred Goddamn Rogers even. They all had been on Hoover’s shit list and didn’t want any more trouble. I changed my name to Kreplach, got a nose job, but it didn’t really fool anybody. Kids still stopped me on the street and asked for my autograph.

L: So what did you do?

F: I accepted an invitation to one of (Ken) Kesey’s “acid tests” up north. It turned out to be a good move. Everybody there was too fucked up to know or care who I used to be. My anonymity was pretty much guaranteed when I figured out that hippies didn’t spay their pets. By the Summer of Love there were so many little Farfels running around the Haight I was a regular needle in a haystack. Within a year, though, there were so many needles around the Haight I thought it could do with one less Farfel.

When I got back to L.A. I found out about (the M.L. King assassination). I took it pretty hard, but the feds would finally get off my ass. At least that’s what I assumed. One day in June I’m catching a matinee at the Silent Movie on Fairfax—some piece of corn with Janet Gaynor and Charlie Farrell. Anyhow, this guy in the seat behind me taps me on the shoulder and asks if my name is Farfel. I got a bad feeling about this but I keep my cool. I tell him my name is Kreplach and reach for my wallet to prove it. The son-of-a-bitch pulls a gun on me, his partner cuffs me and they drag me into a car outside. We head south on Fairfax. The first guy sits in the back with me while the other one drives. He tells me they’ve been on my trail for months. I say, “You got King. What do you need me for?”

He comes back with, “That was a real shame about Dr. King. It’s a shame about Senator Kennedy, too.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” I ask him. “What happened to Bobby?”

“I have no idea what you’re talking about, Mr. Farfel. The senator is just fine.”

This was getting weird. Then he offers me a deal: If I go to work for the Bureau, they’ll drop the charges against me. Charges!? I hadn’t broken any laws, at least anything worthy of a federal case. The guy says they have a big file on me and there’s gotta be something in it they can use. He says I have 24 hours to make up my mind. I tell him he doesn’t scare me and the Bureau can go piss up a rope.  All he says is they’ll be in touch this time tomorrow. Or he would, anyway. I still wonder if the guy at the wheel wasn’t a deaf mute.

The next morning it’s all over the news that Bobby Kennedy was shot at the Ambassador (Hotel). I run to the bathroom and lose my last four meals. I had no choice but to play footsie with these jerks or take a bullet in the head like Martin and Bobby.

So I go to work for the FBI as—you’re not gonna believe this—one of Hoover’s staffers. As far as he knew I could’ve been Rin Tin Tin. He didn’t have a clue that I was the dog his agents had been after for the last two years. For that matter, he didn’t have a clue about much of anything. Just went off on these tirades about the “coloreds” and the commies. Then he’d get this violent twitch. Gave me the creeps. That and the way he would invite small boys into his office.

One day in ’72 Hoover’s new assistant tells me I need a vacation starting immediately. He hands me a one-way ticket to Hawaii and says he’ll call me if he needs me. The whole thing seemed more than a little strange, but I learned not to ask too many questions. I just packed a bag and went to Honolulu. A week or so later I hear that J. Edgar’s been promoted to chasing commies in Hell—know what I mean? I guess sometimes the system works.

The Bureau gave me a nice, fat severance package and sent me on my way. They didn’t offer an explanation and I didn’t ask for one. There was a backlash during the Reagan years and a lot of those agents got “purged,” so I doubt I or anyone else will ever know what really happened. Anyhow, I thought I should get out of the country just to be safe.

L: Where did you end up?

F: You know how in some foreign countries certain American celebrities are inexplicably popular, like France with Jerry Lewis and Germany with David Hasselhoff? Well, I’m huge in Luxembourg. Okay, I know what you’re thinking, but believe me, it felt good to be the big fish—even in that tiny pond—after being a hunk of bait for so long.

Besides, the steady income gave me the opportunity to further my education. Neuroscience was my favorite subject. You know, the way the brain and the nervous system work? I couldn’t learn enough about it. Comes in handy now and again.

L: What brought you back to California?

F: Twenty years in Luxembourg. Need I say more? Okay, I’ll say more. There’s a DJ out here who’s been around forever. He’s like 100 years old and has a Beatle cut—know who I mean? Roger or Rodney Something. In this town he’s considered an institution; anywhere else he’d be living in one. That could’ve been me if I didn’t get out of Luxembourg.

That was part of it, anyway.  I think the main reason I left was that I was getting on in years and had some unfinished business in the States.

L: Unfinished business?

F: I got over being the angry young dog and wanted to make amends with some old political adversaries. Like when I visited Ronald Reagan back in ’93. We had a real nice visit—talked about Danny, stuff like that.

L: That wasn’t long before he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.

F: Yeah, what a dirty, rotten shame that was! His memory was sharp as a tack when I met him.

Another guy I really hit it off with was Rush Limbaugh. We met a couple of years ago when I was in New York. He came to my hotel room and had a few drinks. He got kind of wasted. I don’t think he remembered much the next morning.

L: That was before he lost his hearing?

F: Rush lost his hearing? Gee whiz, that’s just too awful. That guy could practically hear a fly sneeze. Wow, look at the time! I gotta run, kid.

L: Sure, I understand. Just one more thing: Is there anything you’d like to say to your loyal fans?

F: You bet I do. Folks, this is a great country, and I mean to help keep it that way—BY ANY MEANS NECESSARY!

 

 


SOMETHING MOVING


by Mark Fletcher

To be alive is to know the pain, the sometimes horrible agony of The Dark One dwelling within all of us. It makes its presence known to us insidiously: a gradual erosion of our sense of well being, spawning a terrible compulsion that neither cannot nor will not be denied. The Dark One must be appeased. It must be released from its prison within us, imposed on a world that despises it, yet is resigned to its existence, as one is resigned to the inevitability of death.

The Dark One breaks free in a variety of ways, sometimes with a fierce roar, other times in virtual silence, and all possible combinations thereof. Social mores dictate that this be a private ordeal, though some insist on sharing it with the world. We must commend their honesty and courage, if not their lack of personal dignity. To be alone, away from all other living creatures as we disassociate ourselves with this monstrosity—a more ideal situation could not exist.

Much can be said for life without The Dark One: the time it demands could be put to better use, moments of intimacy might not be spoiled, deforestation wouldn’t be such a huge issue. Yet The Dark One is intrinsic to the history of civilization. Industries have been built on it; government institutions have been created to manage it; it is a soldier in the fight against illiteracy, which brings to mind the children’s primer Everybody Does The Dark One. It is as much a part of us as the crust that forms in our nostrils, as woven into the fabric of our lives as art, music and ghetto slang. It would be our destiny were we still in the food chain!

Only with the departure of The Dark One do we truly understand the meaning of "joy", "contentment" and "peace of mind". It will ultimately return, but until then we can know a renewed optimism and self-assurance unparalleled by any other life experience.

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