Oofty Goofty

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For Waino and Plutano, see Wild Men of Borneo.

Oofty Goofty was the stage name of Leonard ("Leon") Borchardt (born April 26, 1862 in Berlin[1][2]), a sideshow performer, who lived in San Francisco in the late 19th century.

Career[edit]

Author Herbert Asbury wrote that he got the name "Oofty Goofty" from an appearance at a Market Street sideshow, where he was billed as the Wild Man of Borneo. He was said to have been covered over most of his body by a mixture of tar and horsehair, put into a cage and fed raw meat by an attendant. When fed, he would let out a fierce cry of "Oofty goofty!" – hence his stage name.[3]

Goofty's career as a wild man came to an end, after about a week, when he took ill, unable to perspire because of the tar on his skin[citation needed]. Doctors at the city's Receiving Hospital tried for days to remove the tar, but could not do so, presumably because of the horsehair. The tar finally came off after he was doused with tar solvent and left to lie on the hospital's roof.

Afterward, Goofty attempted to gain success through the stage and theater. He played Romeo opposite actress "Big Bertha's" Juliet, but the play proved disastrous. Asbury said that Goofty discovered that he felt no pain as the result of being thrown out of a Barbary Coast saloon onto a hard cobblestone street. Goofty reportedly would tour San Francisco, baseball bat in hand, and invite anyone who would listen to kick him as hard as they could for 5 cents, smack him with a walking stick for 15 cents, or beat him with a baseball bat for 25 cents. Asbury wrote that boxing champion John L. Sullivan ended Goofty's career when he struck him across the back with a billiard cue fracturing three vertebrae, and reported that Goofty walked with a limp the rest of his life and died a few years later.[3]

Popular culture[edit]

  • Oofty Goofty was parodied in the 1941 Frank Morgan film, The Wild Man of Borneo, and in a 1937 Our Gang short film called "The Kid From Borneo."
  • He was referred to in a story by Bill Pronzini, "The Bughouse Caper." [Kurland, Michael (editor) "Sherlock Holmes – The Hidden Years" New York, St. Martin's Minotaur 2004].
  • He was discussed in one of the "Freak Show" episodes of Wild West Tech.
  • As part of a television series showcasing re-enactments of Victorian side show acts, vaudeville stunts and escapology, Jonathan Goodwin staged a tribute to Oofty Goofty by attempting to bring his feats of human endurance to a twenty-first-century television audience. Goodwin asked three separate professional cage fighters to kick, punch, and hit him with a baseball bat, while Goodwin attempted not to react to any of the ensuing pain.

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Oofty-Goofty", January 10, 1897, Houston Daily Post, p. 2
  2. ^ "Odd Characters in Houston (No. 4)", August 10, 1900, Houston Daily Post, p. 8.
  3. ^ a b Herbert Asbury (1933). The Barbary Coast: An Informal History of the San Francisco Underworld. Thunder's Mouth Press. pp. 133–. ISBN 978-1-56025-408-9. Retrieved 31 July 2013. 

External links[edit]