Oofty Goofty

Oofty Goofty
For Waino and Plutano, see Wild Men of Borneo.

Oofty Goofty was the stage name of a sideshow performer who lived in San Francisco in the late 19th century.

Oofty's real name, background, place of birth and death are in some dispute. A mixture of legend and knowledge of him can be found in Herbert Asburys book The Barbary Coast, An Informal History of the San Francisco Underworld, published in 1933. Asbury says that he got the name "Oofty Goofty" from an appearance he had done 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.

Oofty'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. 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 Oofty was doused with tar solvent and left to lie on the hospital's roof.

Afterward, Oofty attempted to gain success through the stage and theater. He got as far as playing Romeo opposite one "Big Bertha's" Juliet, but the play proved disastrous. Asbury said that Oofty discovered after being thrown out of a Barbary Coast saloon onto a hard cobblestone street that he felt no pain. Afterward, he 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 a quarter. Asbury ends his account saying that boxing champion John L. Sullivan ended Oofty's bizarre career when he struck him across the back with Oofty's bat, fracturing three vertebrae. Asbury reports that Oofty walked with a limp the rest of his life and died a few years later.

He was later parodied in popular culture, notably in a 1941 eponymous film and in a 1937 Our Gang short film called "The Kid From Borneo."

He is 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]

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