who was hoofty goofty?

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in barbary coast did hoofty goofty exist?

-- gus piperakis (paputo4gkids@aol.com), December 24, 2001


I think it was Oofty Goofty. He came to SF after the gold rush and, after being kicked/trown out of bars, he discovered he was impervious to pain and bruises.He wante to try acting. He workd at the Bella Union with Big Bertha, they did Romeo and Julliet. He as Romeo, in the opening scene, looked up at fair Julliet and the balcony fell on him. Again, he was injured. He decided to carry a bat and allow anyone to hit him for money. He became quite well-know and John L Sullivan came to towm and everyone wanted to see if the great boxer could injure him. Sullivan did hit him rather forcefully and poor Oofty died from the blow a few days after.

-- Craig Smith (palmedo@aol.com), December 25, 2001.

Actually, the one response via email to the question about the famous SF character, Oofty Goofty, is inaccurate. Like most eccentric characters, the facts about him are rather distorted.

I don't have the source material in front of me at this moment, so I can't elaborate to any degree. However, can tell you he was a deserter from the German army who ended up in SF. (I also know his real name {which I don't have in front of me) - and which all material I've previously seen written about him, suggests that no historian ever discovered what his real name was.) He was also known as "The King of Pain", because of his letting himself be pummeled by Barbary Coasters with a baseball bat and other instruments of force. However, again, stories about this are somewhat inaccurate or twisted. He actually used a pad placed underneath his clothing to soften the blows.

If you need more, I'd have to check the files at home.

Greg LaLonde e-mail: greg_lalo@yahoo.com

-- Greg LaLonde (greg_lalo@yahoo.com), January 02, 2002.

If my memory serves me correctly, there is a chapter on Offty Goofty in one of Samual Dickson's three books on San Francisco history. They are easily available in any library.

-- Myron Gershenson (myrong@juno.com), February 11, 2002.

Yeah, there seem to be several different versions of the Oofty Goofty story. His real named was Joshua Marks and the version I know about is that he was a hustler who was always looking for some way to make a quick buck. So one day he got in a gorilla suit and then stepped in a cage in the middle of Market Street and starting grunting and acting like a gorilla and blurting out over and over again "Oofty, Goofty" acting like a gorilla and that was how he got his name. He tried numerous other ways of hustling money until he came up with the bat and pain system. He padded himself down and then had people take swings at him with the bat. The version of the story I recall regarding the John L. Sullivan incident is that Sullivan took a swing at him but not with his hands, with the bat and that knocked Oofty Goofty out but it did not kill him. The version I read was in the 1920s and was based on a writer who lived in the 1880s. That is a pretty early version. I would not trust any of the newer writers today as I have been personally witness to a historical writer of the 1980s making up things just because it made a good story after I gave the writer all kinds of evidence that his story just wasn't true where he then went ahead and totally disregarded all the evidence I showed him. Too bad I couldn't use a baseball bat on such people who distort history. Now others will use his book as a reference and that's how history gets distorted. All it sometimes takes is one book and one dim-witted author and history is ruined.

-- Harry Murphy (harrymurphy@bigmailbox.net*), February 11, 2002.

your mother smells like fish!!!

-- john smith (smellyperson@angelfire.com), October 09, 2002.

i agree. your mother does smell like fish

-- me (me@hotmail.com), December 08, 2002.


-- mohen (rokfeler592000@yahoo.com), January 03, 2003.

All the previous answers are speculation, as is mine. I found, in my research on him that his last name was Marx. He came from Tennissee to S.F. Covered in tar, he billed himself as The wild man of Bornio and shouted "Oofty Goofty".

In the 1970's, I was hired by the City of San Francisco to play Oofty at the Hyde Street Pier for the summer. The other early S.F. characters were also there. Big Birtha and I did the balcony scene from Romeo and Juliet, I mailed myself to Sacramento in a box,as did the original Oofty and, yes, I did ask tourists to kick me for a dime or hit me with a baseball bat for 50 cents. Before you think me a masochist, I bent over, looked through my legs at the oncoming foot and became adept at dodging the blow. The baseball bat was padded and was only offered to people I knew would play along with the gag. For three months, I got into the character's head and, whether completely true to the original Oofty, I learned to respect his life choice and admire his courage.

-- Dennis Day (ooft45@hotmail.com), April 08, 2004.

The Story of Oofty Goofty So far as journalistic or public knowledge went, Oofty Goofty had no other name than this singular appellation, which he acquired during his first appearance before his San Francisco public, as a wild man in a Market Street freakshow. From crown to heel he was covered with road tar, into which were stuck great quantities of horsehair, lending him a savage and ferocious appearance. He was then installed in a heavy cage, and when a sufficiently large number of people had paid their dimes to gaze upon the wild man recently captured in the jungles of Borneo and brought to San Francisco at enormous expense, large chunks of raw meat were poked between the bars by an attendant. This provender the wild man gobbled ravenously, occasionally growling, shaking the bars, and yelping these fearsome words: "Oofty goofty! Oofty goofty!"

He was, naturally, immediately christened Oofty Goofty, and as such was identified to the day of his death. For a week or so he was a veritable histrionic sensation, the wildest wild man ever exhibited on the Pacific Coast. Then, since he could not perspire through his thick covering of tar and hair, he became ill and was sent to the Receiving Hospital. There physicians vainly tried for several days to remove Oofty Goofty's costume without removing his natural epidermis as well. He was at length liberally doused with a tar solvent and laid out upon the roof of the hospital, where the sun finally did the work.

Thereafter Oofty Goofty eschewed character parts and decided to scale the heights of theatrical fame as a singer and dancer. He obtained a place on the bill at Bottle Koenig's, a Barbary Coast beer hall which also offered a low variety entertainment. There he danced once and sang one song. He was then, with great ceremony, thrown into the street. In reality this was a very fortunate experience, as it indicated his future career, or, as he termed it, his "work." Oofty Goofty was kicked with considerable force, and landed heavily upon a stone sidewalk, but to his intense surprise he discovered that he was, apparently, insensible to pain. This great gift he immediately proceeded to capitalize, and for some fifteen years, except for occasional appearances at the Bella Union as a super, and a short engagement as co-star with Big Bertha, he eked out a precarious existence simply by letting himself be kicked and pummeled for a price. Upon payment of ten cents a man might kick Oofty Goofty as hard as he pleased, and for a quarter he could hit the erstwhile wild man with a walking-stick. For fifty cents Oofty Goofty would become the willing, and even prideful, recipient of a blow with a baseball bat, which he always carried with him. He became a familiar figure in San Francisco, not only on the Barbary Coast, but in other parts of the city as well. It was his custom to approach groups of men, in the streets and in bar-rooms, and diffidently inquire: "Hit me with a bat for four bits, gents? Only four bits to hit me with this bat, gents."

Oofty Goofty was knocked off his feet more times than he could remember, but he continued to follow his peculiar vocation until John L. Sullivan hit him with a billiard cue and injured his back. Not long afterwards Sullivan's pugilistic standing was impaired by James J. Corbett, the pride of San Francisco, and Oofty Goofty always felt that Corbett had acted as his agent in the matter. Oofty Goofty never entirely recovered from his encounter with Sullivan. He walked with a limp thereafter, and the slightest blow made him whimper with pain. With his one claim to distinction gone, he soon became a nonentity. He died within a few years, but medical authorities said that Sullivan's blow had not been a contributing cause.

-- Gus (paputo4kids@aol.com), April 08, 2004.

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