Thursday, December 10, 2015

Page 120–2: Who the heck is Frank Scotus? Plus the true story of the chimpanzee Goblin

The iconic “I’ve had it with this bully” moment undoubtedly comes from the 1983 holiday classic, A Christmas Story (which, as you read this, is undoubtedly playing 24 hours a day on some cable TV holiday channel). Indeed, on page 121, the narrator even refers to Ben Tucker taking the Scott Farkus Incident “to an extremely dark and brutal place.” As you can see in the clip below, the original was pretty brutal…so just imagine what it was like with Bruiser!


And so, in need of a name for my bully, I tried to make a spoonerism of Scott Farkus. That gave me a profoundly unsatisfactory Fark Scottus. With only a slight tweak, it became Frank Scotus. Close enough for an urban legend!

Page 122’s tale of Barbara Smuts and Goblin is a true story, one of those quintessential NPR “driveway moments.” I still remember listening to Radiolab while driving home one afternoon in 2010, turning onto my gravel driveway about halfway through recounting her tale of the bully chimpanzee. I had to sit in the car until the story was finished. Hearing her first-hand account was entertaining and hilarious. And the fact that she wound up at the University of Michigan—my home state!—where she is now professor emerita made the story extra appealing. It always stuck with me, and when I began writing The Billionth Monkey—and Bruiser’s origin story in particular—I flashed back to this tale and realized it not only really explained Bruiser’s psychology, but also gave me another #MonkeyReference.

Here’s a link to the original broadcast.

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