Sunday, January 21, 2007

Zal and Denny, workin' for a penny

Some years ago, when Myrtle Beach was a modestly tacky little beach town, not the monstrously tacky nightmare it has become, I was tending bar in a small restaurant up at the beach. One quiet evening a middle-aged, slightly paunchy, fast-talking little man with a big mustache came into my bar. After I'd served him a couple of drinks he asked me if I'd heard of the Mamas and the Papas. Of course I had. Then he asked me if I could name all the Mamas and Papas. Well, sure. There was John, Michelle, Mama Cass . . . and . . . uh . . . well, I drew a blank on the last one.

The man said, "I'm the other one. I'm Denny!"

Although I had vague mental images of Michelle, Cass, and John, of course I had no idea what the other guy looked like. So I had no idea whether he was shining me on or what. But he seemed harmless enough, so I played along.

Denny, or "Denny" as the case may be, came into my bar every night for a week or so after that first evening. He did that "name all the Mamas and the Papas" routine on just about everyone who came in the bar; no one could name the other Papa. No one disputed that Denny, or "Denny," was not in the fact the other Papa, and he was a big hit. He got tons of drinks bought for him, even from people who were sure he wasn't really one of the Mamas and Papas. Especially from those people, in fact. Then he just stopped showing up.

If it was a scam it seemed like a harmless one; as far as I know Denny ("Denny") never tried to scam anyone out of more than the cost of a cocktail. I was pretty sure "Denny" wasn't the real Denny, but couldn't say for sure that he wasn't. If you were going to pick an ex-celebrity to impersonate, you couldn't do worse than pretending to be the other Papa.

The real Denny Doherty died a few days ago. I looked at the pictures accompanying the stories of his death and tried to remember what "Denny" from the bar looked like. I still can't tell if he was the real Denny.

Anyway - RIP, other Papa.

UPDATE: Post title corrected - it's "Zal," as in Zal Yanofsky, not "Sol" as I originally had it.


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