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Dan: More Complexities and Contradiictions (Part 2)

December 24, 2012

There were many side stories and back stories to Dan’s colorful personal history. One was his father, who had been a professional Texas Rassler during the 1930s, then a sports promoter, then a peddler of organic, holistic, magical “herbal cancer cures” (supposedly learned from Native American medicine men) to sick, desperate, ignorant, backwoods, gullible people in the rural Southwest. He also used a pendulum to diagnose and prescribe because he was a “psychic healer” who claimed to have “special powers.” He was frequently in trouble with the law for practicing medicine without a license and posing as a physician. He was evidently never indicted or convicted, just threatened with indictment if he did not cease and desist. Then he would just pack up his snake oil, fold up his tent, lay low for awhile or move across a county or state line and set up shop again. Rejection of science and knowledge in favor of a preference for folk remedies and “alternative medicine” is widespread in Utah, Arizona, and New Mexico, especially in isolated rural areas. There is a market for that and self-styled “Dr. Detton” was tapping into it.

Dan was eager for me to meet his father, then 69 years old and operating out of Truth or Consequences, NM. His behavior made my jaw drop. The old man had the personality you associate with pro wrestlers on TV: he was a loudmouth bully, braggart, and blowhard. You could not have a give-and-take dialogue with such a man. He wouldn’t allow it. He loudly pontificated while pounding on the table while you listened: “The Jews bombed Pearl Harbor!” he thundered. “Japs had nothing to do with it! Lotta people don’t know that! Hell, they’re so dumb they believe everything the gummint tells them! It wasn’t the Japs, it was the Jews! Them Heebies, they got that secret tunnel beneath the national synagogue in Washington DC runs underground to the White House! They used that to grab old Franklin Delano Rosenfeld, drug him off to Area 51; then they shoved his crippled ass into the cockpit of a Jap Zero and took off from Area 51 and bombed Pearl Harbor! That’s what happened! Lotta people don’t know that. They’re so dumb they think the goddamn Japs did it! Hell, Japs didn’t have nothing to do with it, it was the Jews, I tell ya!” he went on and on like this for at least half an hour. “And another thing! Blah, blah, blah!” He apparently never saw a crackpot conspiracy theory he didn’t embrace, love, and energetically promote.

Subsequent exposure to the Old Texas Rassler confirmed my perception that he was a thoroughly obnoxious, ignorant, self-righteous, loudmouth crackpot. Perhaps in his youth or middle age he had been a better man but not now, in the last decade of his life. “N*ggers and Jews are ruining America!” he’d bellow. “We gotta kill ‘em all! It’s the only way to save America! Massacre ‘em all!” I had never heard anyone so extremely racist in my life. Born into a large Mormon farm family in rural Idaho, he was a Nazi sympathizer, a Holocaust denier, a rabid, virulent racist, and a peddler of fake cancer cures to sick, frightened, ignorant, gullible and desperate people. He was a fountain of falsehoods and misinformation. To my amazement his son defended his beliefs and attitudes, his racist tirades and bizarre beliefs.

“I know he’s your father, Dan. The only father you have and you don’t want to think badly of him but come on!” Dan would respond that after all, “there was some truth in what he says….” Really? What truth? Are you kidding? Dan at other times seriously insisted that pro wrestling was the only real sport and it was all the other pro sports (baseball, basketball, football–and the Olympics) that were fixed and fake—but not wrestling, at least in his father’s day. “Imagine what it was like for me,” he said with wonder in his voice, “growing up with a World Champion for a father!”

Yes, I thought: World Champion in a fake sport. I could just imagine a young, athletic Dory flexing his baby-oiled muscles, posturing and posing, while bragging to his little boy, “Your Daddy is a World Champion! What do you think of that? Think you can ever measure up to me?” Dan would tune me out when I reminded him of an HBO special in which all of his father’s surviving contemporaries, including Lou Thesz, went on TV and admitted it was all fixed and fake from the word go. “Pro wrestling hasn’t changed since 1930,” they all said. “It was always show business. It was never a real sport.” If I tried to mention this open admission to Dan, he would cut me off, talk through me, interrupt me, and shout me down. He could not bear to face the reality they admitted to and I was pointing to. My doubts about his perceptions and his judgment grew and grew. Still, such bizarre beliefs seemed encapsulated, as they say, not influencing him in other areas. I debated with him about racism and anti-Semitism repeatedly but got only grudging, partial concessions from him, it seemed.

Late in life, “Doctor” Drory Detton nearly killed himself drinking diluted bleach beacause a crackpot guru told him it would “cleanse” and “disinfect” his system. After 40 years as a naturopathic healer and “alternative medicine expert” he didn’t know better than to swill bleach. Fortunately the convetional doctors Dory scorned saved his life and he bounced back. It was, however, the end of his independent living. After that, Dory lived in an assited living facility with peoople to check up on him. Less than one year later, convinced of the magical healing properties of hot springs, soaking in hot water caused him to lose consciousness and drown in a locked private room of a commercial hot springs.

Dan’s marriage to wife #5 lasted ten years. While he never seemed to look back, feel nostalgic, or doubt what he had done in repeatedly leaving one wife to run off with another married woman, to his credit he remained actively involved his daughter’s life. The girl’s mother first remarried to a local photographer, but then reconnected with an old flame at a high school reunion out of state and moved there, then to another more distant state. Still Dan remained in contact with his daughter and sought to take maximum advantage of their scheduled visitation times.

In 1991, enchanted by the canyon country of southern Utah and mountain biking, I moved to Moab for two years, then to Salt Lake City for six, then to Cortez, Colorado, then Farmington, NM, then north to Delta County, CO to take a job directing mental health programs in that community. Dan, too, changed jobs and residences every few years. We never lived in the same community after I left Colorado in 1991. In reality there was no incentive, no reward in staying year after year in any of these jobs. The bureaucracy was dysfunctional and demoralizing and eventually you would get an asshole supervisor who would disparage your work to cover up for his or her own incompetence. Why stay? To let yourself be abused and scapegoated by idiots, who will probably themselves be fired within six months? There was no reward for enduring the crazy-making bureaucratic buck-passing game beyond a certain point.

One day Dan abruptly dropped wife #5 for soon-to-be wife #6, a married social worker-turned-astrologer. She agreed to support him for a year while he wrote a book summarizing his long-held, vocal beliefs on psychological trauma and its treatment. At his request, I extensively edited the book, disagreeing with much in it but accepting it as his book, his views, not mine (he still was obsessed with a simplistic view of “recovered memories” I couldn’t agree with). Unable to find a publisher he had 200 paperback copies printed and sold them face-to-face. During the year 2000 he peaked in some ways, doing many workshops based on the contents of his book and making several hundred dollars a day for that, selling his book in the process. His public speaking skills served him well. He was engaging, humorous, and apparently convincing. Attendees’ feedback was usually quite positive.

Born in 1942 Dan turned 59 years old in 2001. Early that year, wife #6 kicked him out in late March and he asked me to take him in. He lived under my roof, at my expense, for four months. It wasn’t the first time I sheltered him for free for one to four months during periods of transition, when he was between wives and jobs. Between late March and December 1st, 2001 he (1)got dumped by wife #6; (2)became legally divorced; (3) met another woman in September; (4) married her (wife #7) on December 1st. A busy 8 months. He had, after all, no real job, no money, no great physique or looks, and a comb-over across his balding head, but he still had a remarkable gift of gab. Most of the women he married were university-educated women with professional jobs, smart, and not bad looking. They were not desperate, airhead “barroom bimbos” by any means. How did he charm them? I was not privy to what went on behind closed doors but I suspect he told them, “Tell me your dream and I’ll make it come true.”

In retrospect, this was also the period when I first noticed Dan seemed to have trouble getting to work on any of his projects and plans. He talked a lot about ambitious schemes but couldn’t seem to settle down and work on any of them. He had, as I put it, “transmission problems”—the motor was running, was even revved up but the energy was not being translated into any action, any forward motion. He was very well-defended, as they say, and not open to my best attempts to encourage him to question himself or reflect on some of his own behavior. Since he always seemed to get what he wanted, at least in the short run, he had little motivation to change. My sense of him as a complex person of many talents but also as a bundle endless contradictions only deepened.

(to be continued)

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