My friend Ed Grisamore — a columnist for The Macon Telegraph and an active member of Macon’s First Baptist Church — and I got together earlier this week to talk about our common passions for writing and baseball.
After sizing up the new Braves pitching rotation, bemoaning yet another season without minor league baseball in central Georgia, and warming up to Molly’s chicken soup, Ed shared with me about his latest project. He has written a biography with that tired ol’ title (just kidding): “Once You Step in Elephant Manure You’re in the Circus Forever.”
It is subtitled, “The Life and Sometimes of Durwood ‘Mr. Doubletalk’ Fincher.’ A colorful character previously unfamiliar to me despite a good bit of fame.
Durwood was raised in Macon’s cotton mill village, Payne City. A chunky boy with a creative mind and loving mother, he was took to entertaining others rather than athletic prowess. And he was nurtured in faith at nearby Bellevue Baptist Church where he kept a perfect Sunday school attendance record going for years.
Breaking out of the mill cycle, Durwood went to college and became a teacher in Columbus, Ga. With his affable personality, he recruited students into drama who otherwise would not have done so.
There he encountered Eloise Hope who was often called on to entertain corporate guests at nearby Callaway Gardens with her “doubletalk.” It became Durwood’s path to the brighter spotlight.
“I never really practiced it, and I could never teach it to anybody,” Eloise said in the book. “I really considered it a God-given talent.”
By definition, doubletalk is “speech that is purposely incoherent but made to seem serious by mixing in normal words and intonations.”
Though it could not be taught, Durwood mastered doubletalk through observation and lots of practice.
His incoherent speech has befuzzled IBM executives, television stars and even an Atlanta cop writing Durwood a traffic citation. Pitcher and prankster John Smoltz brought him in to “interview” some of his teammates, coaches and announcers.
In corporate settings, he is introduced as “Dr. Robert Payne,” an expert on whatever subject the group is addressing. The fake identity is a tribute to his home in Payne City.
At other times he takes on whatever identity works best to fool the next victim of his humor.
The late Allen Funt of Candid Camera tagged him as “Mr. Doubletalk.” Durwood has appeared on numerous shows with the likes of host Regis Philbin, NBC weatherman Al Roker and letter-turner Vanna White trying to decipher his rambling questions.
To me, however, the most enjoyable part of the book was the obvious generosity of Durwood Fincher. He gives freely of his wealth and invests personal time with those in need.
He has close, personal relationships with persons living well below his high-rise Atlanta condo. These are moving stories of a man who cares deeply about persons very much unlike him — at least on the surface.
Obviously, this is one linthead who has not forgotten his roots.
After moving to Atlanta many years ago, Durwood became active in Peachtree Presbyterian Church through a friendship with the daughter of then-pastor Frank Harrington. But he explains the denominational switch differently.
“Never in a million years did I think I would switch parties,” he explained. “Of course, people laugh when I tell them I used to be Baptist, but came into some money so now I’m Presbyterian.”
Most importantly, he is a generous Christian who considers writing a check (in pencil, his regular pew-mate says) and placing it in the offering plate to be an important part of his weekly worship experience. She laughs about the Sunday when he forgot his checkbook and instead dropped a note in the plate that read: “See me next Sunday.”
A DVD is tucked inside the back of the book. It is the rightful place. I’d suggest reading the story as told by Ed – then popping in the disk to see Durwood at work.
For more, visit doubletalk.com. And watch your step.