Oofty Goofty — The Man Who Made a Living Getting Beat Up

To be successful, you need to find something you do well and get people to pay you to do it. As demonstrated by a fellow known as Oofty Goofty, it’s possible to make a living by getting the snot beat out of you on a regular basis.

Leonard Borchardt was born in Germany in 1876. When he was 14 years old, he snuck aboard a ship to the United States. While en route, the ship’s captain discovered the stowaway and made him earn his passage by working as a member of the crew.

Leonard “Oofty Goofty” Borchardt

He drifted throughout the U.S. for a while before enlisting in the military. His service to his adopted country came to an abrupt end when he learned that he would be sent to fight in the Indian wars. He deserted, was arrested, and promptly escaped from custody. He headed west to San Francisco. It was there that our hero found his calling.

Leonard was approached by two men who convinced him that he had a future in show business. They invited him to be a part of their “museum show.” With no other prospects on the table, Leonard accepted the offer without asking for any details. Only then did he learn that he would be featured as “The Wild Man from Borneo” as part of a freak show.

To prepare for the part, Leonard stripped naked and submitted to having tar poured over his entire body. Once sufficiently coated with sticky tar, he had horsehair dumped on him. He was instructed to get into a cage and keep saying, “Oofty goofty. Oofty goofty.”

The legend “Oofty Goofty” was born, and Leonard would thereafter be known by that name.

Oofty Goofty was presented to the public as a wild freak of nature, recently captured in Borneo. His handlers told wide-eyed crowds that he could speak 21 different languages, but he was incapable of understanding any of them. He also ate raw meat, which Oofty Goofty demonstrated by devouring the pieces that were flung into his cage.

Oofty Goofty delighted audiences for about a week. The presentation was revealed for the ruse that it was when Oofty Goofty got irritated by spectators poking at him with sticks, lost his temper, and shouted at them in English.

The show’s proprietors skipped town to avoid irate customers who wanted refunds. This was bad news for Oofty Goofty because they neglected to help him return to his non-tarred and horsehaired self.

Not only was he stuck with his bizarre animal-like appearance, but it was affecting his health, too. The complete covering of tar prevented Oofty Goofty from sweating. He was very much at risk of brain damage and death from overheating.

Physicians were at a bit of a loss about how to help Oofty Goofty. They settled on soaking him for several days in a powerful chemical solvent to break up the tar and left him to dry out on the hospital rooftop. Fortunately, the experiment worked, and Oofty Goofty was spared to pursue the next chapter in his career.

What kind of job does one apply for when the primary experience on the resume is “Pretending to be the Wild Man of Borneo”? The perfect opportunity arose when he learned of an opening for the position of mascot for a baseball team.

If you think being a mascot might be a fulfilling career, we caution you to first read the fine print about duties and compensation. Oofty Goofty’s employment had some peculiar provisions designed to encourage him to put his full energy into cheering the team toward victory. If his team won a game, Oofty Goofty would be paid $20. Considering how that is about $680 in today’s currency, it wasn’t a bad deal. Not a bad deal, that is, unless you consider that if the team lost, he not only received no payment, but the team also got to beat the living daylights out of him. Disappointed athletes have to take out their frustration in some form, right?

Oofty Goofty’s career as a team mascot was short-lived. His team lost more games than they won. Before he could decide that punches, kicks, and chokeholds weren’t quite as profitable as he had hoped, the team made the decision for him. They fired him during an away game, forcing him to walk 100 miles back home. Oofty Goofty was in the market for a job once again.

His next step in his career brought him to a beer hall. His job at this establishment was to drink ten beers in under six minutes, using nothing but a teaspoon and while smoking a cigar.

To say that patrons were not enamored by this form of entertainment would be a bit of an understatement. On his first day on the job, he found himself flung out of the establishment onto a bunch of rocks. Where most would see this as a low point in professional development, Oofty Goofty had an epiphany that would shape the rest of his life.

It occurred to Oofty Goofty that he wasn’t like other people. You, no doubt, have reached the same conclusion, but for different reasons. Oofty Goofty wasn’t thinking about how ordinary people would never demean themselves with the career choices he had made. What he finally realized was that he didn’t react to physical abuse the way everyone else did.

If there was anything in which Oofty Goofty could be classified as an expert, it would be in the subject of getting the snot beaten out of him. He had been beaten, punched, kicked, whacked, thrashed, and thrown about many times, and it finally dawned on him that none of it hurt.

Oofty Goofty had a medical condition known as congenital analgesia (also known as congenital insensitivity to pain “CIP”). Some with this condition are unable to feel pain at all. Others feel the pain but are indifferent to it. Oofty Goofty appears to have been in the latter category.

The inability to feel pain is an extremely rare condition. There are only about twenty cases that have been documented in medical literature. At last, Oofty Goofty was legitimately a freak of nature. The question was how he could capitalize on this extraordinary quality.

What would you do if you were in his shoes? With this unbelievably-rare condition, would you go on the lecture circuit, educating the public about the body’s response to pain? Perhaps you could partner with a medical research facility to advance the cause of medical science.

Then again, you could do what Oofty Goofty did. He launched a career in which he charged people for the privilege of beating him up. Have some anger issues you’d like to work out? For ten cents, you can kick Oofty Goofty as hard as you’d like. For a quarter, you can pulverize him with your walking stick. Are you really mad at your boss and need to vent in a big way? For fifty cents, you can wallop Oofty Goofty with a baseball bat to your heart’s content — baseball bat provided. He even offered a group rate: you and your buddies can pound on him for just fifty cents. He also held himself out at carnivals in the games section where patrons paid for the chance to throw a baseball at him. If they were successful in hitting him, they won a cigar for their efforts.

Not wanting to limit potential customers, Oofty Goofty was more than willing to negotiate reasonable prices for extra or unusual amounts of physical abuse.

Our hero’s fortunes took a detour in June 1885. Oofty Goofty claimed that a man named C. Linear offered him $200 to burn down a house. Linear took offense and sued for defamation of character. A few days after that, Oofty Goofty found himself in the Home of the Inebriates to be examined by the insanity commissioners. It was at this time that his status as a military deserter came to light. He was sentenced to three years in military prison.

Having once escaped from the custody of military police, Oofty Goofty thought he could do a repeat performance. He faked epileptic seizures. Unfortunately, his acting skills had not improved since his “Wild Man of Borneo” days, and his captors were unconvinced. He was successful, however, in injuring himself by throwing himself off of a cliff. This earned him a medical release on September 18, 1885. He then made his way back to San Francisco.

Our hero made quite the living exploiting his inability to feel pain. Unfortunately, things went a bit too far when he met professional boxer John L. Sullivan in 1891. Oofty Goofty invited Sullivan to take a whack at him with a pool cue. The result was a broken pool cue and three broken vertebrae. Oofty Goofty didn’t experience pain, but he was forced to walk with a limp for the rest of his life. Possibly that development or the fact that his career choice did not come with a health and dental insurance plan prompted him to attempt to diversify his marketable skills.

The next few years find Oofty Goofty traveling throughout the United States, trying his hand at various novelty acts. At one point he attempted to push a wheelbarrow from coast to coast. He offered his services as a sort of human Valentine’s Day card by charging $20 to be sent in a box to your love interest. When someone took him up on this, shipping him to Sacramento, he wound up being left upside-down in the unopened box in a warehouse for the weekend.

Big Bertha

He also attempted to reclaim the glory that won him his name by reprising the role of the “Wild Man of Borneo” in a play called Borneo and Juliet. He co-starred with an actress who went by the stage name “Big Bertha.”

Oofty Goofty relocated to Texas and spent the final chapter of his career traveling from oil field to oil field, entertaining the workers. He broadened his professional repertoire to include quail-eating contests. He supplemented his income by selling fake diamonds, as well.

By November 1892, Oofty Goofty was in Montana and entertaining people with stories of his life. He told people that his ability to resist pain came from spending several years sitting in a pool of water, resulting in partial petrification. To prove this, he bet people $50 that they could not make him cry out in pain by using a drill on him.

The illustrious career of Oofty Goofty starts to get spotty around 1894 or 1895. His performances stopped. In June 1900, he was recorded as living in a hotel in Houston, Texas. The 1920 Census shows him living in a different hotel in the same city. The last recorded reference to Oofty Goofty was in a 1923 Houston city directory. He would have been 61 years old at that point.

No one seems to know what happened to the legendary Oofty Goofty. The generally-accepted explanation was that his bizarre lifestyle hastened his death and that he shrugged off this mortal coil in anonymity. His name lives on in legend — the man who made a career out of getting beat up.

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