Sunday, May 09, 2010

The Barry Marx Toupee Story

Barry Marx has been gone for about thirteen years now. He died at 41, way too young, in the middle of a phone call, of a freak heart attack due to a congenital defect he never knew he had. He was in L.A., living his dream, writing for television, something he had wanted to do for years.

I met Barry in 1978 when we were both students in the graduate creative writing program at Columbia, but I left after a year due to the stifling conservatism of the place. Barry was one of a handful of friends I retained from that year. We were both in the fiction writing program, but Barry's real aspiration was to write for film or television. He got his wish in 1996 or '97. For a few years prior to that he had been writing scripts for a video game company. It was when he worked as writer/producer of "Smoke and Mirrors," a Penn and Teller game, that he became buddies with Penn Jillette. I believe it was Penn who got him the gig writing for "Sabrina, the Teenage Witch." Penn also delivered the eulogy at Barry's funeral.

Barry went to movies all the time, a lot more than I did, and when I saw him it was often to catch a film. This particular incident happened in the mid-eighties, but I can't remember what film we saw that day. We had gotten to the theater at least ten or fifteen minutes early and were chatting. At one point I told him about a guy I had seen earlier that day who had the most dreadful toupee. It was precariously perched atop his head, and though it was probably meant to be dirty blonde it was so dirty it was practically snot green.

"All toupees are lousy," Barry said. "There's no such thing as a good toupee. They all look phony."

"How can you be sure?" I asked. "A good toupee wouldn't look like a toupee, so you'd never notice it."

"No way," he said. "I'm sure there's no such thing as a good toupee."

We split hairs about toupees a little while longer and then moved on to other topics. Then the lights dimmed and the previews started. I don't think they showed as many previews back then as they do now, and pretty soon the film began. Shortly after the opening credits had run, only a couple of minutes into the film, four people from the row in front of us, two couples, began filing out. We both wondered what was going on. Had they decided so soon that they didn't like the film? Or had they already seen most of it and just wanted to catch the opening credits? We found out what was up soon enough. One of the guys leaned over to Barry, and in an incensed, menacing tone said, "Next time you feel like talking about toupees you're going to have to get yourself a set of false teeth!"

I could tell that Barry was shaken. "I had no idea there was a guy with a toupee in front of us," he said.

"You see," I said, "he had one of the good ones!"


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for the story and especially the memory of Barry. (Peter, you were going to tell me when you posted this!)

5:48 PM  
Blogger Luis Gerardo said...

I only know Sabrina, the teenage witch, and its great. If Barry wrote for it, he must have been great too!

9:56 PM  
Anonymous Susan said...

Thank you for this story. I knew Barry in the late 70s and still think of him often.

3:56 AM  
Blogger rrg said...

Today (March 7, 2012) it's 15 years since Barry died and I still miss him and think of him often. It's great that your blog post is the first hit on Google when you search for Barry's name.

10:41 AM  
Blogger Peter Cherches said...

Thanks for the reminder and the memorial. I hadn't remembered the date. Did we ever meet, rrg?

11:06 AM  
Blogger rrg said...

I don't think we did meet, Peter (and my apologies if we did and if I'm blanking on it).

I had heard the toupee story before (must have been from Barry) but had forgotten about it. It's even more amusing now considering Barry's later encounter with the "Hair Club for Men" in the 1990s.

For Barry's 40th birthday in 1996 a bunch of his friends put together a birthday video for him as a surprise. I've just put it up on YouTube; it seems like a fitting tribute.

-- Ron Gomes

9:24 AM  
Blogger rrg said...

Probably should make that an actual clickable link:

Barry's Birthday Video (1996)

10:12 AM  

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