. . .I walked to the podium in front of the blackboard and, while some kids were graded on “Eye Contact with Audience,” “Confidence,” and “Projection and Tone,” Mrs. McGivens simply said, “Just read it, Lily. Don’t worry about the class.”
I felt their eyes and restless bodies when I did.
April 12, 1968
Essay: FROG BOY
“Frog Boy” (co-written by June Boy) tells the story of Frog Boy’s life after pulling himself out of the primordial ooze of the popular La Brea Tar Pits, and dashing (as much dashing as he could do covered in tar) through traffic to a sideshow tent across Wilshire Boulevard. There, he was first observed rolling under the tent skirt like a sneaky tumbleweed. “Observed” because no one except his future wife June or his manager Floyd Halverson EVER had a relationship with Frog Boy. He wasn’t around much so you didn’t make a coffee date with him or run into him at the store. One year in one town was enough, and he hid out between engagements.
It looked like Frog Boy would be a bachelor until a stage bit in Vegas when he was wheeled out on a platform (a gift from the Fortuna Flea Circus) and Floyd held a microphone to his tiny mouth. When the room fell silent he sang “Somewhere over the Rainbow” and “Send in the Clowns” without accompaniment. His voice was small but in tune and crystal clear. No cameras were allowed so only newspapers told the story of how a parade of bare-chested showgirls introduced him as “The Biggest Little Man in Las Vegas” and with a hand on her sequined hip, each kissed the whiskery knobby little head of chinless Frog Boy. He made a purring sound when they did, which the paper insisted was proof he was either a deformed cat or a windup toy. When showgirl June (a former magician’s assistant) said his whiskers felt like armadillo hair, Frog Boy fell in love with her immediately.
“It was her honesty,” he wrote later. The broken pieces of his heart instantly melded and his heart grew to a threatening size in his teeny- tiny chest (a pushpin could have killed him). It stayed that big all the years they were married.
They dated quietly first, of course, until a midnight wedding ceremony under a sandy tiki lamp on Padre Island. “ You’re dead to us,” wrote June’s embarrassed parents of their only daughter’s only choice, though they sent a nice punch bowl the following week.
There were rumors that FB hung out with movie stars, was the toast of Hollywood parties, had a star outside Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, and was carried around in drunk women’s cleavages—for someone the size of a guinea pig with water retention, that would have been dangerous. No one really knows how old Frog Boy was when he died, but he was a performer to the end. His shows were rare but celebrated: six months of highly publicized performances in the Curtis Wilkin Freak Show, private parties in Boca Raton and Acapulco where he performed in the living rooms of drunken millionaires, and three Las Vegas shows (opening for Jack Jones, Dr. Irwin Corey, and Tiny Tim), before disappearing into the desert of the American Southwest with June.
“I feel safer in the open,” Frog Boy wrote of all that sky and not-much-else. Nobody knew where that was until a lone Australian tourist turned down a dirt road in the middle of nowhere. With a dust storm on his tail he almost didn’t see the rusty mailbox painted “F. and J. Boy” or, in the distance, the geodesic dome they called home. June made the stranger dinner but FB wouldn’t come out of the workshop where he was building more bookcases.
When Frog Boy “croaked” nobody knew his real name or even if he had one. For some reason the Retired Circus Freak Association (RCFA) wanted nothing to do with him.
June remarried several times but always unhappily.
“Rib-bit,” someone said from the back of the room.
A few kids giggled and I felt myself turn red. . .