Biff America: Driving the Devil’s wheels
“Dang, you look just like Biff America.”
I used to be Biff America. The name came from a series of radio commercials I wrote and voiced that played around the state in the early ’80s. A couple years later, when I began working in TV and radio, I assumed that identity because my persona, at the time, did not sync so well with my real name. Had I known I would live to my mid 50s, I might have picked a handle with a better shelf life. In other words, “Biff America” sounded cool in my 30s; not so cool now.
But it was back in those days, when I still used that moniker some 25 years ago, that three southern boys stopped me at a local gym and observed: “Dang, you look just like Biff America.”
They were with a visiting church group from Arkansas enjoying our mountain town and all its offerings. It seems one of those offerings was my show.
On my tax return that year, I listed my occupation as “Professional Jerk.” My persona in those salad days was ribald, wild and, to some, distasteful. My rationale was that since I have never been suave or sophisticated, I would go with edgy and sophomoric.
I have to say it worked, and as a result I have never had a real job. But when I look back at some of the stuff I did and said back then, it makes me shudder.
The gym I was visiting when I met those young men has long since closed. It had only a few free weights, some punching bags and a few exercise bikes. It seems these kids had grown up doing a little boxing and, after introductions were made, we worked out in silence.
Just before we parted company, they asked to have their picture taken with me. Flattered, I obliged. It was while saying our good-byes when one of the kids said: “Pastor Stone says you are in leagues with the Devil. I don’t believe that anymore.”
I have to say that hurt my feelings – a little.
Upon further questioning, I was told that the day after they arrived, they attended Sunday services at their sister church where the local pastor both welcomed and warned the visiting kids of the pleasures and pitfalls of our mountain community. The pastor extolled the splendor of the mountains and majesty of the sunsets but also warned of the temptations that exist in a resort community. He cautioned that Satan has High Country helpers that could lure the teens down the path of the iniquity – like drinking, drugs, sex … and Biff America.
To be honest, I was somewhat honored to be declared as much fun as sex, but I couldn’t let the assertion of me being buddies with Beelzebub go unchallenged.
Anyone who has ever made a living trying to be entertaining learns early that humor is a subjective matter of perspective. What some folks find funny others might consider to be in poor taste, even vulgar. You have to be comfortable with the fact that pleasing everyone is impossible, so you have to please yourself and those who pay you.
As I drove to the church, I wasn’t sure what I was going to do when I came face to face with the pastor. I mostly wanted to get a look at the guy who thought I worked for Satan.
I found him in the back of the church in a small office, “Are you Pastor Stone?” I asked.
He looked at me like he knew me but wasn’t sure where.
“I’m Biff America, will you step out to the parking lot with me?”
In retrospect, I can see how that request might have seemed threatening, but the pastor did not seem concerned and did, in fact, accompany me outside.
The only cars in the lot were mine and his. At the time I was driving a beat-up 1975 Oldsmobile Delta 88. The engine ran well, but the body was scary-ugly with lots of rust and covered with orange primer. I had long ago taken out the back seat and firewall to the trunk and replaced it with plywood so I could sleep in the back.
I opened the back door and said, “This is my car, Pastor Stone.”
“Are we going somewhere?”
“No” I answered. “I just wanted you to see it, because if I worked for the Devil, I wouldn’t be driving this piece of crap.”
I’m not sure if it was because my car was too crappy for a Devil-helper to drive or that it is simply more difficult to assume the worst about someone after you’ve looked them in the eye, but Pastor Stone and I came to be friends. He would occasionally come on my show, and I would plug events his church was hosting.
It is easy to misunderstand and even slander a person, party, faith or policy, but when you strip it down to skin and bones, we are all just people.
Jeffrey Bergeron, under the alias of Biff America, can be seen on TV-8 and read in several newspapers and magazines. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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