Apropos of absolutely nothing, I would like to draw attention to one of my favorite true stories and a Great Moment in the History of Ballstm – the tale of Melvin Dummar, the Utah gas station attendant who forged Howard Hughes' will in barely-intelligible English and claimed that he was due $156,000,000 on that account.
Hughes, as many of you may be aware, was bat-shit insane. To wit:
In 1957, Hughes descended into one of the most bizarre episodes of his life. In December of that year, Hughes told his aides that he wanted to screen some movies at a film studio near his home. Hughes stayed in the studio's darkened screening room for more than four months, never leaving. He subsisted exclusively on chocolate bars and milk, and relieved himself in the empty bottles and containers. He was surrounded by dozens of Kleenex boxes, which he continuously stacked and re-arranged. He wrote detailed memos to his aides on yellow legal pads giving them explicit instructions not to look at him, speak to him, and only to respond when spoken to. Throughout the duration, Hughes sat fixated in his chair, often naked, continuously watching movies, reel after reel, day after day.
Nice. Hughes died without a will, which unsurprisingly is an enormous legal clusterfuck when the deceased happens to be the wealthiest non-Sultan on Earth. And childless. Seeing an opportunity, one Melvin Dummar sprung into action. In his paranoia, Hughes trusted only a small group of Mormons who served as his personal attendants in his final years. So it wasn't terribly surprising when, in 1976, the Mormon church announced that they discovered a hand-written will by Hughes in their headquarters. Since Hughes was bonkers, it was not outlandish to think that he might have hand-scrawled a will in secret.
There were some problems with the will.
First of all, it was laden with spelling errors, the kind that no other written correspondence from Hughes happened to have. An excerpt:
After my death, my estate is to be devided [sic] as follows –
First: one-forth [sic] of all my assets to go to Hughes Medical Institute of Miami –
Second: one-eight [sic] of assets to be devided [sic] among the University of Texas
But the strangest part of the will was that Mr. Hughes inexplicably decided to leave 1/16th of his vast estate – more than $150 million – to a "Melvin DuMar." When contacted by a curious world, Mr. Dummar explained that he happened upon a disheveled man on the side of the road one night and drove him to Las Vegas (where Hughes resided for many years). Apparently, a stunned Dummar noted, Mr. Hughes had decided to reward this kind stranger with a metric assload of money.
At this point there were skeptics but again it should be noted that Hughes was "eccentric" and writing a stranger into his will was not beyond the realm of possibility. Then the FBI found Dummar's fingerprints on the will.
His cock-and-bull story exposed, Dummar turned a regular scam into a truly Great Moment in the History of Balls – he made up an even more ridiculous story. He claimed that a "man in black" type mysterious individual showed up in his gas station and handed him an envelope containing the will in question. Attached was a note that instructed Dummar to take the will to the Mormon headquarters, which he did. Without telling anyone. Like, he hid it. In a place where it could be discovered shortly after Hughes' death.
Jesus. What balls. He must have needed specially-tailored pants to house them. Wait, it gets better.
In the circus-like legal proceedings that followed, Dummar stuck to these two stories to the letter under oath in court. He stood up before a judge and jury and repeated this with a straight face. The will was ultimately ruled a forgery in court and Dummar received no portion of Hughes' estate. He also got stuck with a sizeable legal bill. But he's pretty lucky that he wasn't charged with a crime, I suppose.
Everyone together, salute Melvin Dummar. "Jesus, Melvin. What balls!"
This story was the basis of the Jonathan Demme film Melvin and Howard, which most viewers assumed was heavily fictionalized. It wasn't. For more reading on this saga and the rest of Hughes' life – and you'd be hard-pressed to find a more interesting individual who lived in the 20th Century – check out Richard Hack's biography Hughes.