The Brief Moment of Dick Davy


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December 16, 1965, Vol. XI, No. 9

Whitey at the Apollo

By Barbara Long

…The m.c., smooth-talking and confident but less than precise in his choice of words, announced: “The Apollo would like to take great pleasure in presenting a wonderful guy. You wouldn’t exactly call him a comedian. He is more of a news-carrier, a news analysis, you might call him. He came all the way from Arkansas and he has no intention of going back there. He’s a very shy guy, so don’t you frighten him. Here he is — the Arkansas Fellow Traveler, DICK DAVY.”

…Out of the wings ambled a six foot, two inches, sandy-haired white man, wearing a flannel shirt, chino trousers, and the high-top brown boots commonly called clodhoppers up North, “Sunday-best” boots in the rural Southwest. Carrying a high stool in one hand, scratching his head with the other, he was accompanied across the stage by friendly laughter. After perching atop the high stool, he scratched his head some more, took a wad of chewing gum out of his mouth, and stuck it to the side of the microphone.

“Howdy…I used to ‘how’ y’ all,’ but I don’t say that no more. In Arkansas, ‘how’ y’ all’ just a way a greetin’, but I found out up here it’s just a way to a beatin’. I was backstage there, waitin’ to come out here, and this fella come up and give me a shove and say, ‘Get out there, Whitey, they either gonna love you or lynch you.'”

…He scratched his head, and looked around the theatre. “This sure is a nice place you got here. Make a nice bar. Or a nice church. That’s what Harlem needs…another church.”

“When I got up here from Arkansas on one of them dog buses, I couldn’t get no job except doin’ demonstrations, and that don’t pay so good, so I came up here to 125th Street, to the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters. Fella there, he say, ‘You musta took some wrong fork in the road, son.’ I told him I needed a job. He say he never hear of a white red cap before, but I told him I needed a job real bad, so he said, ‘Tell you what I’m gonna do, Whitey. I’m gonna make you a case of token integration.'”

So that’s where he was at — the audience shoved their buttocks down into their seats and relaxed completely. He belonged to them. They would have killed anyone threatening a hair on his head. During the next 18 minutes while Davy talked about the Klan, Vietnam, civil rights, draft-card burning, the FBI, voter registration, and public accommodations, the audience never wandered in its attention. “You tell ’em, boy.” “Go ‘head, boy.” “You tell ’em what it’s like, boy.”

Although the material differs act-to-act, Davy always ends with the same words: “I try to help out with civil rights all I can, not ’cause I like you all so much” (here the audience always laughs and so does Davy), “but ’cause everybody always gets a turn at bossing everybody else, and I figure it be the colored folks’ turn next. And when the time comes, I just wants y’ all to remember me kindly.”

…Davy, a University of Arkansas graduate and a teacher in New York City’s detention centers and “600” schools for the past seven years, was saying that the change coming for Negroes is just a small part of the total change necessary. One Negro in the audience had said to his date, “If white folks ever hear what he really sayin they gonna lynch him.”

Later, coming around the corner from the stage door, Davy and his companions bumped into Big Bobby Bland and Jackie Wilson. They told Davy how much they enjoyed his act and that they would like him with their shows sometime in the future. Davy, now a Villager, appeared on the December 8 Merv Griffin television show, and now faces his first tour of white-tourist-trade nightclubs in the Midwest…

Dick Davy Says:

WAR: “There’s so many colored soldiers over there, the Vietcong must think the United States is part of Africa. They all ground soldiers, though. Air Force don’t let ’em fly no bombers, scared they might head straight for Memphis.”

Civil rights: “Down South they tryin’ to get voters registered. I know one fella finally got inside the court house last year. They threw him a ball-point pen and a piece of wax paper. ‘Write your name, boy.’ They handed him a Chinese newspaper. ‘What’s it say, boy? It say: I ain’t gonna vote this year.'”

HUAC investigation of the Klan: “The HUAC investigatin’ the Klan is like Bobby Baker investigatin’ Billy Sol Estes.”

KLAN: “Vietcong should get some white sheets and hoods, burn some crosses. Then when we capture them, we give ’em a nice friendly trial, and let ’em go.”

FBI: “American Legion say colored folk proud to fight for their country. Shoot, they just figure they got a better chance against the Cong than the Klan. At least ain’t nobody tell’ ’em to lay down their guns and trust to the FBI.”

Peace demonstrations: “People are mad at these protesters not ’cause of what they believe in so much as what they march in. Trouble is that once you teach folks how to take baths and march in step and shoot guns, well, then if they still don’t like their government, you don’t have no more protest, you liable to have a revolution.”

Current status of Negroes: “Colored folks is doin’ better. I seen this colored girl in Playboy…in that center flap you pay your 75 cents for. White Citizens Council demanding equal time. They want Mr. Faubus to be Aunt Jemima for a month. Not too long ago, Sidney Poitier got an Academy Award for his convincing portrayal of a Negro.”

William Buckley, Jr.: “…a white nationalist running on the po-lice ticket.”

Muhammad Speaks: I buy that paper every week, and every week I see that fella in the pretty hat, and he seem whiter and whiter. If he get any whiter, they put him on the cover of Ebony.”

Watts Riot: “It was supposed to be in San Francisco, but you can’t have no good riot uphill. Newspapers called it senseless violence. That wasn’t it at all. All these poor folks hearin’ ’bout the War on Poverty, so they enlisted — burn down the buildings with rats in them, break into the stores that been cheatin’ them, shoot at the cops that’s always beatin’ on them. Then the government sends in the army, and these poor folks hold up their hands and surrender. So now the government got to rehabilitate them, just like we done the Germans and the Japanese.”

Public accommodations: “During the black-out people was beggin’ storekeepers to stay open. Mothers sayin’ they got no milk for their babies, no beer for the fathers. Storekeepers was sayin’, ‘I don’t care, I’m gonna close up my store.’ People sayin’, ‘My children ain’t got no food,’ ‘I don’t care. It’s my store, and I’m gonna close it up. Go away.’ Overnight, 20 million white folks found out the meaning of public accommodations.”

[For an interesting assessment on the career of the forgotten stand-up comedian Dick Davy, there’s this piece at Jersey City radio station WFMU’s blog. — T.O.]

[Each weekday morning, we post an excerpt from another issue of the Voice, going in order from our oldest archives. Visit our Clip Job archive page to see excerpts back to 1956. Go here to see this article as it originally appeared in print.]