What’s in a Name? (Durwood Fincher)

“What is your name?” Durwood Fincher demanded.

While driving comfortably around in his Cadillac Escalade, Fincher had first seen the man walking painfully on Ponce De Leon Avenue. It was obvious that this man was homeless, his arms and gnarled hands, held near to his thin body, his atrophied muscles turning the act of walking into hard labor.

“My name?” the man responded nearly inaudibly without making eye contact. Durwood remembered the response as puzzled from a man who looked so “sad, but with a radiant smile.”

Often over a few weeks after first seeing him, Durwood had stopped the man he knew as “Crib” on the street, giving him money and developing a relationship.  Wondering why his friends called him Crib,  Fincher wanted to know his new friend’s real name.

“My friends call me Crip, because of this,” looking down at his body that moved much like than that of the tin man on The Wizard of Oz. 

Then it hit Durwood Fincher like a baseball bat. He had thought the street name was Crib, but suddenly realized the homeless man was saying, “Crip”.  “No! No!” Durwood almost shouted, determined to call him by his real name. “You can’t do that. You can’t let people call you that anymore! What is your real name?”

Finally the homeless man made eye contact and looked into the eyes of perhaps the first person who ever wanted to know his real name. “My name, my name is Enoch,” he said softly.

“Enoch? Enoch! You have a Bible name, that’s a great name. Buddy, you have a name from the Bible and you are letting people call you Crip?” Through “turtle” tears, this man began to regain his image as a real man, not just some cripple living on the street. All because someone cared enough to become his friend and know his real name.

Durwood Fincher is a busy man. On the road traveling over 200 days a year, if anyone needs an excuse to be too busy to stop and take time to know a homeless man, it is him.

With a client list that would impress anyone, his list of accomplishments continues to grow. Featured over 12 times on Regis and Kathie Lee/Kelli as well as on Dick Clark’s bloopers, his way of communicating does have a way of getting attention.

He was born and raised in Macon, GA. His parents were divorced because of his father’s   alcoholism, leaving his brother and he to be brought up in a broken but loving home. His   

Mom was a committed Christian, offering an early foundation that taught him to give. “I wondered why I gave fifty cents every Sunday. Mom gave $2 or $3 dollars, and we didn’t have much money.” After doing this consistently for years, he finally asked his mom why they gave even when they didn’t have much.

“You are really going to have to learn this on your own one day, but I have found that when you give back to God what he has given to you, then what we keep seems to go a lot further.”

As Durwood shared the memory, tears streamed down his face indicating his gratitude to his now deceased mom for that lesson, which is the cornerstone of his lifestyle. “She would be proud of how what I do with a lot of my money, I’ve made myself comfortable, yes, but I’ve touched a lot of lives and those very lives have touched me deeply. I now know that you learn to live when you learn to give.”

After graduating from Georgia Southern, he remained at the university to teach English, speech and debate. This was during the time when the school was integrating in 1971, and Fincher had an idea to do a musical with an interracial cast. “This had never been done! We chose to do The Boyfriend, and everyone became involved, black and white. The audience was filled with families full of pride for such a great occasion to be involved. Two television stations came out to get the rumble in the jungle. They expected the worst,” remembered Durwood. “But it was all so good, the orchestra came out, the show started, and the audience was spellbound with pride. With no bad news, both stations left with their crews and reported nothing. They missed it! Something huge happened that night, and you can’t recreate originals, and they missed it. Tumultuous applause and thunderous ovations, all because of what did happen!”

His passion was evident. “It was then that I realized that whatever you are looking for in life you will find. If you are looking for negatives, God knows it’s out there.”

Wanting to be a great teacher, Durwood developed creative ways to get his students involved.  “There would be kids who were physically sick when they had to speak in front of the class, so I would tell them, have you ever heard on the nightly news of anyone who died from speaking in public?” His humorous ways would put the kids at ease, making his class one of the campus favorites.

One day an opportunity presented itself, and it changed his career direction forever. “Candid Camera was in town, and they were looking for someone who could talk gibberish, so I went for an interview,” he said smiling, remembering how he would splash a little gibberish at his students and how they loved it. Allen Funt, the show’s director was doing the interviews and when Durwood went in, he spoke to the secretary, and she responded. “What did you say?” He seemed so serious, but she could not quite understand him. Then both the secretary and Mr. Funt looked at Fincher. “I think we found our man, cancel the rest of the interviews,” said the director and the rest as they say is not history, it is however, history in the making. That was the day Mr. Doubletalk was born.

From that date, he was booked across the country as the stiff Dr. Robert Payne, a well qualified but seemingly boring expert from the government’s Department of Health and Education Welfare, a typical speaker to corporate America.

Once Dr. Payne begins his talk about government affairs, he sees his audience beginning to mentally drift off. “You can see them getting comfortable.”  Then he mumbles a little bit of what sounds like important information, and no one quite gets it.

“They start to look around, wondering if they are the only one who is lost in what this important man is saying, it happens every time. Then someone pokes someone and shrugs their shoulders, like, what is he talking about? Then I go into straight humor and they start rolling with laughter! Then I have their undivided attention as Mr. Doubletalk!”

Gibberish may seem easy, but his skill in making you think you should understand him is what makes him so great at what he does. He comes across so believable. (On his website you can see Regis Philbin playing a joke and Kelli, and her body language in trying to understand him is hilarious www.mr.doubletalk.com).

Through his humor, he always has an inspiring message of hope and optimism. But after 9/11, even Durwood Fincher was at a loss for words. “Two days after 9/11, everyone who had me scheduled to speak cancelled, and I was waiting on my last call.” He remembered. “People were not traveling, they wanted to be home with their families. When the phone rang, I told my client I had been waiting on his call. But then he caught me off guard, completely.” Durwood’s eyes welled with tears as he recalled the emotion in the call of that CEO.

“I have hundreds of people here who can’t get home. They are worried and there are no flights or rental cars. We are all stuck, and you are the only one I trust right now. Will you come? I know I’m asking a lot.” Said the hopeful CEO.

Durwood took a deep breath, feeling what everyone else in the nation seemed to be feeling. Fear, uncertainty, and a need to stay put. But in his mind he was quickly seeking God to see what he should do. Could he do the unthinkable? Go be a comedian 48 hours after 9/11? In his mind he heard this, “Durwood, he’s got more faith in you than you do in yourself right now!” Getting back on the phone, knowing it might take several hours, he agreed to drive to Florida and speak to this group.

“The CEO introduced me as Dr. Payne, and the audience looked painfully in dread. I knew I had to bring them back into the room, they were all mentally home holding their children. What does one say after such a tradegy?”

“Something amazing happened that night, I can’t even explain it. It was God.” Durwood seemed drained just thinking about all the emotions raging in that one room. “This was Goliath! I started this overt doubletalk, it was cartoonish. But then I could see it. A chuckle here, and laugh there. Suddenly napkins were being used across the room to wipe the tears. I know what happened. We laughed until we cried. Everyone needed to cry, so behind laughter tears were shed. Not able to explain it, lives were changed that night, and it was God. He showed up and everyone there knew it,” Fincher recalled emotionally. “And like I can’t do very often, I said a very loud ‘Thank You God’ at the end of my talk, and a standing ovation rocked the house. Then we all turned around to find rows of ice cream with every kind of topping you could think of. We all ate with no guilt and enjoyed every bit. We all knew we had to face reality, but for now, we needed that moment.”

“What makes me really crazy is that some people don’t get that! Some people never experience God, how can that be?” He seemed genuinely concerned about those who don’t know God.

“I’m a blessed man, and I know it. I know what I am supposed to be doing, I’m having fun and I’ve made some money so that I could help others. I can’t image people who walk around with out that.” Durwood said.

When asked what he might suggest to anyone who wants that same sense of purpose, he was eloquent. “Everybody is somebody else’s hope.”

“You may think I was Enoch’s hope, but in reality he is mine. I saw him at Thanksgiving and gave him a $100 bill. He was so happy that even his rusty body skipped. Later I asked him if he got a room or bought a steak, and he said something amazing.”

“Mr. D., I was able to share some of that money with those less fortunate, thanks to you that money helped others have a good thanksgiving,” Enoch said.

“Those less fortunate?” Durwood said loudly as he recalled those piercing words. “Did you hear that? This man is living on the street with a body that is hard to move! I told him that day that he was where we all needed to be, inside our hearts.”

Learning from friends like Enoch, Fincher knows optimism is a key ingredient to the success of anyone’s career. Just turning an attitude around can make all the difference in the world, as it has done for Enoch. “I’ll sum it all up with one last thought: Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement, cause nothing ever gets done without hope and confidence. Want to know who said that? Helen Keller. Deaf, dumb, and blind, and an optimist who made history.

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