Any Goodies Left In the Souped-Up Santa Sleigh?


As a longtime Melvin Dummar fan, I'm ashamed I didn't hear about this month-old news until the other day. Maybe it's new to you too: Dummar, the Beehive State service station owner who became a national superstar/joke and inspired the great Jonathan Demme film Melvin and Howard when he claimed to be a beneficiary of the disputed (and ultimately dismissed) "Mormon Will" of billiionaire Howard Hughes, has rejoined the fight for his $156 million share of the Hughes estate.

You can learn more about Dummar from Wikipedia or in books like Howard Hughes: The Untold Story, but the striking thing in the most recent news is how little his story has changed since 1976, when Dummar first claimed to have found a bruised and bloody Hughes in the Nevada desert nine years earlier. This good samaritan act led the dying Hughes to leave Dummar one-sixteenth of his worldly goods, or so said the Mormon will, mysteriously left at a Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints headquarters by an unknown party who later turned out to be Dummar himself… The story is too complicated to go into here, and if you haven't seen Melvin and Howard (in which Dummar himself has a brief but unmistakable cameo), you should do that anyway.

Dummar's story remains as fishy as ever, and the only reason I'm tempted to believe it is because it would be really cool if it turned out to be true. That's probably part of what motivated Dummar's boss Dean Magnesen to call in his ex-FBI agent brother to investigate the case. Gary Magnesen claims to have turned up evidence that indicates Hughes may have been in the area where Dummar claimed to have found him in December of Old '67, and that Hughes' always-shadowy executives may have suppressed that information during Dummar's lawsuit.

Has Dummar got a chance? Unlikely: The evidence that the Mormon will itself is a hoax remains fairly compelling. Still, it's good to see this American original going out with a bang.

Melvin and Monty: Dummar's unsuccessful appearance on Let's Make a Deal.

Virginia Postrel salutes the glamour of the pre-hermit-era Hughes.

I say the hermit-era Hughes is the really glamorous one.

Lyrics to "Souped-Up Santa Sleigh."

Howards Baker and Cosell sing along with Hughes in the SCTV sketch "Melvin and Howards."