Katie Lindsay — A Conversation with Marmaduke

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Last week at the USEA convention in Phoenix, I had the opportunity to interview the  ubiquitous chimpanzee, Marmaduke, who currently resides in the front section of British event rider Oliver Townend’s brain. (For those readers who have slept through the last several postings on EN, I’ve neither gone completely over the edge, nor have I  overdosed on primo Jamaican Ganja. Several years ago, British Eventing grew concerned with Mr. Townend’s self destructive carousing so they sent a therapist to talk with him. Said therapist told his client that there are two parts of his brain, the back section that is goal and success oriented, and the front section that houses a chimpanzee whose aim in life is to make crummy, impulsive decisions, usually involving booze and fun. Mr. Townend today calls his chimp Marmaduke.) With such a Curriculum Vitae, I felt very fortunate to have been able to track down the elusive simian and corner him long enough to gather enough material for a fantasy interview. It follows.

The setting was the lobby bar at a golf resort peopled with middle aged duffers trying to determine who could talk the loudest and be the most convincingly youthful and important in the eyes of their “trophy” significant others. There was a preponderance of comb overs, hair plugs, chunky gold jewelry, and overly tanned and botoxed faces, both male and female, in the room. It was fairly easy to spot the chimp, though, by the rather outlandish clothing he was sporting – ill fitting 100 % polyester plaid Bermudas, a truly hideous baby vomit green shirt, short black nylon socks, sandals, and a visor with the inscription “X – Perience Your Inner Chimp. www.dothemonkey.co.uk“. He was chatting up an overly endowed bottle blonde while waving around a long neck and – well, never mind what else he was doing.

I approached said chimp with trepidation. Having heard some of Oli’s tales about him, I had no idea what to expect. After several futile minutes spent trying to peel him away from his blonde, (or vice versa as the case was), I got his attention by signaling the bartender to buy him his drink of choice which apparently pissed off the bimbo who wandered off in search of more fertile fields, leaving the ball entirely in my court (so to speak).

ME : “Hi Marmaduke. Following Oliver’s speech this afternoon to a group of eventers at another hotel, you are possibly the most famous chimp since HAM the Chimp was shot into space by NASA in 1961. May I have a few words with you?”

M the C : “Ey Missy, I luff to chat. The trooff is, though, me real name isn’t Marmaduke. That’s somefing Oli and ‘is mates came up wif. Me Mum was living in the French Cameroons when she ‘ad me, and she wouldn’t arf know what a Marmaduke was if it fell on her ‘ead. She’d arf thought maybe it was sumpin you put on your toast at brekkers. She first called me Raoul, but when she became a Brit, she changed it. Me legal moniker is now Lenny. You can call me that if you want.”

ME : “Fair enough Lenny. I guess what’s on everyone’s mind is how did you end up in Oliver Townend’s brain? It seems a really unusual place for a chimp to live.”

M the C (from now on referred to as L) : “I and my mates are part of a large group called CHIMPS FOR CHUMPS. We are sent out by the Big Ape to reside in selected blokes’ brains to assist them in ‘aving fun, and also sometimes to ‘aul their sorry arses away from the brink of complete ruin and embarrassment. Our group was established in the last century to monitor the antics of selected Royals. We go through extensiff training for that gig. Today, if you look carefully, you can pick out a few from that group of toffs who even now ‘ave  chimps in their ‘eads. Some of these ‘ave even made their way across the Pond to be part of your eventing activities. I won’t name names ‘owever. Can you pop for another pint Missy while I run to the bog? Me funds are a bit low, and I’m developing a terrible thirst what wif all the nattering I’m doing.”

ME : “Sure. No problem.”(getting Lenny primed with another tall pint upon his return from the loo) “Before we talk about some of the experiences you’ve had while on Oli duty, could you explain the clothes you’ve chosen to wear tonight? No offense, but you do look a bit out of place amongst this rather well heeled older group.”

L : “Good question, Missy. The only Yanks I’d ever noticed were those what pour out of big caravans at some of our big churches and castles and Badminton and stuff, and they all dress like this. I s’pose I made a mistake, but I’ll haf to live wif it I guess.”

ME : “OK, Lenny. Tell me what spending time in Oli’s brain has been like for you.”

L : “There is never a dull moment, Missy. I haf to be a bit careful because at one point, he ‘aff drownt me wif several pints when I tried to pull ‘im back from making a ‘uge mistake. I was right gobsmacked I was. A terrible waste of a good lager. We now liff in a nice place, but at first, I ‘ad to share a real tip with ‘im.”

ME : “Are you comfortable around the horses that are so much a part of Oli’s life, Lenny?”

L – : “I gotta be honest wif you, Missy. Sometimes he ‘aff scares the S**t outta me. Careening along on a 80 stone dumb, smelly bag of fur into those ‘uge walls and banks is orful. I spend most of that time wif my eyes closed. It’s nuffing to monkey around wif. (Get it?)”

ME : “What was the most fun moment for you?”

L : “That’s an easy one. It was last spring in the United States. Kentucky I fink? Oli made a mistake that I couldn’t prevent, and ‘e ended up like a blob and ‘ad to be flown to ‘ospital. They loaded us into a ‘elicopter. Of course they didn’t know that I was a part of the deal, and it gave them a right start when I told them that as long as Oli was out of it, couldn’t I fly the plane for a bit? I did a pretty good job, and it was ever so much fun. Oli to this day finks I was unconscious like he was. Ha! ‘e’d about go ape if he knew!”

ME : “I’m running a little short of time Lenny, but could you tell me what your plans for the future are, and where we can expect to see you again?”

L – :”Well Missy, I’ve been finking of getting out of this ‘orse game and moving. Too much snow at ‘ome this year, and the wevver here in Arizona is more to my liking. I’ve always taken a shine to golf, and I like wot I see ‘ere. Lots of job opportunities, and the bimbos are sweet. Maybe I can get a gig in that sport? It’s quieter. Say, do you ‘appen to know that Tiger chap? Rumor is that he could use a good chimp to ‘elp him out. Can you put in a good word for me – and by the way, my glass is empty. Funny how quick that ‘appened.”

ME : “Thanks for your time, Lenny. It’s been amazing. I’d never interviewed a chimp before!”

At this moment, Lenny spied another potential recipient of his attentions, and grabbing his newly refilled glass, he skipped away. He was humming, and before he was swallowed up by the increasingly boisterous crowd, I was able to identify what he was humming – “I’m A Believer” made famous by, (no surprise), The Monkees. It’s refreshing to meet someone so unabashedly pleased with what he is!

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