The Telegram (St. John's)

It was always a bit of fun, but these days the Dumphy crew are havin’ a time

- BY JAMESMCLEO­D

TSkaters

he big guy with the battered red hat makes for an incongruou­s figure, surrounded by scantily clad women and men in oversized, immaculate­ly white T-shirts. But with his messy long hair and shabby clothes, Donnie Dumphy is the very centre of attention, sipping a Coors Light and laughing in a ropedoff VIP section of Junctions in Downtown St. John’s on a Friday night.

Dumphy won’t be the only performer tonight, but he’s certainly one of the main draws; he’ll be premiering his new song “ Thirsty Wolf.”

A few minutes before he’s supposed to go on stage, Dumphy ducks out with his girlfriend to smoke a joint behind the bar. They stand just outside the threshold of the door, at the end of a dark hallway, away from the crowds and loud music.

But the respite only lasts a minute; a girl scurries towards them, gushing and giggling that she’s meeting Donnie Dumphy. The two pose for a picture, which her boyfriend dutifully snaps, and then they leave. By this time tomorrow, it’ll likely be her Facebook profile picture.

Dumphy heads back inside; he has to be onstage pretty soon.

This is fame in the Youtube era. Donnie Dumphy doesn’t have a TV show (yet) or a hit album (yet,) and when he finally does get on stage, he only performs two songs. But what he does have is a video on the Internet that more than 206,000 people have watched, multiple fan groups on Facebook and endorsemen­ts from Rick Mercer and Mary Walsh. It shows up in weird ways, like when a fan at a Toronto Maple Leafs hockey game held up a sign with one of Dumphy’s catch phrases on it.

“I couldn’t believe it,” says Leon Parsons, who plays Dumphy. “A kid had a ‘Get At Me Wolf ’ sign, that he’d hold up every time the puck came down to the corner.” Donnie Dumphy is the brain child of Parsons and Nik Sexton, who started making the videos about four years ago. At the time, it was little more than some skateboard­ers with a camera having fun.

“It was just me, with a wig on, drinking,” Parsons says. “ We dressed as skeets, the wigs, the hats, the sneakers, the tight jeans and everything; we’d go down to the bars downtown, me and a couple of buddies, and just pretend we were normal.”

At the time, Sexton was making skateboard­ing videos in St. John’s, and would cut little skits into the footage.

“I used to put the tapes on at parties, and people used to howl,” Sexton says. “ We sort of shot a bunch of stuff that summer and we just sort of sat on it, and we never ever did anything with it.”

For a while, they thought the character didn’t have any appeal outside of the province. Sexton works on the Rick Mercer Report in Toronto — “I’m the head researcher in a department of one” — and when he’d show the videos to people in Ontario, it would fall flat.

“I was kind of discourage­d. Like, everyone at home roars at this thing,” he says. “I put subtitles on the footage, so then people could understand it in Toronto, and then people started laughing up here.”

The real turning point came when they started putting the videos on Youtube; last spring “ The Legend of Donnie Dumphy” appeared, and has gone on to garner close to 70,000 views.

Over the summer, Sexton came home and they shot some new videos; most notably the “Havin’ a Time” music video. There’s no better way to get a sense of what Donnie’s all about than the opening lines to the song: “Made my first fifty bucks rolling smokes for mudder/First thing I bought was a case of beer and a rubber.”

More than 200,000 people have viewed it, and Parsons says a friend of his living on the other side of the country called him recently to say that he overheard some kids singing the chorus while riding a chairlift in B.C.

Everyone involved admits they were surprised by the popularity of the video, but they’re wasting no time taking advantage of it.

Hot iron

Parsons is in the process of recording a hip-hop album, with plans to release it in time for the May 24 long weekend. And Sexton is behind a pitch package that’s making the rounds at Canadian TV networks for a 14-episode season of the Donnie Dumphy show.

Whether that materializ­es remains to be seen — Sexton says he’s getting a lot of interest — but the album is definitely coming together. With it, they hope to turn Dumphy from a character into a legitimate hip hop artist.

“It’s all real … it was a running joke, but it’s Donnie Dumphy on CD, and it’s all real,” says Adrian St. Aubin, who’s producing the album. “It’s going to be like nothing anyone has ever heard before.”

Already, Parsons is making plans to go on tour this summer, “whether it’s five shows or 50.” He already got a taste of what that might be like when he performed in Corner Brook earlier this year.

“ The response out there was 10 times what I get in town, I was paid a hundred bucks to show up at a party for 15 minutes, and there was 250 high school kids there, at a house, and it was absolutely packed,” he said.

Havin’ a Time

Speaking to Parsons, it’s clear that as much as anything, he’s just having fun basking in the fame. He’s proud that when he rides the Honda 50cc minibike around the city — one of Dumphy’s popular gags — the police ususally don’t give him a ticket.

“I’ve had police pull up next to me and say, ‘Donnie Dumphy, get the bike home,’” he says.

“Not get off the bike and put it in the car, not get off the bike and here’s a ticket, just ‘ Yeah, we’ve seen you on the TV, on the computer.’”

The one time he did get a ticket was riding through Bannerman Park: $30 for disobeying a posted sign. Then the cops spent an hour chatting with him while running his name through their computer to make sure he didn’t have a criminal record.

At the Junctions show, Dumphy parades down and onto the stage to TNT by AC/DC. He runs through “ Thirsty Wolf,” which sounds suspicious­ly similar to “Hungry like the Wolf ” by Duran Duran. Then he sings “Havin’ a Time,” periodical­ly tapping his beer bottle against fans’ drinks.

After he’s done, there’s another, legitimate hip-hop performer coming up, so no one seems too disapointe­d that he’s only on stage for about 10 minutes.

Before he wraps up, Dumphy shouts into the mike, “Let’s all get drunk!” The audience cheers. “ Who loves Dumphy?” More cheers. “ Who thinks Dumphy’s going to make a lot of money?” More cheers.

 ?? — Photos by James MacLeod/Special to The Telegram ?? Donnie and Brenda — a.k.a. Leon Parsons and Gina Squires — just chillin’.
— Photos by James MacLeod/Special to The Telegram Donnie and Brenda — a.k.a. Leon Parsons and Gina Squires — just chillin’.

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