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Who Was the Ding Dong Daddy? – Part 2



This story picks up at what should have been the end.  Frank Van Wie was just sentenced to 10 years in state prison after being convicted of Bimagy for simultaneously being married to 14 different women.  


However, sadly for the women of California, Van Wie was released on parole after serving only two years of his ten year sentence.  One of the conditions of his parole was that he refrain from marrying for 5 years, unless he had the approval of his parole officer.  In 1949 he entered the court and unknowingly approached, none other than his original trial judge with a request to be married.  In the original case his previous 14 marriages had been invalidated.  The judge agreed to approve the marriage on the condition that Van Wie bring his fiance into the court.  When she arrived, the judge strongly advised her against marrying Van Wie.  But the fiance insisted, and the judge relented and married them.

Then, in 1952 the story picks up again.  Van Wie was found working at a burlesque theater in Oakland, as the star performer in a production by the name of “My True Love Story.”  In this production, he and the other performers all donned conductor’s hats and made light of his adventures in matrimony.

Finally, in 1958 it was reported that Van Wie married his 18th wife.  During his years, Van Wie served time in prison two other times.  The first time for marrying Wife #16 without divorcing Wife #14, and the second for being married to Wives #17 and #18 simultaneously.

And what, you might ask, is the moral of this story?  If you are going to be a cad, go all in.  Walmsley (you remember, the artist who took on the name Ding Dong Daddy as his alter ego), saw the story as a way of celebrating the libidinous and gauche, celebrating its absurdity, and thumbing his nose against convention by flaunting things that are forbidden.  Printmaker John Sommers remembers, “For Bill, it became an open invitation to make the fabled Ding Dong Daddy a vehicle, a way of expressing the duplicity in all society, particularly in art, and simultaneously to champion Ding Dong Daddy’s philosophy of free expression, of being himself.”

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