The History ofn
So where did The
International Buster Keaton Society come up with
its nickname? From three boats, all with the same
name . . . And what was that name? Damfino.
The most famous of the
three was the boat in Keaton's short The Boat
(1921). In the film, Buster has built a boat in
his house and called it Damfino, presumably
meaning "damn fine." By the end of the
film, he has successfully demolished his house,
drowned his car, sunk the boat, and Buster and
his little family are lost, washed up after a
storm at night on a deserted beach. "Where
are we?," asks Buster's wife.
replies, shrugging his shoulders.
Damfino was also a boat's
name in College in 1925. This boat sank too,
after being jumped into by an overzealous Buster,
who hopes to pilot it to local fame as coxswain
of a rowing team. After he has gone through and
under the Damfino, taking the rest of his crew
with him, the boat is replaced by a sturdier
model, Old Iron Bottom.
Not out of the
race yet - "College", 1925.
These two sinking
Damfinos were probably inspired by another boat -
a real one - one that appeared on the shores of
Lake Muskegon in Michigan.
When Buster and his
family lived in an actors' colony founded by Joe
Keaton, Buster's father, in Bluffton, on the
outskirts of Muskegon, Michigan, during the
summers from 1908-1916, they made friends with an
actor by the name of Big Joe Roberts. Roberts
would soon come to Hollywood with Buster, and
would perform in all of Keaton's productions
until his death in 1923.
Big Joe Roberts,
Keaton's friend and
"heavy". His last
appearance was as Natalie Talmadge's
father in "Our
When he lived in
Muskegon, Joe Roberts had a dock. On a fine
summer day, a boat pulled up to Joe Roberts'
dock. The boat was owned by some theatrical
agents from Chicago.
The name of the boat?
aboard a small fishing boat in Muskegon:
Joe, Buster, Louise and Jingles, c. 1910.
What did they catch? Damfino.
The International Buster
Keaton Society began because
a cake didn't turn out.
In 1992, Patricia Eliot
Tobias was working on a book about Buster
Keaton--a book she still hopes to complete
someday. When Keaton's birthday rolled around,
she contacted her friend Melody Bunting and her
sister Wendy Tobias, saying, "Let's do
something to celebrate Buster's birthday"
(or words to that effect).
Melody and Wendy agreed
that something must be done. It was determined
that a birthday party would be held, complete
with a porkpie hat-shaped cake, which was up to
Patty to create. When the baking took place,
however, something went very wrong. The icing
dripped off the cake, the knife dug big gouges
out of the top, and the part representing the
brim kept breaking.
So Patty called Melody
and Wendy and said these immortal words:
"The cake didn't turn out. Wanna start a
club?" They agreed, et voilą! A club was
born. That was 'lo these many years and 'lo these
many hundreds of members ago.
magic...Damfinos do the High Sign
in Muskegon at the former site of "Jingles'
The man in the middle looking confused is the current
owner of the property.
The Damfinos was founded
in 1992, on October 4, Buster's birthday, in New
York City. Membership is now nearly 700
internationally. Buster Keaton's family
supports The Damfinos' efforts to bring greater
public attention to Keaton's life and work. In
addition, members include many in the television
and film industry: actors, television and film
producers, as well as best-selling authors,
artists, comic book writers, musicians, and
designers, as well as those who have just
discovered the magic of Buster Keaton.
Damfinos publishes a quarterly newsletter, The
Keaton Chronicle, which
includes historical research on Buster Keaton's life and career,
rare photographs and artwork, as well as reviews of Keaton material
on the market now and news stories about current Keaton events.
annual magazine, The
Great Stone Face, features
in-depth articles about Keaton's life and career and includes many
rare and never-before-published photos.