Myduke Goes to Disney

Folio Weekly | July 21, 2006
Motoring down I-95 in Frank Feldmann’s Ford pickup, it hits me: I could be sitting in the same seat where St. Johns County deputies found the bloody, severed head of the Feldmann family dog.

I ask the question as delicately I can. He is, after all, the person accused of the ghastly beheading.

Feldmann takes the question well. He motions to his lap and assures me the head was found on the driver’s seat. Gripping the wheel, eyes locked onto the road, he then offers one of his chief defenses against the allegations: If he had done it, he’d have at least laid down some plastic or cardboard.

County deputies didn’t buy that argument — or any other — when they arrested the 36-year-old on animal cruelty charges on March 16. But it’s safe to assume the reputation of the children’s author, conservative Christian and relentless self-promoter didn’t help his case any. This is the guy who a month prior burglarized, booby-trapped and scaled the St. Augustine Lighthouse while wearing a tiger costume to protest Internet pornography and to promote “Myduke,” his book about an eponymous Bengal tiger that has adventures with Sam, “a Siamese cat with an attitude.”

The lighthouse stunt earned Feldmann wide media coverage — it was broadcast on several national news networks and mentioned in Harper’s magazine — but he virtually disappeared after he was charged with the beheading. Feldmann and his family vacated their rented doublewide in Hastings. He shut down his promotional Website, cancelled his e-mail account

and disconnected his phone. And although he’d previously agreed to an interview with Folio Weekly, he never spoke with me for the cover story (“Animal Cruelty,” April 11) or responded after its publication.

But two months later, just before 7 a.m. on a June Wednesday, I find myself meeting Feldmann outside the Flying J Travel Plaza at I-95 and C.R. 206, stepping into his pickup, headed to the site of his next publicity stunt: Disney World.

“We’re going to give Walt a present,” he says, letting his smirk slowly fade.

Two wheelchairs — one electric, one manual — stand upright in the bed of the silver, Orlando-bound F-150. I ask Feldmann what they’re for.

“You’ll find out,” he says impishly. I get the feeling he’s been waiting for the question.

A week before, I’d e-mailed Feldmann to ask if I could accompany him during his next promotional feat, not expecting a reply. He replied. Although he’d been “pretty angry” about how he was portrayed in the April cover story, he invited me on a stunt that he said would “most likely gain national attention, and also national popularity to the person who exclusively reports it.”

“Owen,” he added, “are you ready to go national?”

Feldmann wouldn’t disclose what the stunt would entail. He’d say only that he’d been planning it for a year and that “Myduke” — Feldmann dressed in an obviously homemade, felt-and-marker tiger suit — would sneak into Disney World. The goals of the stunt, of course, would be to publicize the book “Myduke” (he’s been searching for a publisher for four years) and to promote his crusade against the use of pornographic Disney images on the Web.

Cruising down the interstate, Feldmann, whose nom de plume is “Dusty L. Cage,” quotes the philosophies of Shrek and Roger Rabbit. His hair is combed back and lightly sprayed, his skin more tan than it appeared in his March 16 mug shot. Strategically placed around the cab of truck are two small bottles of nasal spray, a pack of Marlboros, two cell phones and an unopened can of Mountain Dew. Radio Disney plays over the stereo. A peanut-sized, porcelain dachshund, Feldmann’s good-luck charm, stands obediently on the ledge between the steering wheel and the speedometer, while stickers that read “I LOVE MY WEINER” and “RUB MY WEINER FOR GOOD LUCK” spice up the rear windshield.

Feldmann makes sure I understand he’s “the most sought-after interview in Florida,” and that he’s received “more ink around the world than any other unpublished author.”

Having bailed out of jail for the lighthouse burglary and alleged animal cruelty, Feldmann is currently on probation for the former charge, paying off the $4,800 in damages he caused to the structure.

Feldmann says the animal cruelty charge was dropped six weeks ago due to lack of evidence, something State Attorney Bennett Ford confirms. (Ford says it could not be proven that the dog was beheaded or otherwise tortured while it was alive.) But Feldmann still must undergo the mental evaluation the county ordered shortly after his March arrest. Feldmann claims he’s already seen a county psychiatrist, who after six hours of analysis concluded he had “no mental defects.” But he says that wasn’t what the county wanted to hear. They’ve demanded he also get private psychiatric counseling at his expense.

“They say, ‘Here’s a man who’s determined, a man with convictions. He must have a mental disorder,’” Feldmann says. “They want me locked up and shut up.”

Because Feldmann himself reported someone had killed his dog — but later admitted he’d made that up — he also faces a charge of filing a “false report for a non-existent crime,” which he compares to a parking ticket.

Feldmann claims he has “hard evidence” proving he didn’t kill his dog, which he says he’ll present at a pre-trial hearing on Aug. 1. He promises to show me this evidence immediately following the trip to Disney. After the stunt, however, Feldmann reneges. He says he sent the camera containing the “crime scene photos” out of state so it wouldn’t be confiscated.

Driving a few car-lengths ahead of us, in a white Kia Optima with a small Mary Kay Cosmetics decal, is Feldmann’s wife of 13 years, Carrie “Cookie” Feldmann. The couple met as teens while “cruising the loop” in Sioux Falls, S.D., got engaged when she was 15 and he was 18, and married five years later. In 2001, they moved to St. Johns County.

Now 33, Cookie Feldmann, who’s sporting denim shorts and a blue T-shirt that reads “PARTY ANIMAL,” is ready to back up her husband’s Disney stunt. Cookie shares her husband’s belief that “Myduke” is a commercially viable work, their best shot at replacing the assets they lost when their 3,400-square-foot St. Augustine home burned down in August 2004. Feldmann says a copy of “Myduke” was one of just a few items the couple salvaged from the fire.

“It all began with my wife walking through the ashes,” Feldmann had previously explained. “She hugged [the book], kissed the filth, the ashes, and she cried, Owen, because she believed that one piece of work could replace everything she lost.” (Feldmann added that their homeowner’s insurance “didn’t cover squat.”)

“That’s when this started. That’s my fight: to make her belief become a reality.”

While Cookie generally — and fervently — supports her husband’s writing and promotional endeavors, she’s also his “voice of reason.” She warns him when the stunts he proposes are “too extreme” or when they’re likely to be misinterpreted. (She was asleep when her husband was on top of the 15-story lighthouse in 30 mph winds; he didn’t run that one by her.) And Cookie stands firm against criticism that her husband is a shameless self-promoter. She notes that people promote themselves every day simply by working.

In the passenger seat next to Cookie sits the Feldmanns’ landlord and friend, a beaming 58-year-old Steven Dubrow. He’s wearing aviator-style sunglasses and a long-sleeved shirt covered with phrases like “A True Hipster.” As a professional clown named “Notes,” the New Haven, Conn., native worked hospitals, birthday parties and Texaco grand openings for 40 years, until he lost half of the left side of his brain in a car accident. Though his optimism is intact, the St. Augustine resident now wears back and wrist braces, and often uses a wheelchair.

Alternately playing Gameboy and sleeping in the sedan’s back seat is 11-year-old Jonathon Feldmann, who has short, blondish hair, glasses and, according to his father, “severe ADD.” Jonathon’s sister,

9-year-old Justyne Feldmann, couldn’t make the trip. She’s at Bible camp.

To scope out the park in preparation for the stunt, Frank and Cookie Feldmann have been to Disney six or seven times in the past year, including on July 4, 2005, when they managed to smuggle the Myduke costume — the head of which is as big as a beer keg — through security. In fact, they were planning on doing today’s stunt then. But Feldmann says they realized once they got inside Disney, “we didn’t have enough clout to make our point.” After a year of heavy “Myduke” promotion, he says, they now have enough. (According to, “nearly two billion” people have been “exposed to” Feldmann’s lighthouse climb, while a solid “104,680,354 of Americans have direct knowledge of Dusty L. Cage and his novels.”)

Despite being surrounded by believers, Feldmann admits he’s nervous about the stunt. The former trucker and self-described “master craftsman” could sleep for only an hour-and-a-half last night.

“Scared as hell,” he concedes.

Perhaps distracted by June’s onslaught of tourists, most St. Augustinians were unaware Frank Feldmann planned a blockade of St. Augustine’s bayfront in an act of pirate

publicity. In an announcement on, Feldmann threatened to “keep supply ships at bay, weakening your defenses till our demands be met.” Those demands included a case of cold sarsaparilla, a wooden cork, a tinted ocular, two pounds of grapes and a Fig Newton.

The stunt never materialized. “Winds,” Feldmann explained.

The week following the planned “blockade,” Feldmann and I arrange to meet for the first time. I propose we do so on the grounds of the St. Augustine Lighthouse — spacious, private and a bit ironic, I thought — but Feldmann demands the obvious alternative, The Olive Garden at Philips Highway and I-95.

When I enter the restaurant, at 11:30 a.m. on a Monday, Feldmann is waiting just inside the front door. He’s wearing stonewashed Wranglers, a brown pinstriped blazer, a black belt, blue socks and brown penny-loafers. He says we have to leave.

“You’re not dressed the part,” he says, scanning my jeans and T-shirt dismissively.

After a moment, Feldmann decides I’m best suited for hotdogs at The Avenues Mall food court. We start walking across eight lanes of Philips Highway traffic.

“You probably expected a lunatic,” Feldmann begins. “Well, I hate to tell you, Owen, but I’m a very well-educated man, well-mannered man.”

Though he grew up in Chester, S.D., Feldmann speaks in a style he calls “Wisconsin-ish,” with an accent that sounds almost Canadian. His conversation is painfully deliberate, a quality he says leads Northeast Floridians to believe he’s a stoner. He also has a lazy eye.

After Feldmann solemnly reveals why he so passionately fights pedophilia — he says he was repeatedly molested when he was 11 — the formerly-accused-dog-killer details his lifelong love for animals. While he was growing up, the neighborhood kids would call him “fag” because he believed hunting was cruel. Out of compassion for local foxes, young Feldmann would walk “countless miles” to steal neighbors’ fox traps, which he would toss into his father’s pond. (The program backfired, he notes, after he threw so many traps in the water, horses were no longer able to drink from the pond.) Currently, the Feldmanns own seven dogs. “They eat with me, sleep with me, shower with me,” Feldmann says. “They know when Daddy’s favorite show — ‘SpongeBob Squarepants’ — comes on, and they stay with me and watch TV.”

The recent dog-beheading makes Feldmann sick, he says. “Every time I think about it, my heart drops into my stomach. What kind of animal would do this? Unfortunately, I have a good idea. That’s what makes it even more scary.”

Feldmann won’t say who he thinks did it, but later divulges that I was one of the five suspects he and Cookie were “investigating,” on the grounds that I’m a “young and hungry” journalist who might have killed the dog to create a story. (I’m off the hook, I understand.)

Peering over a railing on the second story of The Avenues, Feldmann offers a surprising concession. “I may be able to write stories that will blow people’s minds, but every one of my stunts so far has been a huge disaster,” he says, chuckling and shaking his head.

The lighthouse climb, for instance, was “an error in many ways. We failed to see the negative reactions that would be implied,” adding that the less-than-glowing media coverage of the event was “very understandable.” “It was supposed to be a cute, inquisitive and well-structured publicity stunt with minimal damage and without endangering anyone. The biggest amount of impact with the least amount of damage.”

When I remind Feldmann that St. Augustine police told Folio Weekly that Feldmann smeared lubricant on the roof of the lighthouse, presumably to make anyone coming after him slip, Feldmann insists that’s not the case. He says that as he was pulling himself onto the roof, he inadvertently stuck his hand into a clump of grease. To get it off, he wiped it on the roof.

“There was much misinterpretation of what was trying to be said,” Feldmann continues. I ask for clarification. “What was trying to be said was, ‘Look at the beautiful things in life.’” While Feldmann says the lighthouse climb is “in hindsight, very regrettable,” it bolstered his promotional mission. “Hopefully the next publicity stunt will clear the air and show we are nothing but kind, hopeless dreamers that want to believe in humanity.”

That kind of thinking doesn’t necessarily pay the bills. Feldmann’s 6-month-old business, “gold detailing on showroom cars,” has hit the skids. After the beheading incident, his clientele “ceased into vapor.” He’s now working odd jobs for his landlord and shoveling horse manure three times a week “to try to put food on the table.” He says Cookie, a full-time “professional financial manager” at Flagler Memorial Presbyterian Church, supports the family — but barely.

“My God, we live in a doublewide trailer. The cupboards are bare, Owen.” He pinches his lapel. “This beautiful, tailored suit? Don’t fool yourself — 20 bucks, the local Goodwill.”

After nearly two hours of walking around the Avenues — and across Philips Highway and back to get his cigarettes — Feldmann heads to the food court for the hot dog he’d planned on. But he orders only a Coke. He says he’d feel “guilty” dining out while his kids are at home eating PB&Js.

We pull over just outside the entrance to Disney World a bit before 10 a.m. Dubrow takes my place in Feldmann’s truck — they’re going to park in the disabled lot — and I join Cookie and Jonathon, who are listening to Michael Jackson’s “Bad.” After we park and prepare to board a trolley, I notice Cookie lugging a brown bundle the size of a small suitcase, bound with plastic ties. She tells me Myduke is stuffed inside.

After the five of us meet up, Dubrow puts the bundle containing Myduke on the seat of his electric wheelchair and sits on it. It boosts him a good 6 inches off the seat; his thin legs are level with the chair’s armrests. A security guard waves Dubrow through with a smile nonetheless.

“Myduke is officially in the park,” Feldmann whispers in my ear.

After we ferry to The Magic Kingdom, Feldmann finally discloses his “history-making” stunt: He’s going to give a small, blue gift bag — the “present” he mentioned — to a bronze statue of Walt Disney and Mickey Mouse at the foot of The Magic Kingdom’s Cinderella Castle. The bag, on which Feldmann will scrawl “TO WALT DISNEY,” contains a ball of yarn, a paddleball, a copy of the “Myduke” manuscript and a letter to Walt (who Feldmann realizes is dead).

In the one-page, typed letter, “Myduke” introduces himself. “I am just a kitty in a dog-bite-tiger world trying to find my way into your heart,” it reads. After plugging the book, the letter requests Walt’s help in Feldmann’s crusade: stopping people who digitally alter Disney characters to be pornographic.

“I know in my heart you never intended this for your beloved Disney family of Characters and I would like to know how I can help you end this crime against your name,” the letter concludes. “Thank You. Your Friend, MYDUKE!!!!!!”

Feldmann is planning to execute the “stunt,” which I’m beginning to think lacks gravitas, between 1 and 2 p.m., when there are no parades in the area. He wants the park’s undivided attention.

That means we have three hours to kill. So operating as what has strangely started to feel like a family unit, the Feldmanns, Dubrow and I avail ourselves of Disney’s charms. First we hit Cookie’s favorite attraction, “Mickey’s Philharmagic,” a 3-D video symphony. Frank, Cookie and Jonathon then buy nut-covered caramel apples — a family tradition. Before I know it, I’m coasting through the pitch-black chill of the Haunted Mansion, locked into a two-person car with a man arrested for chopping the head off a dog.

As the sunny, summer-solstice morning creeps by, Steven Dubrow leads the way around the park, stopping regularly to recharge his wheelchair battery by plugging into a wall socket.

Feldmann, having been to Disney at least “40 or 50” times, points out shortcuts between the attractions and the most subtle nuances of the elaborate sets.

While waiting in line to board Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, I ask Feldmann why his revamped Website ( no longer includes its exhaustive “Parent’s Page,” which featured dozens of the pornographic Disney characters, private parts teasingly obscured. His reply is the most sensible thing I’ve ever heard him say: He decided it was no longer necessary to show the images because viewers of the site had gotten the point. “Leaving it there would almost be like advertising it, spreading it,” Feldmann says.

By noon, Feldmann chats with me like a friend, talking politics and asking if I’m married or “have anything on the hook.”

But as 12:30 approaches, the conversation turns serious. The five of us return to the courtyard with Walt’s statue. Feldmann and Dubrow head for the restrooms to prepare.

Looking more terminal-patient than stuntman, Feldmann emerges from the restrooms in Dubrow’s wheelchair, legs covered in a bedsheet. Underneath, he’s wearing the body of the tiger suit. Dubrow, walking with a cane, trails behind.

The pair stops in the shade where Cookie, Jonathon and I have been waiting for 20 minutes. Still in the chair, Feldmann starts to pull the suit up over his shoulders. Cookie gives her husband a kiss. Jonathon suggests, “Let’s get this party started.” Feldmann squeezes on Myduke’s head, throws off the sheet and leaps out of the wheelchair.

What happens next is what Feldmann least expected. He doesn’t get tackled by security guards. No one points to the blue bag he’s holding and yells “bomb!” Camera crews don’t pop out from behind the shrubs.

What happens is: not much of anything. With Jonathon leading him by the hand, Feldmann approaches the Walt Disney statue, where a few families are snapping photos, and sort of holds the “present” in front of it for a little while.

“Move, please,” one photographer asks.

As Feldmann makes his way toward the castle, most patrons glance at and then ignore him. A few smile and wave. A blond girl requests a photo with Myduke; a dad asks for an autograph for his son. It’s not clear whether they know Myduke is an interloper. Some seem to regard him as just another Disney character.

I should note that my version of events differs from Feldmann’s. According to an update posted on the Myduke Website a week after the stunt, Myduke’s arrival sent the crowd into paroxysms of joy. “As soon as [Feldmann] placed on the head, the crowd began shouting, ‘Hey! It’s Myduke! The Lighthouse Tiger!’ For a moment Myduke was the most popular character in the park.”

“The most amazing part of the day,” Feldmann’s account reads, “was the fact that the visitors of the park were from all around the world, yet, MOST of the parks visitors knew about the story of Myduke.”

After posing for pictures in front of “The Sword and The Stone” statue, Feldmann and Jonathon get in line to ride the carousel. (Feldmann claims to hold the world record for carousel riding; he rode the St. Augustine carousel for 52 hours straight in 2003.) Climbing onto one of the ponies, Feldmann finally gets some meaningful attention. A friendly, soft-spoken security guard named Jorge tells him he can’t wear the costume on the ride. Myduke dismounts.

As two other Disney officials trickle in to back up Jorge, Feldmann contends he can wear the tiger suit. He argues that transvestites and participants in Disney’s gay parades are allowed to dress up. He should be able to, too.

Kevin, a beer-bellied guard with a bushy moustache, kindly tells Feldmann that Guest Services will make sure his gift to Walt “gets to the right people,” and that they’ll hold onto his tiger suit, free of charge. He can’t wear the suit around the park, but he can pick it up on his way out, Kevin says. After he enjoys the rest of his day.

In our time together at The Avenues and at Disney, Frank Feldmann urged me to include in this article a review — “good or negative” — of the “Myduke” novel. Because I didn’t make it through the entire 147-page manuscript, I instead submit a sample of the text. In this scene from Chapter Five, aspiring writer Jack Kindall presents his wife and two kids with the only Christmas gift he has to offer: a white Bengal tiger he recently rescued from an irresponsible circus master.

“Yup! That’s a tiger,” Justyne said

looking up.

“His name is Duke!” Jack smiled.

“I just love my Duke,” Mandy said.

“Aw, I wish he was my Duke,” Jon said sadly, kicking the floor.

“Ever stop to think he’s my Duke?” Justyne swayed back and forth innocently.

“Hmm!” Jack’s eyes opened wide. “What a perfect name!”

“What, Dear?” Mandy smiled.

“Myduke! Don’t you see? He belongs to all of us. Jon, you can say that he is Myduke, Justyne you can say that he’s Myduke. We can all say that he is Myduke because he’s a part of our family!”

“Myduke. What a wonderful name!” Mommy hugged him again. “Very nice to meet you, Myduke.”

“Myduke! Myduke! Myduke!” the

children cheered.

Feldmann is currently accepting offers from publishers.

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