Publicity Hound or Dog Killer?

Folio Weekly | April 18, 2006
Flashlight. Cordless drill. Rope. Bolt cutters. Hole saw bit. Demand letter, sealed in envelope. Note with phone

numbers of local media.

The list of items confiscated from Frank Feldmann after he was arrested for breaking into the St. Augustine Lighthouse seems routine for a publicity stunt. Until item No. 8: Rubber chicken.

And item No. 14: White tiger suit.

According to police, Feldmann got an early start on Tuesday, Feb. 7, having inspected the lighthouse two weeks prior. He arrived well equipped. Before dawn, the 35-year-old craftsman, author and relentless self-promoter drilled a precise, 3-1/2-inch hole through one of the ground-level windows’ wooden shutters. He reached through the hole, unlocked the shutters, shattered the window and climbed inside the lighthouse. He re-locked the shutters and fit a piece of metal over the hole he’d drilled so others couldn’t reach through. He roped the building’s front door shut and filled the interior door locks with mechanic’s putty. Before climbing the 219 stairs to the observation deck and using a 50-ton power jack to seal the metal exterior door, he left a note labeled "READ THIS NOW."

The lighthouse’s lens — literally priceless, made in Paris in 1855 from materials no longer available — was booby-trapped, the note warned. If police attempted to detain Feldmann, they would destroy the lens.

It’s unclear exactly when Feldmann made the transformation so integral to his stunt; when he pulled on the Bengal tiger costume, white with black stripes, a playful tail, an oversized head, a face stuck in a toothy smile. But it’s certain Feldmann was in tiger form when he began to scale the glass exterior of the main light room, up to the red tower at the tip of the lighthouse. Strapped to the lightning rod, he pulled himself onto the small round roof, 155 feet above the ground. In 30-plus-mph winds.

At that point, Feldmann retrieved a white flag, about 2 feet by 3 feet, on which he’d written a message — words he hoped would resonate with those watching from the ground, that evening’s TV audiences, the next day’s newspaper readers. He attached the flag to the tower’s lightning rod. It flapped wildly in the western gusts. The tykes who would arrive at nearby R.B. Hunt Elementary weren’t likely to make out the words. Morning commuters probably couldn’t figure it out, either. But to Feldmann, the message was perfectly clear: "4 MYDUKE." The banner he hung from the observation deck bore the same text. A third sign read, "I HAVE A DREAM … ALSO."

St. Augustine police arrived at the lighthouse at 4:17 a.m. in response to the building’s burglar alarm. But it took nearly three hours of picking locks, examining supposed booby traps and negotiating with Feldmann — children’s author, husband and father, Rush Limbaugh-lover, ACLU-hater and, as of last month, alleged animal-cruelty felon — before he would come down. It was then that the Hastings resident declared his motive for burglarizing and climbing one of the region’s most iconic structures, dressed as a tiger: to protest child pornography on the Internet.

If Feldmann subscribes to the theory that any publicity is good publicity, then the stunt was his most successful to date. Regional news networks offered video clips of Feldmann battling the winds atop the tower. Internet news sources posted articles with headlines like ANTI-PORN BENGAL TIGER CLIMBS LIGHTHOUSE. Even Harper’s magazine online offered coverage, deadpanning, "Police had difficulty communicating with Feldmann due to heavy winds and his tiger costume."

Bloggers and newsgroupers also weighed in. "Jim" from Little Rock wrote off the stunt as "sadly typical of right-wing weirdoes." A concerned "Carrie" implored readers to remember Feldmann’s "two kids in your prayers." A contributor suggested a tenuous connection between Feldmann’s feat and his stated motive, jeering, "No doubt senior citizens and beach bums alike spat up their orange juice, erased their hard drives and hurried to join Perverted Justice in the crusade against child pornography."

For all its publicity, the stunt left some key questions unanswered: Who is this man? Why the tiger suit? Who the hell is "Myduke"?

Feldmann’s Website —, a page bursting with animated emoticons, spinning carousels, crashing helicopters, American flags and lots of tigers — begins to shed light on these matters. The "Short History" of Dusty L. Cage, the pen name under which Feldmann writes and self-publishes his books, offers a good starting point:

Born: February, Friday the Thirteenth, 1970

Raised: Dairy Farm, Chester, South Dakota

Parents: Mr. & Mrs. Feldmann

Birth Name: Frank Lynn Feldmann

Brother: Steven Feldmann

Sister: None

Married: January 11, 1993

Wife: Carrie Feldmann

Son: age 11

Daughter: age 9

Hobbies: Aviation, All Types

Past time: Powered Paragliding

Occupation: Master Craftsman

Dream: Screen Writer

Home: Saint Augustine, Florida

Dislikes: Violence, Bad Movies, Sci Fi

World Record Holder: April 13, 2003

Passion: Writing, Fiction, and Non Fiction

Not short on biographical material, the site explains families would travel "hundreds of miles" to hear 10-year-old Dusty Cage tell stories "into the early morning hours." It also reveals the identity of Myduke: It’s a white Bengal tiger, Feldmann’s literary creation. In a children’s book of the same name, Myduke has adventures around St. Augustine with Sam, "a Siamese cat with an attitude." The site claims Feldmann’s son, who suffers from ADHD, sat for three and a half hours reading the book, despite having "NEVER taken any interest in any one thing for more than a few moments." Feldmann says the book was the only gift he could give his family for Christmas in 2001, and ever since, he’s been promoting it by showing up around the Oldest City — on the beach, atop the lighthouse — dressed as Myduke.

While Feldmann’s Website offers a wealth of information — his stories of struggling to find a publisher, riding the St. Augustine carousel for 52 hours straight in an attempt to win a Guinness Book of World Records title (unsuccessful), dropping seashells containing his Website address on doorsteps across the Midwest — it isn’t enough. If anything, the information only makes Feldmann seem more inscrutable.

About five weeks ago, I set out to get inside the head of the author and activist. But Feldmann, now 36, proved elusive. On March 13, while awaiting trial for the lighthouse burglary, Feldmann agreed via e-mail to grant an interview — provided that, "due to recent death threats to my family and myself," I could verify my employment at Folio Weekly. Having done so, I proposed a date to meet. In response, I received an e-mail on March 16 from "Mrs. Dusty L. Cage" that read: "Dusty has been unavoidably detained. He will get back to you."

The message seemed less hokey the following day, when the news broke that Feldmann had been arrested for beheading the family dog.

Hastings, Florida — "Potato Capital of the World," population 607 (’04 est.) — is bisected by C.R. 13, a two-lane road lined with farm-style homes, lifeless warehouses and fields of cows and leafy vegetables. On a late-March afternoon near White Tower Road, a swinging metal gate is bound shut to a wooden fence by chain and padlock. Tire ruts stretch from the gate to an indistinct structure just visible from the street. There is no address on the fence or gate, or on the black mailbox opposite. But given the numbers of the adjacent properties, it’s clear the lot is Feldmann’s.

Since being arrested for animal cruelty and then bailing out of St. Johns County Jail, the man who just weeks ago risked his life for publicity has gone into hiding. The phone number he gave police is no longer in service. He shut down his e-mail account and Website, again, "due to recent threats."

(At press time, however, the site could be accessed by starting at It’s worth your time.)

Taking the chained gate to mean Feldmann doesn’t want company, I visit one of his neighbors, who lets me get a closer look at his home. She directs me through a pit of manure and down the length of a long fence (which I later learn, the hard way, is electric). After walking through a field for several minutes, I peer through the trees at Feldmann’s rental home: a doublewide trailer with mismatched sides, slightly dingy, with a wooden ramp leading to the front door. A small satellite is attached to the trailer, a larger one stuck in the ground. Scattered about the property are buckets, pieces of siding, machine parts, two tractors, three bicycles. A couple of small, fenced areas appear to have nothing within them.

At the northwestern corner of the trailer is a burn barrel, inside which, according to police reports, officers found Feldmann’s decapitated dog. On Thursday, March 16, Feldmann called police to report someone had slashed his truck tires, that someone "was out to get him." He also said his dog had been missing since that Monday, but at about 11 that morning he’d found its head on the front seat of his truck. When officers arrived, Feldmann told them he hadn’t seen the dog’s body, a claim for which he wrote and swore to an affidavit. He also said that in addition to the dog, he’d previously found a rabbit and cat decapitated, explaining that there was a "bobcat" in the area.

Officers, searching the property, smelled burned hair and checked inside the burn barrel. Having noticed a Bobcat earthmover on the property, their suspicions turned to Feldmann. They asked if that was the "bobcat" to which Feldmann referred. Police say he didn’t answer. But he did eventually admit putting the dog’s body in the burn barrel so his wife wouldn’t see it. He conceded he might have hit the dog with his truck. Officers charged him with filing a false police report and cruelty to animals. Feldmann was taken to jail and referred to a mental health counselor.

With the trailer’s curtains drawn, and my shouts of "Dusty" and "Myduke" unanswered, I ask a neighbor about Feldmann. She talks only on the condition of anonymity — "I can honestly tell you I’m afraid of him," she says. During the two or three interactions she’s had with Feldmann, "He didn’t have too much to say," she recalls. "He wasn’t friendly."

In light of Feldmann’s apparent obsession with fighting Internet porn, she suggests police search his computer. "Who knows what they’d find? Maybe he’s addicted to it."

She also believes police were right in charging Feldmann with killing his dog. "Nobody would have walked down that driveway — walked all the way down — to cut off its head."

But Feldmann’s landlord, Steven Dubrow, takes a different view. He says a vagrant was living in one of the sheds just outside Feldmann’s trailer, but they were unable to catch him. Dubrow believes this vagrant killed the dog and put its head in the truck. He notes Feldmann rescued the dog from an abusive owner.

"Frank’s a real good guy," insists Dubrow. "He’s a farmer. He comes out of the Midwest. He loves animals." Dubrow worked with Feldmann, whom he calls "a handyman, a jack of all trades," for two years. He notes that Feldmann once stayed home from work for two days to deliver one of his dog’s puppies. Despite the allegations and the publicity, Dubrow insists the real Feldmann isn’t a bad guy. "That’s the Frank I know," he says.

Who was the vice president of the U.S. in ’87? What do adults worry about in April? Answer these questions correctly (George H. Bush and taxes), and you’re into’s "Parent’s Page." Feldmann created the site, he says, in order to alert parents to the dangers of Internet porn. He explains that while his kids were doing a Web search for info on Disney and WB cartoon characters, the family’s computer was flooded with pornographic pop-up ads featuring the characters. The ads linked to porn sites.

Horrified, Feldmann began investigating the "monsters that create this garbage," and learned that because "the ACLU" considers the images art, Disney is unable to stop them. Worse, it’s only "Rush Limbaugh, Michael Savage and Mike Hanidy [sic]" — never a "liberal talk-show host" — who speak out against such things.

But Feldmann’s rage against the pornographic machine is mitigated by his decision to post dozens of those same images on his site. The Parent’s Page offers pictures of Aladdin, The Little Mermaid, Kim Possible, The Incredibles, Pocahontas, Jessica Rabbit — the whole gang — engaged in all manner of sexual activity, including masturbation, bestiality, rape and incest. Black boxes obscure some penetrations, others are covered by a coy, toe-tapping Mickey Mouse. "Every Disney characters [sic] we love, everyone imaginable is used in horribly depraved ways," Feldmann’s site reads. "These are not [from] foreign web sites, they are here in the USA."

The images are at the heart of Frank Feldmann’s mission. They’re what drive him to climb lighthouses and attempt to shatter world records for riding carousels.

"Don’t be mad at me for showing this," he writes. "I’m risking my life to stop this. What are you doing????"

Celebrities are few and far between in Hastings. But between the lighthouse stunt and the headless dog, Feldmann has managed to attain some mix of popularity and notoriety in these parts.

Jannie Clark works at the Kangaroo convenience store at C.R. 13 and C.R. 207, Hastings’ main intersection. She says she recognized Feldmann from the news reports as one of her occasional customers. Based on her interactions with him, she was surprised he was arrested for killing his dog. "You wouldn’t have thought he was like that," Clark says while mopping the store floor. When asked if Feldmann seemed like a stable guy, she responds, "Uh-huh."

Clark won’t talk about Feldmann in detail, but she does bring up the "bobcat" bit. "He said a bobcat got it," she says, cracking up. "The bobcat was the tractor!" Kangaroo manager Michelle Tipton shakes her head and adds, "Only in Hastings."

Just south on C.R. 13 is the Hastings Library. A 30-ish librarian on duty says she’s familiar with Feldmann because of the recent publicity, but isn’t sure if he frequents the library. She searches the electronic catalog for the author "Dusty Cage," then the book "Myduke." Nothing.

"I guess that’s a good thing," she says.

Jim Soules owns downtown St. Augustine’s J&S Carousel, the one Feldmann rode for 52 hours to support the troops, the American Red Cross and Myduke, as well as attempt to land in the Guinness Book of World Records for the longest carousel ride. (The category doesn’t exist, however, and Guinness officials refused to recognize Feldmann’s effort.) Soules describes Feldmann as "a very emotional person — different," and observes he didn’t live up to his promises. Soules says Feldmann pledged to pay him to keep an employee on duty around the clock during his ride. But Soules hasn’t heard from him since the stunt, though he’s called and sent letters to Feldmann seeking the more than $400. After learning about the dog beheading charges, Soules says, "I wouldn’t have thought that back then, but after climbing the lighthouse, I wouldn’t put it past him. I knew he’s weird, but damn."

Feldmann’s not too popular among St. Augustine police officers, either. The lighthouse demonstration siphoned off 20 percent of the police force that morning and cost local taxpayers between $4,000 and $6,000. "It was a dangerous situation for everyone involved," says SAPD Commander Stephen Fricke, who talked Feldmann down from the tower. Fricke then mentions something the police and news reports didn’t cover: In the days after the stunt, a steeplejack hired to remove the "4 MYDUKE" flag discovered Feldmann had smeared lubricant on the ladder to the roof and on the roof itself, presumably so that anyone who tried to apprehend him would slip. "It was a stunt to promote his Website that endangered several people’s lives," concludes Fricke.

Asked how Feldmann behaved during negotiations, Fricke says, "He was dressed in a tiger suit at the top of a lighthouse at five in the morning. You’re an astute reporter — What do you think?"

Apparently, Frank Feldmann anticipated the mess he’s got himself into. His Website includes information on his "Legal Defense Fund." The page reads, "If you are visiting this page, Myduke probably needs your HELP! As you know, cats, even BIG cats, get into trouble, and trouble usually means LEGAL EXPENSES!" Supporters can help Feldmann through "straight-out contribution or the purchase of Dusty L. Cage’s books."

For those left confused by the lighthouse porn protest, the legal defense page explains Feldmann’s activism with at least relative clarity. "In the society we live in, sometimes it is necessary to do things to raise attention that some may see as a nuisance," writes Feldmann. "When in the battle against child porn, unnecessary violence and popular political agendas, it is at times necessary to speak out in ways that may hold a progressively uncaring public’s attention."

But with Feldmann having cut all lines of communication, it’s clear the activist needed a break from the spotlight. Steven Dubrow seems to be the only person who knows where he and his family currently reside, and he’s not saying. "He doesn’t need all that hanging around his kid," the landlord says, referring to the controversy surrounding the animal cruelty charges. "He doesn’t want his son tainted with all that."

Two of Feldmann’s former neighbors say they’ve heard the family is moving to Flagler Estates, a trailer and prefab-home community off C.R. 13 that’s filled with some of Northeast Florida’s more colorful characters.

The "4 MYDUKE" flag flew from the St. Augustine Lighthouse for at least 36 hours after Feldmann climbed down on Feb. 7. Two months later, Hastings residents are still talking about the stunt. The climb — and the alleged dog beheading — will be hard acts for Feldmann, Dusty Cage, Myduke to follow. But a message on Feldmann’s Website suggests something bigger may be in the works: "What promotional stunt is up his sleeve next? Well, we will just have to wait and see."

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