Deep End | Big Parry: Life was a series of stories, and he loved them all. 

Have I told you the story ...” he would begin. n

“I’m not sure,” I would say. “But tell me again.”

n

My dad (like everyone else, my siblings and I called him Parry) would then launch into the story about E.D. (his father) telling Ann (his mother) he wasn’t leaving the house to her in his will because he didn’t want her marrying some son-of-a-bitch who would toast his shins in front of his fireplace. Ann replied, “What makes you think I’d marry another son-of-a-bitch?”

n

Or the story about Uncle Nat, the traveling lingerie salesman, being locked out of the family house on Elizabeth Street because E.D. got tired of him coming home late “feeling no pain,” as Parry would say. Nat didn’t want to get his white suit dirty so he took it off, folded it up and carried it up a ladder to second-floor bedroom. A neighbor saw half-naked Nat climbing up the ladder and called the cops. Nat insisted he lived in the house, but when E.D. answered the door, he said he had never seen him before. The cops hauled him off to jail.

n

There were other family stories: the cousin who got knocked up by a priest at the Holy Cross Hospital (after a shotgun wedding, they moved to Sacramento and enjoyed a long, happy marriage); the cousin, once a budding opera soprano, who ended up as a cook in a whorehouse in Ely, Nevada; or the cousin, a one-legged homosexual chiropractor, who made a lot of money in Hollywood correcting the spinal subluxations of the stars of the Silver Screen.

n

Of course, Parry had all kinds of stories from his FBI days during the war: There was Johnny the Barber, at whose backroom bookie joint Parry and other special agents placed their own bets—“just occasionally,” Parry would assure us; there was the lazy German spy who spent more time in bed with his landlady than decoding messages from the Fatherland; then there was the infamous Helen Marshall, the madam of the finest female establishment in Hoboken, N.J., whom Parry got to know after he cracked a high-level white-slavery case. For years, they exchanged Christmas cards.

n

Parry had an equally rich collection of stories from his days in England editing the Millennial Star, the Mormon Church’s weekly newspaper. One New Year’s Eve, Parry and another missionary met up with a couple of nurses in Trafalgar Square with whom they brought in the New Year. “We told them we were missionaries, but they still didn’t understand why we wouldn’t go back to their flat with them,” Parry said.

n

Parry’s favorite mission stories centered on President Heber J. Grant, who came to England to celebrate the church’s centennial in 1937. Parry drove the bearded prophet all around England, the two of them singing Mormon hymns and dance-hall tunes as they traveled from town to town. A couple of years later, the Mormon prophet spotted Parry at a university function. “There’s my old friend Parry from England,” he called out.

n

The world as it was presented Parry with an inexhaustible cast of characters, and everyone he met was a player in the grand pageant of life. Parry was a great newsman because he knew that everyone had a story. Down at Brighton Gardens, where he spent his last year of life, he had a tag for all the aides. Like Homer bestowing epic epithets such as “wily Odysseus” or “gray-eyed Athena,” he matter-of-factly would refer to “Jill the champion golfer from Idaho,” or “Tia the night nurse with 10 kids,” or “George the good-looking guy from Peru.”

n

He was Parry to them, just as he was Parry to the Mormon Prophet and Parry to the Hoboken madam.

n

My first name for him was not Dad, but Parry—actually Big Parry. After my sister Holly was born, my mother was busy caring for the new baby, so Parry took me, a 3-year-old, everywhere—to the Buy-Rite on 21st East, to Johnny’s gas station on the corner, to the Park Building at the U. When the clerk at Buy-Rite saw us enter, she started singing “Me and my Shadow.” At the U, people like Marv Hess or Karl Schlectman would ask me who the big guy was holding my hand, and I would answer, “Big Parry.” As my dad told me—many times—“They sure got a big kick out of that.”

n

There’s no doubting, my dad, Big Parry, got a very big kick out of his long, lucky and storied life. tttt

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