The Schlong Goodbye

Ideas come to Henry Badgett. While he's watering flowers in his front yard. Taking a shower. Sleeping. Standing. Making meatloaf. Suddenly a lightbulb flashes over his head. A fairy taps his shoulder. A tree falls in the forest. A mushroom cloud blasts through the stratosphere. "It just happens, man," he says. "I don't know why. I amaze myself when I do things."

Consider his company, Futuristic Systems, Inc. Eight years ago, Henry was fiddling around with one thing or another, and bam!--there it was. Futuristic Systems, Inc. The perfect name for a business specializing in wholesale novelties and gifts. "Futuristic is a 'now' name," Henry says. "It's a promotion name. If you have something to put before the public."

Problem was, Henry had neither novelties nor gifts nor something to put before the public. But he wasn't worried. Something would pop up, he thought. Eventually.

It's a nice, hot afternoon, and Henry sits on the back porch of his home in Thornton, manila folders spread on the patio table before him, hands wrapped around a Las Vegas souvenir glass filled with gin and tonic. "I'm a one-drink-a-day alcoholic," he grins, gold tooth glistening. "One drink a day."

He's in a good mood, cracking jokes, laughing to himself, winding down after another shift as a part-time oil refinery security guard. "I think you could call me a creator," he says. "Because a creator is someone who puts materials together with a format. An inventor is someone who makes things with form. I'm an entrepreneur."

He's also seventy years old, balding, stocky, with a grizzled mustache, diamond stud earring, monogrammed shirt and thick eyeglasses. He's polite and articulate, with a soft Texas twang that rises to a Little Richard falsetto when describing his exploits. "Wooo! I'm just a nut, man. I don't know about me."

This particular exploit begins in 1992, when Henry was recovering from prostate surgery. Although the operation was successful, as a side effect of the procedure, he was impotent. "I was sitting up in bed, and I began wondering about the treatments," he recalls. "Automatically, my brain is saying, 'Now, what is it? Medicine or what?' I thought about all kinds of things. The thing I created was one of the things I thought about."

Thought about but did not act upon. Not immediately, anyway. Instead, Henry met with doctors who earlier had shown him an array of impotency treatments, and he selected a method involving a muscle stimulant, a syringe and a needle. "I said, 'I can handle that.' It's a small needle. The thought of a needle hurts, but I had been [wounded] in the service and had so many needles in me that a needle is a very easy thing to take."

So he took it. He did not, however, tell his wife, Judy. One night, he administered the treatment but somehow used too much stimulant. He wound up in the hospital, unable to relax. "We're talking three hours, four hours, can't sleep, can't lay down. Not the situation you dream of. Just a miserable thing."

Even more miserable, he had to tell Judy. "She said, 'If that's what it does, don't take it anymore. Give yourself a chance. Just give yourself some time.' That's when I started thinking about this thing again."

This thing he thought about was a prosthetic device--some might call it a dildo, but Henry doesn't--that would allow him and his wife to enjoy sex again. "I had never seen one before, but I thought they must have one somewhere. I thought, 'They must have something for a man to please his mate until he gets himself in shape again.' Because pleasing the mate is important. If I can't please my wife, I won't even mess with her. That's what I was thinking at the time."

So he started looking. He looked in adult bookstores along Federal Boulevard. "There were all these ding-dong daddies up on the walls, and I was asking for a black one, because I'd look kind of funny with a pink one. That would take away from your style and train of thought."

But everywhere he looked, he came up empty. "There was just nothing for the black man," Henry says. "I'm the kind of person that says things that shock people. So I said, 'Why aren't there any black ones? You white boys think all black men are hung like the dickens?' And the man said, 'There's just no demand.'"

Henry got to thinking. "I thought, 'Man, if I could make a black one and a tan one and a pink one, I could put this on the market for prostate cancer and safe sex and sell it as the Rolls-Royce of condoms!'"

Funny thing was, by now Henry wasn't impotent. A few months after his surgery, he'd fully recovered. Still, he couldn't shake his idea. "This is what creative activity does. This is the way you get into things and don't know how until you're already there."

Henry searched some more and found an item of appropriate color, but it was a "woman's model"--solid, with a latex exterior, foam core and rubber belt. Henry asked the clerk if he could modify the design, hollow it out to fit a man's business, but the clerk laughed. "You'll just waste your $30," he said. But Henry was determined. "This is an invention," he declared. "I'm going to see for myself."

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