The Butt of the Joke

There's no place like Home Depot for the holidays.

At least Home Depot didn't accuse Bob Dougherty of shoplifting.

Michael Panorelli, a carpenter in Massachusetts, was buying lumber at a local Home Depot. His client handed him a pencil to do some calculations, which Panorelli subsequently pocketed. He didn't realized his mistake until a Home Depot worker caught up with him in the parking lot. That pencil belonged to the store, the worker said, and he gave Panorelli a letter advising him that he was banned from all Home Depots and would be hearing from the Atlanta-based company's lawyers.

But first, the Eagle-Tribune in Lawrence, Massachusetts, heard from Panorelli, and after his story broke, Home Depot issued a written apology. "We will not be pursing any claims against Mr. Panorelli for this incident," the statement read. "We welcome Mr. Panorelli back as a customer in our stores at any time."

The truth had set him free.

No such luck for Bob Dougherty. He clearly didn't want the item he took with him when he exited the Louisville Home Depot back on October 30, 2003. He didn't want any part of the toilet seat that was stuck to his ass, but the paramedics who'd unbolted it from the toilet in the store's restroom needed more delicate tools for the rest of the operation.

Now, more than two years later, an unexpected champion has attached himself to Dougherty.

"I'm a people person," explains Larry Borovay -- and Dougherty is one of his people. "I managed Buddy Ebsen for six years, helped with his artworks. Buddy was such a super guy, and he taught me so many lessons in life." Among other things, Buddy -- aka Jed Clampett, aka Barnaby Jones -- taught him that you have to smile through the tough times. That you can't take humiliation sitting down. Not even on a Home Depot toilet.

Borovay lives in Simi, California, where he runs a collection agency, collects stories about dogs (read all about it on www.doggiedogdaze.com), collects people. "I'm helping a lady who's losing her house because she made terrorist threats to NBC News," he explains. "She just got upset and said, 'You guys need to apologize to the public.'" Incidentally, the lady once lived with Elvis Presley. And Borovay knows Ed, that lawyer who worked with Erin Brockovich.

Borovay's stories are sprinkled with such scintillating show-biz references, which makes Dougherty, a 57-year-old vet who's one of the odder residents of the very odd town of Nederland, an unusual fit for his people collection. As Borovay tells it, about a year ago he was sitting at the dinner table with his father, who knew someone who knew Dougherty, and he started telling this story about a guy in Colorado who'd gone into the bathroom at Home Depot, sat down before he noticed that someone had put glue on the toilet seat, and wound up getting stuck to the toilet. "My daughter was laughing hysterically," Borovay remembers. "She kept saying, 'I'm sorry, Grandpa, but it's funny.'"

But when a friend of a friend contacted Borovay and asked if he could find a lawyer who'd sue Home Depot before the statute of limitations expired, Borovay took the charge seriously. And although Dougherty went with a local attorney, Mark Cohen, who filed his case in Boulder in October (it's since been moved to federal court, at Home Depot's request), Borovay decided to stick with the cause. "Buddy always said the lesson in life is to laugh," he says. "So I said, 'Bob, you need to put some laughter in your life.'"

That's why Borovay set up a website -- www.gotglued.com -- complete with an illustration of a guy bending over with a toilet seat stuck to his butt. "We believe that laughter is the music of the soul and a wonderful stress reliever," he writes in describing gotglued's mission. "Bob Dougherty's experience got me thinking that everyone at some time in his or her life has experienced some very embarrassing times. I hope your embarrassment was not as horrific as that of Bob Dougherty. I encouraged Bob to stand up for himself and put his embarrassment aside. Our mission is to try to take a negative or embarrassing experience and share it to relieve stress. I hope to write a book to entertain everyone sharing the most embarrassing times of people from different walks of life and their opinions they have in regards to Bob's experience. I hope we can laugh at ourselves and everyone will feel better."

So much better, in fact, that they just might want to send a check c/o gotglued, which Borovay promises will go to Dougherty for his legal expenses -- those doctors' reports are expensive, and extensive, Cohen says, since Dougherty suffered from post-traumatic stress connected to the incident, worsening an already bad heart condition. At one point, paramedics were unable to find a pulse. "After he was taken to the hospital that night, he never heard from Home Depot again," Cohen says. "He never got any kind of apology at all." In October, after Cohen sent the company a demand letter and copies of medical bills, Dougherty did get a $2,000 offer from an insurance adjuster; he refused the deal, and Cohen filed the suit. And suddenly Dougherty was in the center ring of the media circus.

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