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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."

So he brought the item home--didn't tell his wife--hollowed it out and destroyed it just as the clerk had predicted. He did, however, manage to salvage the rubber belt. "Why? I don't know why," he says. "I just did." Eventually, he found a man's model, brought it home--still didn't tell the wife--and on a lark attached the rubber belt. In that instant, his prototype was born. "Now I knew what it would look like, but I had a black belt and a pink penis."

Henry pounded the pavement yet again. He tracked down medical technicians, met with mold makers, contacted sex-store distributors, scoured library indexes, sent faxes, sketched design plans and compiled color samples. "I even cut a piece off one of my [brown] shirts," he says.

At last, six long years after the idea was born, Henry believes he's finally lined up a mold maker, a rubber supplier (which will produce black, tan and pink latex) and a manufacturer. He even returned to his hospital, studied competing treatments and developed a brochure: "How to Make Prostate Problems, Impotence, Mental/Sexual Disorder, AIDS, Safe Sex a Joyful Experience. The Penisster System."

"I don't know where I got the name," he says. "I had to come up with something. When you're writing and creating, it just happens. But it's clean enough and clear enough to make people say, 'Now, what is that?' The Penisster. Yeah."

Henry Badgett was born in Dallas, Texas, in 1928, the middle child in a family of thirteen ("six under me, six over me"). At age eighteen, he enlisted in World War II, served as an infantryman in the Philippines and Guam, got shot twice in the abdomen and lost his right index finger during a knife fight with a Japanese soldier.

After receiving an honorable discharge with a disability, Henry moved to Denver in 1948, graduated from business school and opened a string of maintenance companies with names like "Shiny Bright" and "Reliable." He got married, divorced, married, divorced and married again and had three children.

Somewhere along the line, he also created two TV game shows: Blitz, a spinoff of bingo, and Winner Take All, which involved trivia questions and audience participation. Blitz sold "for an undisclosed amount" to an Italian producer, Henry says, but Winner Take All, which he also modified into a board game, never left his office. "It was kind of cute, but it was just something that I did," Henry says. "That's the kind of stuff that if it doesn't work, you move on to something else."

Like the Penisster.
"Yes."
Henry knows what you're probably thinking. Others have thought the same thing. He once presented his plans to a manufacturer who practically threw him out of the building. "He must've thought I was going to open my own X-rated store," Henry recalls. "I told him, 'Wait, wait, wait. What's your damn problem? All you see is a penis and already your mind goes to hell. I'll have you know I invented this for a medical procedure. When a doctor shows patients different [impotency] treatments, I want this to be an option. I'm not trying to sell something in a damn bookstore!'"

His brochure explains it this way: "The Penisster System is for people who want to live life to the fullest and give love and affection unselfishly to their partner. It can be enjoyed by both partners with no conjectures, preparation problems, or negative effects. Social awareness concerning the importance of condoms is one reason the Penisster System is so well accepted today."

If all goes as planned, the Penisster could hit the market this year. In addition to the apparatus, customers will receive a diagram and accompanying description ("fits neatly around the waist"), a variety of possible sizes ("five inches to eight inches"), a recommended lubricant ("Astroglide"), suggested tips for enjoyment ("perform foreplay a minimum of 10 minutes") and a word on Viagra ("one of the most precious gifts human society has received").

"Viagra really had a lot to do with what I'm doing," Henry says. "What I have is pretty exciting for a certain stage of life. There isn't anything out there like it. Anything from an adult bookstore is a novelty, but mine is copyrighted, patented and trademarked for medical treatment. How do I know it will work? Because it was tried out. By whom? Just say it was a person. And it worked great. Just great. This is not something I hope to do. This is something I'm going to do."

 

Finally, he even told his wife. "She's excited," Henry says. "Whatever I like, man, she loves. That gives me more time to think because we're not arguing. Never in my life have I been so happy. A year ago I never would have thought I'd be doing this. I'm just a lucky seventy-year-old man. That's all. Just a lucky seventy-year-old man.


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