Yes, It Was a Camel Passing By

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Daboul Settles Bet

By Ann L. Moore

Hampton Union, Wednesday, July 1, 1981

[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online. Photos courtesy Jackie Mortimer and not part of the original article.]

HAMPTON BEACH -- Mike Daboul rode the camel to pay off his bet with John Tinios last Saturday, and was neatly upstaged by the beast, Humphrey, a 12-year-old male camel supplied by R. W. Cummerford and Sons of Goshen, Conn.

The dromedary, a one-hump camel, was hired for the day for $850, portal to portal, all expenses included.

For anyone who does not know why Mike rode a camel the length of the beach and down Lafayette Road, here is the story. Last December, Jim Kennedy, a beach precinct commissioner and businessman, was at the Galley Hatch restaurant with Daboul and restauranteur John Tinios, the son of owners Mike and Kay Tinios.

"Jim found he couldn't pull up close to the table and decided to go on a diet," Daboul explains. "I bet John that Jim could not lose 45 pounds and get down to 170 pounds. We figured six months to do it, and set June 1 for a deadline."

Daboul said if Kennedy lost the weight he would ride a camel the length of Hampton Beach.

For his side of the bet, Tinios said if Kennedy did not lose the weight he would feed the Daboul family a meal a week, free, for a year at the restaurant.

The Daboul family includes Mr. and Mrs. plus youngsters, Michael, 7, Noelle, 12, Christie, 15 and Yvonne, 16.

All Kennedy had to do was lose the weight.

And he did.

But, between the bet and the weigh-in on June 1, a lot of people got into the act. Fellow Kiwanians of Daboul's pledged money to the club's fund for needy children if Kennedy lost the weight and Daboul rode the camel.

On June 1 the weigh-in was staged at the Galley Hatch with a limousine arrival by "Kid Kennedy", surrounded by tuxedo-clad managers, beautiful girls wearing T-shirts emblazoned "Kennedy's Angels," and an official scale from Exeter Hospital on the stage. A cheering crowd filled the parking lot.

Daboul announced that he would ride the camel on June 27, after Kennedy tipped the scale at exactly 170.

A call to Benson's Wild Animal Farm was made by Daboul. No Luck. The Benson farm does not rent its animals, "but they referred us to Cummerford," Mrs. Duboul revealed. Meanwhile, Daboul was telling everyone the camel was coming from "my camel farm in the old country." Daboul, of Lebanese descent, is retired and tells people he sells camels for a living.

When the big day arrived, family and friends gathered at the Daboul house on Harris Avenue, overlooking Hampton harbor.

After a few anxious moments around 8 a.m., the camel arrived by truck at 8:20 a.m

His name is "Humphrey" and he is big for a dromedary according to the Cummerfords. After a few moments Humphrey was saddled and ready for Daboul who had disappeared into the house after viewing the beast with a trace of alarm.

Photographers and reporters mingled with the crowd who were watching Humphrey. He foamed a bit at the mouth, made gurgling noises, and behaved quite well, ogling the group with his long-lashed soft brown eyes. Bill Cummerford saddled Humphrey and his wife Darlene handled the animal's halter.

State Senators Robert Preston of Hampton and Robert Stephenson of Manchester were on hand. Stephenson is also of Lebanese descent, Daboul is a constituent of Preston's.

Mike came out in a camel rider's outfit loaned him by Rohie Robinson of Glen Hill who had bought the rig in Saudi Arabia. Young Michael Dahoul in a homemade version stitched by Mrs. Daboul's mother.

The parade with three belly dancers on a flat bed truck following Daboul on the camel, went up P Street and along Ocean Boulevard. People lined the sidewalk and grinned and laughed and yelled to each other, "It's a camel!"

Daboul stopped at several businesses to collect the pledges made for the Kiwanis Club. He says he got about $1,000.

"The police chief and the officers were wonderful," Mrs. Daboul says. "We had no problems at all. And the public works department was terrific. They had the street cleaned in no time." Mrs. Daboul mentioned her husband was touched when Jim Kennedy's niece, Kathleen Cronnelly, approached him at the North Beach and gave him $5 for the Kiwanis.

Everyone got into the spirit of things. Clyde's Restaurant had a "camel stop" with a palm tree in a pot and a drink for Humphrey. The Honey Bee Donut Shop in Hampton center gave the beast a 12-pound donut and Seacoast Florist garlanded Humphrey with a rope of flowers.

The Cummerfords said Tuesday, the doughnut was Humphrey's favorite part of the trip. "He ate every bit," Mrs Barbara Cummerford said.

Channel 4, Boston, Mass., sent reporter Bill Shields to cover the event and the camel ride was on the 6 p m. and 11 p.m. news Saturday night.

"We didn't do too bad." Daboul said, "sharing the news with Luciano Pavarotti." The famous tenor was singing at the esplanade the same day, in Boston.

The Galley Hatch parking lot was the end of the trip, Saturday, with music by Mike Sarkissian's four-piece band, a proclamation from the governor and the state legislature, followed by a small reception for the parade participants and the weary press corps, in the Galley Hatch. The trucks, used for stages and an open convertible for the Daboul family were provided by Selectman Robert V. Lessard, who wore a mask and passed himself off as Daboul's "Uncle Tinous from Toledo," much to the Daboul family's delight.

One neighbor asked Mrs. Dahoul, "Was this in the marriage agreement?" She responded, "Yes, in Irish in the small print that I thought was a smudge."

"It couldn't have been a better day," Daboul says. Weather cooperated with sun and a light breeze. The crowd was friendly and everyone had a great time, including 93-year old Grandmother Eva Vincent.

After the parade, the viewing of the news and dinner at the Galley Hatch. the Dabouls went to the Boar's Head Inn for a party and a "Happy Camel Day" cake.

"All I have heard since Saturday," Daboul says, "is 'what are you going to do next year.'"

The camel-ride, Daboul says, is something that "just happened. You can't just plan something like that."

Brian Doherty later reminisces about this event: "The "tuxedo clad managers" were Joe, Danny Toomey from the Whale's Tale and me. Actually, all of the high-jinxs associated with what became known as the "Weigh-In" were orchestrated by the three of us over a few too many cocktails at the Ashworth Hotel. These included dressing up Jimmy like a boxer; getting Mike Tinios (John's father) to let us stage the event in the parking area of the Hampton Cinemas; having the event parrot a pre-heavy weight fight assessment of the contestants' weight; arrival by limousine (the horn of which played "When Irish Eyes are Smiling") with his promoters; the inclusion of four girls ("Jimmy's Angels") who threw flower petals for Jimmy to walk on as he went from limo to stage; the recruitment of a doctor from the Exeter Hospital (who brought the scale) to supervise taking Jimmy's weight; to getting the announcer from the Seabrook Dog Track to emcee the actual Weigh-In. Some other items not reflected in the piece: There was actually considerable concern among town officials whether this "camel ride" should be allowed. I was on the Board of Selectman at the time and I can relate first-hand that there was hardly agreement that the actual ride, which went from Harris Avenue on the Beach, up Ocean Boulevard, to the center of town on public roads, was a great event which should obviously be embraced. While we had arranged for a "real" emcee for the Weigh-In (he got considerable comedic mileage with jokes about the name Daboul, which he frequently juxtaposed with Taboule, a Middle East food item), Vic Lessard (who was also on the Board of Selectmen at the time) jumped onto the stage, not only uninvited but unwanted, to try to take over hosting the event. We couldn't get him off the stage, but were able to minimize his participation. Lastly, the bet was between Jimmy Kennedy and Mike Daboul. While the Tinios' restaurant property played an improvement role in the affair, John Tinios was not the original proponent of the wager as the story seems to suggest."

"I'd like to offer some additional remembrances. Most of these points are probably unknown to the general public (or have been long forgotten), I know those actually involved will smile at when reading this. On the lack of excitement of the Town of Hampton officials about an extensive camel ride on public roads, part of the hesitancy came from Mike Daboul's desire to conduct the spectacle in conjunction with the Fourth of July in 1981. The bet had been resolved around Memorial Day, so that could have been considered a timely request, but given the typical crowds at the beach at that time, most felt that such a scheduling request was a non-starter. While opposition to the event continued to be offered by some, the actual camel ride was held on a Saturday in June of 1981, and that date was a bit of a compromise by the parties. Many people did want to see the event go forward, so when Bob Mark, who was the Chief of Police at the time, told the Selectmen he was cool with the idea as long as it wasn't "in season," Mike Daboul was told he could conduct the ride on a weekend day in June, or wait until after Labor Day. Mike made an incredibly large distribution of information to press and media outlets about the event hoping to generate publicity, and he actually mailed packets to outlets as far away as Australia! However, the only TV or video oriented outlet that covered the event was WBZ-TV in Boston, which dispatched a reporter named Bill Shields to file a report. His on-air piece was introduced by a shot of Daboul, dressed in a full Middle Eastern wardrobe, high on the camel with the Beatles' song "I'm a Loser" blasting in the background. Most found Bill's take on the event quite amusing. The limousine used had a story, as well. "Jimmy's Handlers" knew they had to arrive in style, so we decided to get a limo. A lot of this stuff were my ideas, so Dan Twoomey and Joe Hurley were very quick to tell me "you take care of it." I had to get the limo if one was to be used. I contacted a guy who claimed to rent "special event cars," and he did not disappoint. He claimed to have access to the Rolls-Royce limousine in which (the fairly new) Pope John Paul II had ridden in his first trip to the US. The rental agent thought THAT should be "the car." But, when I heard about his Cadillac limousine which had a horn that played "When Irish Eyes are Smiling," I knew that was the vehicle for the cast of Irish mugs involved in the extravaganza. The tuxes came from a store in Portsmouth and, again, I was the point person. Twoomey and Hurley had gone up for a fitting a day or so before me, and I was to bring back the three garments when I got mine. The manager of the store knew about the planned "Weigh-In" event, and when I picked up the clothes, he said: "I want to ask you a question. Just how BIG was this guy BEFORE he lost the weight?" He thought the event was to celebrate Joe Hurley having lost a ton of weight! Anyone from Hampton who knew Joe appreciates that our dearly departed "King of Fun" was always a BIG boy. Joe got so into this event, he wanted to keep it going. Part of his game plan was to continue to wear his tux for longer than he should have. He wore it the entire day after the event, and even longer, although I am unsure of just how much longer. I do know the store manager called me about the whereabouts of Joe's tux and how he could get it returned. It was (finally) brought back to the store by Joe's girlfriend, Liz. Jerry Dignam and Kevin Lonergan cooked up an idea to coordinate with the boxing "Weigh-In" theme with Jerry dressing up as a boxer's "cut man," and Kevin outfitting himself as a water boy. The night of the "Weigh-In" Jimmy's two brothers, Frank and Jack Kennedy, hired an advertising plane to fly over the Galley Hatch parking lot. The plane carried an illuminated message trumpeting: "SLIM JIM KENNEDY 170 LBS." Around this time, affordable portable video cameras were becoming available, and Dan Heary (perhaps better known to some readers as Deacon Dan) had bought one. Dan came up with the idea to do a follow up interview with the crew involved with these antics. He would function as the emcee/host. The session was put together and took place outside the Chamber of Commerce Office at the beach on a June afternoon. I understand that the only copy of this taped proceeding is possessed by Michael Daboul, the son of Eileen and the Camel Jockey, aka, Mike Daboul. It would be nice if Michael would make the tape available to Dan so it could be posted online."

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