There are 53 Farleys listed in the white pages of the Salt Lake telephone directory - three of them listed only as "J," "L" and "Z" with no addresses - undoubtedly to distance themselves as far as possible from James Arrington's somewhat gnarled "Farley" family tree.
Arrington must subscribe to the old "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" theory. And, for the most part, that works just fine for this comedy.Many longtime "Family Reunion" patrons have been known to exclaim that there are individual characters who they're absolutely certain have been based on their own relatives. It's as if Arrington, for his research, spied on families all over the Wasatch Front.
But opening night did have a few problems.
Emcee Heber J. Farley had to contend with rain, wind, hail, thunder and even a couple of break-ins in the Wheeler Historic Farm parking lot. The 13 separate characters Arrington portrayed (including his own pseudo alter-ego, magician Jim Arlington), kept the sparse audience entertained.
When there was a clap of thunder in the direction of downtown, good ol' Heber commented that it "must be something at the Delta Center." (Opening night happened to coincide with the first game of the Jazz/Bulls playoff series.)
In not-so-rapid succession, Arrington hauled out his creative personas for:
- Heber J., the "present presiding president" of the Farley Family Corporation Organization Association. (Eliminating most of Heber's continual "Huh? . . . Huh? . . . Huh?" would have cut the show by 20 minutes.)
- Grandpa Asa Dean Farley, Heber's nearly decrepit father.
- Aunt Viola, who's singing of "Climb Every Mountain" sounded more like the Mother Abyss instead of the Mother Abbess.
- Somewhat cocky returned missionary LaMar, who bore his testimony in Portuguese.
- Truck-drivin' Uffer K. Johnson, Pearlene's husband, who invited the audience to help choose a professional name for their daughter, Queezledean, a championship wrestler. (In years past, Queezle the Diesel has been the hand's down winner. This time it was Princess Kong.)
- Preston Edward Memmott III and his poetry recitation.
- Leroy Farley and his annual farm report (don't hold your breath waiting for a big payment on those contract beans).
- Little Tiffany and her one-of-a-kind blessing on the lunch (she also blessed the Utah Jazz - who won - and the I-15 construction project).
- Granddaughter Fayreen's drill team demonstration.
- Fayreen's oafish boy friend.
- Cousin Vaughn L. (now going by "Vonell"), who brought his less-than-spectacular Polynesian Revue act direct from the Lizard Lounge in Mesquite, Nev.
- Guest entertainer Jim Arlington's very odd magic show (after which Heber hinted that the Entertainment Committee's days may be numbered).
- And, of course, bubbly Aunt Pearl and her ever-popular Farley Family Feature and great coupon give-away. She was pleased as punch to announce her brand new Deseret Book publication, "Aunt Pearl's Personal Pointers on `How to Farley Up Your Family Reunion' Reunion Book."
- NOTE: Patrons attending the show are invited to bring their own picnic suppers. There are picnic tables around the lane leading to the informal amphitheater. You just might want to chain a doberman to your vehicle to ward off any potential vandals in the parking lot.