Example: [Collected on the Internet, 1995]
One of the primary reasons cat flaps are called cat flaps is that they're flaps specifically designed for cats, as opposed to dogs, or giraffes, or humans. All of this became abundantly clear to teenager Jason Evans, of Eastleigh, Hampshire, when he recently spent six hours stuck in one after using it in an attempt to get into his house. He was eventually cut free by firemen.
In Germany, meanwhile, Gunther Burpus remained wedged in his front-door cat flap for two days because passers-by thought he was a piece of installation art.
- The color Burpus' bottom is variously reported as blue, bright blue or orange.
- Most versions make mention of the daffodil (and it is always a daffodil, never any other flower), but occasionally it is omitted.
- In some tellings the amount of money thrown at Burpus is given; in others, no cash value other than "coins" is mentioned.
- Usually the story ends with Burpus being rescued from his predicament by the police, but in a few versions they arrest him for causing a disturbance.
This fanciful tale appears to have originated with The Big Issue, a British magazine sold by the homeless. It was quickly spread over the Internet, by the print media, and on radio.
A greatly embellished version appeared in December 1995 in Britain's Private Eye. Naming the Vancouver Sun as its source, the Private Eye account contained numerous additional quotes from the non-existent Burpus ("In retrospect, I admit it was unwise to try to gain access to my house via the cat flap," Gunther Burpus admitted to reporters in Bremen, Germany. "I suppose that the reason they're called cat flaps rather than human flaps is because they're too small for people, and perhaps I should have realised that"), and the ending was thus further embroidered:
"In fact, I only got free after two days because a dog started licking my private parts and an old woman complained to the police. They came and cut me out, but arrested me as soon as I was freed. Luckily, they've now dropped the charges, and I collected over
The image of an immobilized man made sport of by pranksters who place a daffodil in his rear end was around nearly forty years before the Gunther Burpus tale, however:
The first part of this I know is true; perhaps the rest could never be properly checked. But when I was a Red Cross hospital worker on Guadalcanal during World
One hour later the nurse, making her rounds, froze in consternation on the officer's doorstep. "Admiral!" she gasped. "What — what happened?"
"Taking my temperature," the admiral growled. "Anything unusual about taking an admiral's temperature?"
"N-no, sir," the startled nurse managed to reply, "but, Admiral — with a daffodil?
More specifically, this legend points an accusing finger at the unquestioning acceptance of any ludicrosity as art, provided there's a sign identifying it as such. Key to the Burpus tale is the notion that a man stuck in a cat door and screaming to be rescued could be mistaken for anything other than a person in desperate need of help.
As ridiculous as Burpus himself may appear in this tale — bare-bottomed, painted, daffodil'd, and stuck in a cat door — the passersby are shown to be far more foolish. This legend is "The Emperor's New Clothes" with a modern art twist: though not all art is good, it has become unfashionable to give voice to that opinion, let alone question the value any particular work. The tale is also a broad-stroke allegory in which those pitching coins at what they believe is art represent both foolhardy art collectors with more money than sense and governments so determined to buy culture for their countries they end up underwriting the sometimes highly-questionable efforts of emerging "artists".
Barbara "art shell game" Mikkelson
Sightings: Look for the "daffodil used as a thermometer" gag in the 1958 film, Carry On Nurse:
Last updated: 6 June 2007
Burruss, Robert.   "A Nuke in the Hurricane."     Baltimore Sun.   16 May 1995   (p. A11).     Costello, Michael.   "Fear Among Teachers of School Choice."     Lewiston Morning Tribune.   6 January 1996   (p. A10).     Dale, Rodney.   The Tumour in the Whale.     London: Duckworth, 1978.   ISBN 0-7156-1314-6   (p. 80).     Mancini, Francis.   "That Was The Year That Was."     The Providence Journal-Bulletin.   18 January 1996   (p. B6).     Zucco, Tom.   "Floridian Newswatch."     St. Petersburg Times.   18 June 1995   (p. F8).     Palm Beach Post.   "It's the End of the World."     13 June 1995   (p. D1).     The People.   "'Blue Moon!': Locked Out Man Tries to Enter Using Cat Flap."     2 April 1995   (p. 16).     Playboy.   "The Year in Sex."     January 1996   (p. 136).     Reader's Digest.   "Humor in Uniform."     April 1958   (p. 134).