Best of Phoenix 2014: Legend City / Jack Durant's Humble Legacy


Did Jack Durant, owner and founder of Phoenix's most popular old-time supper club, really leave his restaurant to his dog?

Durant died without heirs, and with nearly $500,000 in certificates of deposit in a safe deposit box — not to mention Durant's, a dining tradition here since 1950, one that grosses millions of dollars every year. Although he'd been through five wives in his lifetime, Durant was unmarried at the time of his death; there was no widow to leave anything to. He had no children. But there was Humble, Durant's English bulldog, then eight years old and listed, as the story goes, as his chief beneficiary.

"To my dog, Humble," read Durant's last will and testament, "I leave my home, furniture, and cash in the sum of $50,000." The document also stipulated that a caretaker be hired to care for Humble in Durant's 2,500-square-foot Phoenix home, which was not to be sold while the dog was still living.

It wasn't. And Humble lived on there, reportedly trashing the place so badly that, when the house was sold after the dog's death (exactly one year to the day after his master's demise), most of the furnishings had to be junked and a lot of the flooring replaced. The house sold for about half its market value in 1989, the proceeds going to 21 of Durant's longtime restaurant employees. And the restaurant itself? Its full ownership reverted to Durant's silent partner, Jack McElroy, and not to Mr. Durant's beloved pooch.

Best of Phoenix 2014: Legend City / An Egg Tale

It's a popular taco shop now, but the low-slung brick-and-glass building on North Central Avenue, built in 1973, originally was a Humpty Dumpty Coffee Shop, a favorite breakfast hangout for downtown fans of the pancake. This smallish cafe was hard to miss, thanks to the giant plaster egg sitting outside, smirking (because, of course, Humpty had a face) at passersby. He wore striped pants, shirt sleeves, and a big, puffy chef's hat. In his right hand, he clutched a butter knife; in his left, a fork. (What exactly does an egg eat?)

When Humpty Dumpty closed up shop in the '80s, the breakfast crowd disbursed to various Denny's and Coco's for their bacon-and-eggs fix. But what became of the giant egg that had stood sentry at this Phoenix cafe's door for decades?

It was rumored that he was doing duty as public art on downtown Mesa's Main Street, but that anthropomorphized egg turned out to be a solid brass sculpture created by Minneapolis artist Kimber Fiebiger. In truth, Humpty went to work smiling at traffic from the roof of a hardware store in faraway Lakeside, Arizona. There, he was seen for many years atop Hawkeye Feed and Supply. Divested of his fork and knife, Humpty now wore a giant Stetson.

In 2012, Hawkeye closed, too, and Humpty went back into hiding. Stories have been circulating about how he's taken up residence in the backyard of a west-side Midcentury Modernist, where he sits laughing from atop a swimming pool slide. Other buzz has our favorite plaster egghead dismembered and stored in the warehouse behind the old Circles Records and Tapes store.

Craig DeMarco, founding partner of Upward Projects, the company responsible for local favorite eateries such as Postino, Windsor, and Federal Pizza, wants to know where Humpty went. DeMarco now owns Humpty's former home, which he transformed into Joyride Taco House.

"I've heard that he's sitting in someone's backyard in the Medlock neighborhood," DeMarco says. "I'm afraid to go walking through alleys peeking into people's backyards, though. People in the suburbs sometimes own guns."

Instead of nosing around in person, DeMarco says, he's used Google Earth's aerial maps to systematically determine Humpty's whereabouts. "I haven't found him," he confides seriously. "Yet."

Meanwhile, neither the king's horses nor the king's men have weighed in on Humpty's whereabouts.

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