Although Leslie’s character was named after Barry the role does not appear to be based on him past the fact that they are both white haired doctors (at the very least, I’d like to think the Zucker Brothers would not have overlooked his trademark bowtie).
One of my first memorable Denver events was when my family was visiting Colorado, and Barry introduced my brother and I to the restaurant Casa Bonita, I was 12. That was many years before South Park’s Cartman made the place famous in the episode where “Kyle chooses Stan, Kenny and Butters to celebrate his birthday at Casa Bonita. When Cartman finds out he’s not invited, he arranges for Butters to conveniently go “missing””. Cartman convinced Butters that a meteor the size of Wyoming is headed for earth and that he should hide out in a bunker to avoid being killed. Cartman got busted when Butters was discovered at the local trash dump, but not before getting to experience the things that Casa Bonita has to offer. Is it obvious that I’m a South Park fan? Another fun fact you may not know, South Park is an actual place in Colorado. From my experience it is a pretty boring place surrounded by beautiful landscape. As with many of the real references in the show, Matt Parker and Trey Stone depicted the restaurant almost perfectly, but you really have to see it in person to believe it. I can only describe it as what one might expect if Las Vegas and Chuck-E-Cheese’s were able to produce a child. It is like Las Vegas for children, but it’s so surreal that even adults can appreciate it at least once. It’s definitely not the kind of place I would expect to find my uncle, but he took us there because he thought we would enjoy it, and we did! I’m sure it was selfless for him to take us there, but I really got a kick out of it (I took the menu home to show my friends in Pennsylvania). Even now I will introduce friends who are visiting from out of town…and yes, that is an open invitation to anyone reading this.
Although not intentional, there are a few other similarities which can be seen between Barry and Leslie’s character. Barry is a serious guy, so much so that at first impression I thought he was incapable of humor (although in his defense, I was a young child). With time however, I came to realize that the outward expression of a person is often far different from who they are inside. Don’t get me wrong, Barry is serious about his work, and anything that requires attention (to his credit, he makes sure everything he does is done well), but he also knows how to relax and enjoy life, and he is also a funny guy. Over the years I have been impressed with his character, and I have gleaned many things including the importance of meaningful interactions with friends and family, maintaining relationships, and being intentional about life. He tends to be respected among his friends, family, and peers…with many great qualities it’s easy to see why.
One lesser known similarity between Barry and Leslie are that they were both partially deafened during childhood. For the couple decades that I’ve known him he has never been down on himself about his hearing. Instead, he enjoys telling the stories of the quirks related to being deaf. For many years he thought my aunt did not get cold easily because she would turn the heat down in the car while driving in the wintertime. When hearing aids became available he learned that air vents make noise, and were making it hard for my aunt to hold a conversation with him! Being a good listener is just one of the great qualities of my aunt, who is an incredible woman. Barry was also a bit disappointed to find out that computer keyboards are not actually silent (He thought thought quiet keys were just another advantage computers had over typewriters). Still, after discovering this little fact, it was not really a problem because he has the added benefit of basically being able to turn his hearing off. I don’t think he’s ever had a noisy neighbor. I could not find out why Leslie lost his hearing, but Barry was too young to know the difference between chocolate and (a now outlawed) rat poisoning. It is not very surprising that much of his life has been dedicated to the study of harmful chemicals. He still loves chocolate, though he now only eats the real thing.
Jan 25th 2011 – UPDATE: I was fortunate enough to be able to verify with Jerry himself, the name was “Absolutely based on Barry.” Curious about the connection? Turns out the Rumacks and Zuckers were next door neighbors growing up. A favorite past time was playing “kick the can.” Apparently a few of the character names come directly from friends in Wisconsin. Barry had no idea about the use of his name when his mother suggested that he see the movie. How cool that must have been, to find a childhood friend made a movie and used your name.