By Dennis Martin
Without hesitation or qualification, I would say that Regis Magyar is the funniest person I’ve ever known. Each of us could probably think of a couple of people in our lives who tickle us no matter what they say or do. Regis is one of those for me. I’m talking slap-happy, belly-busting, can’t-catch-your-breath funny. The problem is, I didn’t cross paths much with Regis in high school. I knew him after high school. So, I can’t recall any stories about Regis from WPHS days. This is where you come in. If you can share some stories about Regis, please chime in.
Regis and I both attended Georgia Tech after high school. Georgia Tech had a requirement that all freshmen had to live on campus in the dorms. Somehow Regis found a way to live off campus. With an older woman – a cougar no less. He’s always been a smooth talker.
Regis eventually earned a PhD in psychology at another college, but when he was an undergrad at Georgia Tech, he nearly flunked out a couple of times. It wasn’t that he couldn’t master the material. It was that he knew too much, and the classes probably bored him. He knew how to answer questions on psychology personality tests so that he could appear to be any personality that he wanted to be. At job interviews, he knew what they wanted to hear, and he would tell them just that. He also had connections. Upon barely graduating with a GPA above 2.0, Regis interviewed for a job in D.C. After the interview, the interviewer leaned across the table to Regis and muttered, “I don’t know who you’ve got pulling for you, but you’ve got the job.” Those were the good ole (boy) days.
Regis and I reconnected around 1997 in Atlanta, where we both lived. It turned out that we had a mutual friend while at Georgia Tech, but we didn’t find out until 1997. Our friend visited me in Atlanta, and we went out to visit Regis at his home. Well, Regis loves gadgets. It was Christmas time. Remote control was a relatively new thing. Take a guess. Only minutes after sitting down in the living room, Regis started up, “You’ve gotta see this.” He was looking at the Christmas tree, so we looked at the Christmas tree. He pushed a button. We looked at the Christmas tree. He pushed some more buttons. We continued to look at the Christmas tree. Nothing happened. So, he picked up another remote control next to his chair, and he looked at the mantle. So we looked at the mantle. He pushed buttons. We looked at the mantle. He pushed more buttons. During the entire time that nothing was happening, Regis was extolling the virtues of remote control. And you believed him. Regis can be a comedian of errors.
A couple of years after my 1997 visit, I was raising my two sons on my own – approximately ages 8 and 10 at the time. We went out to see Regis. All the way out there, I told my sons about Regis’ fascination with gadgets. Sure enough, when we got there Regis said, “Do you want to see my latest thing to do?” I had no idea what was in store. He pulled back the drapes to a sliding glass door in his living room, and he told us to look out the window. Behind Regis’ house, it slightly sloped downhill approximately 100 feet to a medium-sized pond. The pond was about 300 feet in diameter with about 15 houses around the pond. The three of us stood at the window looking out. Regis continued to sit in his arm chair and pulled out a remote control from beside the chair. At the water’s edge, a small boat, about a foot long, started moving. Regis guided it with the remote control out into the middle of the pond. My kids were fascinated – watching the water, watching the remote, watching the boat, watching Regis. “You want to know what’s really fun?” Regis asked. Before my kids could say anything, Regis got a twinkle in his eye and the boat sped up, streaking across the pond, directly into a flock of ducks. My sons burst out laughing. Whenever the ducks flew to different parts of the pond to get away from the boat, Regis would continue the chase. Just the level of physical humor my children needed.
Regis has always reminded me of Jay Leno. Or rather, since I knew Regis first, Jay Leno has always reminded me of Regis. Has anyone else ever had that thought? I never realized how similar they were until I saw Regis’ stash. After the boat experience, Regis led my sons out to his oversized three-car garage where he showed them several older model cars in mint condition, hardly ever driven. Once again, I learned about Regis’ fetish for cars (what PhD psychologist doesn’t have a fetish?) before I learned of Leno’s. Both sons were enraptured by Regis’ extended discussion of the cars – showing them several features on cars that they hadn’t seen before. Then Regis said, “You want to see something else that car can do? The one with the pop-up headlights?” Regis brought out two small gadgets that you could hold in the palm of your hand. They had a magnet on one side and probably cost $1 each at the dollar store. Regis carefully stuck one to the top of each pop-up headlight. Then he reached in through the car window and turned on the car lights. When the headlights popped up, they caused a button on the $1 gadgets to be pressed, which then screeched out a loud emergency sound. A pulsating screech, blaring away. “I like to do that when a car’s in front of me at a stoplight. It freaks everyone out, and no one can figure out where the sound is coming from.” I’m sure my kids believed him. On the way home that day, they talked about how good an idea that was – future police impersonators. Thanks Regis.
After showing off the cars, Regis asked my sons, “Do you want to know how I was able to buy those cars?” After his duck-hunting and police-impersonation demonstrations, they probably didn’t know what to expect next. He might have been a treasure hunter or a safecracker for all they knew. Regis said his father had told him to save one dollar out of every ten dollars that he earned, and he had done so his entire life. “You have to put it away immediately,” he stressed. To drive home the point, Regis told a story. He explained to my sons how telephone calls once cost 10 cents, and if you lost your money, you could call the operator and have your money refunded. Regis said he once received a refund check for ten cents, and when he cashed the check at the bank, he immediately deposited a penny into his savings account. He looked at both of my boys when he reiterated, “A penny!”
I told Regis that it was a shame that he never had kids. He was so good with them. Had he ever thought about teaching? He reminisced about a brief stint he’d had teaching science to kids in a non-credit program, and he recalled several examples of some clever things he had done in that course.
The next time I saw Regis, and the last time I saw him now [hope to see you at the reunion, Reege] was several years later. I let my evening class out early so that I could get to the hospital where Regis was having bypass surgery. It was the same hospital where both of my sons had been born. After the usual small talk, Regis intimated that he might just have to retire early. Again, I told him that he should consider part-time teaching at a university. “They are always looking for terminally-degreed instructors,” I said. “You would be great at it.”
Years later, after moving back to Florida, I believe I heard that Regis had indeed taught some college courses part-time. Was it at Rollins, Reege? Good luck to you, man. Hope to see you soon.
(PS: Regis gave me permission to write something, although he didn’t know what I'd write. If I misstated something, Regis, I’ll correct it. Or if there’s something you don’t want your wife Pat to know, it’s too late.)