Chris Farley Was My Summer Camp Counselor

He was always the funniest guy in the room, says Arnheim, quoting SNL castmates like Adam Sandler and Norm Macdonald who would tell you the same damn thing. “Every counselor wanted to be Chris Farley. They all joked like him. They all did his whisper thing, shook guys’ shoulders and shouted ‘get ahold of yourself!’ He was the funniest dude in the world.”  

Shine a light

“It’s a funny thing about comin’ home,” wrote F. Scott Fitzgerald in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. “Looks the same, smells the same, feels the same. You’ll realize what’s changed is you.”

Arnheim recently returned home to Red Arrow for the camp’s 100th anniversary. The cabins looked the same, the smells were familiar. And yet, of course, Patrick’s grown-up perspective made everything different.   

“I went back to that mess hall where 120 of us ate together at the same time, three times a day. It seemed so little, just a bunch of tables. It’s a beautiful place, but as a kid it was huge. And I remember when Chris walked into the mess hall, it was almost as if there was a spotlight on him.” 

“He remembered your name,” says Dondanville. “‘Hey, little Mickey!’ He talked to you personally. It’s why everybody thought they were Chris’s best friend growing up. He could be very mean to you in a crowd if you were the butt of his joke, but one-on-one he made you feel true friendship.” 

Camp with Chris “was joyful,” says Parker. “Very, very fond memories.”

Tom Farley

An older Patrick Arnheim, no longer kind of scared, flanked by Johnny and Chris Farley

“Chris inspired me to become an artist,” says Arnheim. He wrote letters to Chris when he first went to New York to become a performer himself, and Farley would write him back. “He was already on SNL and who knows what he was going through. But sure enough, he made time to put pen to paper, just because of the fact that I had Red Arrow in my blood.” 

Arnheim knows Chris Farley would have been a Red Arrow legend whether he became famous or not. Every kid wanted to sit at his table. Everyone had a Chris Farley imitation of their own. And Chris was “always inclusive, never exclusive” with his attention. “You got his lighthouse to shine on you because it went around. And when he shined the light on you, that was a really special moment,” says Arnheim. “He would just shine a light.” 

Top image: Tom Farley 


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