Adam Parfrey, the publisher of humor and esoterica who parlayed a 1980s “‘zine” sensibility into a durable niche publishing house, has died at his home in Port Townsend, Washington. He was 61.
His main publishing imprint, Feral House, specialized in topics pertaining to pop culture, far-Right politics, and conspiracy theorizing. Adam built his career on a magpie interest in weird, outré subjects, and he brought a satirical and anarchic sensibility to most of them.
Adam Parfrey was born in New York City, and grew up mainly in Los Angeles. His father, Woodrow Parfrey, was a successful character actor, first on Broadway and in television dramas of the Playhouse 90 sort. His mother, Rosa Ellovich, was a Jewish stage director. In Hollywood, Woodrow worked constantly till he died of a heart attack in 1984, also at age 61. In films (Dirty Harry, Papillon, The Flim-Flam Man) he played a lot of shifty-eyed grifters and grocers. On some television programs he was almost a regular supporting player (five appearances on The Man from U.N.C.L.E., four on Bonanza).
But the role people always asked Adam about was the one in which his father was totally unrecognizable, as he had been made up as an aristocratic orangutan in Planet of the Apes (both the original 1968 film and the 1974 TV show). Adam sometimes accompanied his father to the set.
“What was it like, having an orangutan judge as a father?” people always asked him, according to Adam. And he would reply, “Oh, I just figured everyone’s father did this. Got up, went to work, played an orangutan in the movies.”
After high school, Adam attended the University at California at Santa Cruz, but dropped out before graduation. In New York City he got a job at The Strand bookstore, and with a co-worker, George Petros, created an elegant graphic-arts fanzine, Exit. Briefly he moved to Portland, Oregon, where he became friends with Keith Stimely, former editor of the Journal of Historical Review and aspiring biographer of Francis Parker Yockey. Keith was half-heartedly pursuing a Master’s in history at Portland State, which he soon gave up, along with the Yockey biography. (He wrote a book about desktop publishing instead.) Some years later, Adam passed Keith’s Yockey information to one Kevin Coogan, who turned out a very different sort of biography from the one that Keith Stimely had planned (Dreamer of the Day, Autonomedia, 1999)…
Greg Johnson said of Adam that “he was a pioneer of dissident publishing and an inspiration to my work. Counter-Currents would have been unimaginable without the work he did at Feral House.”