Charlotte was with Jerry that day in 1964 when they visited an aquarium and he first got the idea of freezing a whale. Increasingly intrigued, Malone performed his own market research at truck caf�s. He would sit down at a counter, order coffee and say, to no one in particular: "I saw the damnedest thing today." Then he would drink the coffee, until at last someone could stand it no longer and ask him what, in fact, he had seen.
"I saw a whale, a 20-ton whale, frozen in a truck. Would you pay to see a thing like that?" Better than a third of those interviewed in this unique random survey allowed as how they would. Jerry figured that was potentially 75 million Americans times 35�.
Malone's car lot (s) had folded by then and he was married and making $1,575 a month in commissions selling cars on the lot of a close friend, George Zarounian. Finally, he gave Zarounian notice and told him he was going after his whale full-time. "It's crazy," Zarounian said.
"Crazy things work these days, George," Jerry replied.
By now, Jerry had already named his future whale after an uncle, Irv Mulanax, the other half of M&M Auto Sales and various other defunct ventures. Jerry bought business cards with gold-leaf lettering and headed out in search of investors. Potential dead-whale angels, however, remained more prone to place their savings in convertible bonds, the American Stock Exchange and other such investments, and Zarounian pleaded with Malone to come back.
Finally, he made a proposal. If Malone could march cold into three shopping centers (selected by Zarounian) and sell them all on the idea of booking a frozen whale, he, George Zarounian, would co-sign the loan. When the third straight shopping center went for Jerry's pitch, Zarounian—who, it is said in Visalia, resembles Gilbert Roland—leaned back in his chair, sighed in exasperation, lit up a Bering cigar and said: "Well, I guess I'm in the whale business." Stunned but game, the United California Bank approved the loan application.
The risk on Zarounian's part was considerable. There was no guarantee, first of all, that Malone could even get a whale to put into his $80,000 truck, which he was already committed for. There is only one U.S. whaling station, at Point Richmond, Calif. Malone had to get permission from the Department of the Interior before dealing with the whalers, who had little margin for error themselves. There is a $10,000 fine for harpooning a sperm whale under a 35-foot minimum, and Malone could not fit one in his truck if it was more than 40 feet or 21 tons. Besides, even at that point, some cryogenics experts that Malone consulted said they didn't think he could freeze a 20-ton whale anyway.
On June 30, 1967, Malone was already out $100,000, with no whale and no assurance he could keep it from deteriorating even if he had it. On July 1, after almost two months of searching the Pacific, the whaler Alan Cody harpooned Little Irvy; on July 2 he was at Point Richmond, and on Saturday, July 8 he was frozen solid. Nobody really was bothered with the detail that Little Irvy had turned out to be a girl whale.
Little Irvy was still caked in ice when they finished cleaning up the truck that night about 7 o'clock. Malone had somehow obtained the rare permission to bring his traveling exhibit to Fisherman's Wharf, and Uncle Irv Mulanax allowed as how they could open up bright and early Monday morning with his namesake. "Are you kidding?" Jerry asked. "Two years I've been working on this and I'm going to wait two more days?"
He and Charlotte were parked and setting up for customers by 9 o'clock. At this point they inventoried, and between them their resources totaled one nickel and four pennies—9�. Charlotte worked the entrance and Jerry went inside and started explaining about Little Irvy to the patrons, because, of course, they had no recording set up yet.