#36 Sluggo, Tubby, and Bart.

This blog is going to seem really stupid to most of you.  Meet Sluggo and Tubby.  I was introduced to these two characters by one Bart Brandmiller nearly 45 years ago and they became the centerpiece of a series of practical jokes that began in the WGRD days, and to a certain degree, is still going on to this day.  Bart is my best friend.  We’ve known each other since we started radio together in Lima, Ohio in 1971.

As I attempt to explain the joke, I’m sure most of you will think we’re out of our minds.  But here goes.  Sluggo and Tubby is a “gotcha” invented by Bart and a college buddy of his.  Here’s an example:

“Hey Bart, I just saw two friends of yours and they said to say Hi”

“Oh really?  Who are they”

“Sluggo and Tubby !!!!

Of course you can get much more sophisticated with the joke..like:

Hey Bart, I saw 3 friends of yours..Tom said Hi..

Oh..who were the other two?

“Sluggo and Tubby!!!!!”

There are, of course, Sluggo and Tubby rules.  First, you can’t play a Sluggo and Tubby on someone who has no idea about the joke.  They’ll look at you like you’re nuts.  Rule #2..Gender is important.  Sluggo and Tubby are guys.  So your setup has to be masculine or generic, but not feminine.  Rule #3…the setup has to indicate TWO..or a couple,,or a pair..anything that indicates TWO.    In the case of the second example above, two is implied through subtraction.  And Rule #4 – if you’ve been Sluggo’d..you have to slap your forehead and say “oh, shit”.

The best Sluggo and Tubby’s are when they come from out of left field.  I once engaged Jackie Sirianni to play a Sluggo and Tubby on Bart.  Jackie is one of Grand Rapids best advertising sales representatives and she worked for Bart at Michigan Media.  The set up was classic.  Jackie went into Bart’s office and told him she knew of a couple of radio sales guys that were looking for a job.  Bart, never suspecting Jackie was in on the Sluggo and Tubby bit, said “Oh Really?? Who are they?

So, what does this have to do with radio?  As silly as this bit is, it fostered a helluva lot of fun and camaraderie at WGRD.  Everyone was in on the bit and everyone took painstaking steps to “get” someone.  Of course, you also have to take similar steps of not being caught,  I’ve been on guard since 1975.   It’s been a long time since I had to slap my forehead and say “Oh Shit”.

Practical jokes at the radio station were always a blast. Some of the football bets between WGRD General Manager Don Anderson and Bart were classic.  The bets were always $5,  Whoever lost that weeks college football bet, had to pay the other person off in an unusual manner.  At first the payoff’s were rather elementary like $5 worth of pennies, or $5 worth of postage stamps.  Then, things got more elaborate.  In one payoff episode, Bart had won the bet and was to collect his $5 from Don.  A note was placed on his desk telling him:

“there lurks a familiar character in Grand Rapids who is known to most of us.  Go up to him, put your hands on your hips, and say “ooh, eee, ooh ahh ahh, ting tang, walla walla bing bang” twirl around three times, extend your hand and say “give me the money”. 

What a scene this could create.  After all, you wouldn’t  want to do that to just anybody.  You might get shot.  So Bart had to spend a great deal of time analyzing various people in town.  It just so happens that there was a little old man that occupied the corner of Lyon and Monroe Street in Downtown Grand Rapids every day.  His name was Wally Gingrich and he used to own a trucking company but the IRS shut him down on tax violations.  So, everyday, old Wally would be standing downtown on the corner with signs protesting the IRS.  Could Wally be the guy?  Could this little old man, with his cardboard “taxed out of business” sign be the holder of Bart’s Football Payoff?  Bart considered the possibility carefully and consulted with various people at the station.  It might be worth the risk.  So Bart trudges down the street to the corner and there’s Wally with his sign.  Bart approaches him and then, goes through the ting tang walla walla bing bag routine..he spins, he extends his hand, he says “give me the money”…and Wally reaches into his coat and hands him the $5.00!  A Classic!!!

There were other imaginative payoffs..some involved airplanes.  One involved placing the payoff in the beacon light atop the WGRD transmitting tower (it may still be there). Of course, if you do some of this stuff now you’ll probably get sued.  Do they actually have fun in radio stations anymore?

I started these blogs nearly a year ago and expected them to last about a year.  I was thinking of wrapping this up in September but two friends of mine are urging me to keep going.

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