Turd Ferguson and Abe Froman Walk into a Bar…

A stream of consciousness about the art of aliases and bowling with a free burger on the side, or the oddest book review you’ve ever read

I’m not sure what happens after Turd and Abe walk into the bar. I’m not very good at remembering or telling jokes. As good aliases, I suppose they were looking for Art Vandelay. Or the Dread Pirate Roberts, who is real only in reputation. I just like a good alias.

Urban Dictionary says Art Vandelay is an alias that can be used for almost any purpose. Most of us know it as the alias of the fictional George Costanza, the lovable “short, stocky, slow-witted bald man.” Costanza was to lying was like a marine biologist was to saving distressed whales.

So maybe the Sausage King of Chicago walked into the bar because he needed an architect. Or Turd Ferguson wanted a latex salesman. The Dread Pirate Roberts could offer some importing or exporting expertise to anyone at a barstool.

Speaking of making up names, when I was a kid out of college, I worked in the alphabet soup of the American bowling world, amateur and professional. I worked for the youth division. “The Little League of Bowling” we called it. Also housed in the famed Bowling HQ was the men’s and women’s divisions.

Bowling HQ was in a suburb of Milwaukee, down the block from one of the two famous Kopp’s Frozen Custard stands. Closer yet was one of the many many George Webb hamburger joints. There are 31 in Wisconsin. A proud sponsor of Milwaukee baseball, George Webb’s radio commercials always said, “George Webb predicts the Brewers will win 12 straight games.” Since predicting began, it happened twice. The restaurant backed up its prediction with the promise of a free hamburger.

The first time it happened was in 1987 (the second in 2018) and I went during my lunch break to get a free hamburger. It took some patience but I emerged with a free burger (I paid for my fries) and a George Webb Predicts button that a young worker gave me when I asked. Politeness. And a little female charm. I had a button collection really in need of something cool.

Though George Webb would be the name of a great alias, let’s get this story back on track.

I wrote and edited various publications at the “Little League of Bowling” and dabbled in media relations when needed. Fortunately that meant lots of travel to lots of cities hosting bowling-related tournaments. You know, the big ones with great acronyms like NJBC and NCBC (nijbic and nicbic respectively). Once in St. Louis we visited the Nabahafamu or National Bowling Hall of Fame and Museum. I was a proud member of the Bowling Writers Association of America (or bwaa) and all of the perks that came with that [insert cricket sounds]. It was an acronym-heavy industry and it produced another great one that a fellow workers once made into key chains. IOFB. The B for Bowling. The I and O for It’s Only. And you know the F-word. Saying it helped keep things in perspective when the rigors of sanctioned bowling pressed down hard. Or mostly when they took themselves too seriously.

When traipsing the country covering the sport, there were many occasions of dinner with my colleagues because us hard-boiled bowling media types needed to eat. This one guy always wanted to give tell the hostess the name for our party. It was his thing.

That was back before the hostess gave you the mini UFO to hold while you wait for your table. Or sent you a text informing you to rendezvous at the hostess stand when they’re ready to seat you. Back then the hostess would yell, “Smith, party of three,” and the party would present themselves and be seated.

So my colleague, who worked in the men’s division and whose name I can’t remember because it’s been so many years, would hand pick a name based on the city. In Detroit. we were the Trammells. Alan Trammell was the All Star shortstop for the Tigers. When the hostess announced, “Trammell, party of four” we followed his lead and got seated. But we also got many curious and hopeful looks by those wondering if they were lucky enough to be eating dinner with the Alan Trammells.

We were the “Molitor, party of three” once in Milwaukee. Heads did turn. I enjoyed this immensely, but I never tried it on my own because I can’t keep a straight face.

To tie this wandering story together, Abe Froman and Turd Ferguson deserve a place on a page together. They deserve to walk into a bar together. Imagine the looks.

Enter the snotty, incredulous maitre d’, saying to Ferris Buehler, “You’re Abe Froman, sausage king of Chicago?”

Wait just a moment.

Or Jerry Seinfeld saying to George, “And you want to be my latex salesman!” But Norm MacDonald playing Burt Reynolds being Turd Ferguson on Saturday Night Live was gold. I don’t get what’s funny about the name Turd Ferguson, only that the whole bit cracks me up.

Oh yeah, and read Norm Macdonald’s book, Based on a True Story. Besides throwing me down this rabbit hole of fictional aliases and bowling memories, it’s very funny and weird. It was honest and cagey and a little raw too, like the author. Oh, and without spoiling it, there’s a ghost writer who tells quite a tale. And an in-depth analysis of Macdonald’s assistant Adam Eget, who never really assisted him. How you like this book will ultimately rest on how you like Norm Macdonald.

Got a favorite alias? You should consider dining with them. Or at least their name.

1 comment

  1. Where I worked we had a couple of versions equivalent to IOFB when a truck was late and people were freaking out. One was “It’s product, not plasma.” Or “Keep Calm and Put Some Windex on It.”

    I love the idea of using a famous person’s name to get a table. My youngest brother used to call my place in Chicago and leave voicemail messages as Harry Carey, to the entertainment of my Cub fan friends. Gotta have fun.


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