Tuesday, January 4, 2000
"Levey Live" appears each Tuesday at noon
Eastern time. Your host is Washington Post columnist Bob Levey. This hour is your chance to talk directly to key Washington Post reporters and editors, local officials and people in the news.
Bob's guest today is Michael Torbert, boss of the Redskins Hogettes.
Mikey T is here to talk about the
Redskins season and the playoffs but, most of all, he wants to hear from all Redskins super fans. Since the Hogettes were founded by Torbert in 1983, they've led the cheering section at Redskins home games, dressed in drag and wearing pig noses. The Boss's motto- "The Redskins and the Hogettes go together like a pig and a snout."
The Hogettes also bring their spirit to charities such as Children's Hospital, raising over $50 million for the hospital since 1983. This year, they were inducted into the Visa Hall of Fans at the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.
Here is a transcript of today's session:
I hate to not be so positive about the Hogettes but I believe you and your "gals" represent the DC area to the nation as a bunch of lunatics - and aging lunatics to boot! Knowing most football fans are a bit abnormal, I accept this as I am a pretty big fan -especially for a woman!- But is there any chance you may consider changing your costume and theme in the near future? I just get really embarassed when I see you on the TV lately.
Michael Torbert: I didn't know we were looking that old. And you are absolutely right, we do represent our nation's capital. We consider our selves "ambassador", we are family men who help raise money for Children's Charities. We are a constant, which some people like. I hope we don't embarass you in the future.
Seriously, what do you think of Redskins' fans? Loud and knowledgeable? Loud and un-knowledgeable? Just loud?
Michael Torbert: They've been kinda quiet the last several years. Not a lot to cheer about. SKINS' fans are very knowledgeable, very smart. They know good football and bad football. They know we are playing good football right now, which is a good time to do it.
[edited for space]
How many Hogettes are there? I used to see nearly a dozen at the games but now I see only a few. Why aren't the Hogettes behind the Redskins bench like they were at RFK for 15 years?
Michael Torbert: There are 12 active hogettes and 15 missing links. We are spread out in the new stadium. We have a foxhole of 2 guys to the left of the skins bench and then the other 7-8 guys who go to the games are behind the one of the end zones. We're still working on grouping up a little better.
Do you think the Redskins' home crowd will make the difference against Detroit on Saturday?
Michael Torbert: You betcha. The 12th man always makes a difference. We want to make sure Gus and his teammates have as much trouble as possible. But really, we want to root our guys up to do their best and hopefully come out on top.
I like the idea of using the Hoggettes for promotion. Have you ever considered them as mascots for trial lawyers?
Michael Torbert: That is a new possibility. You know the hogettes have their own lawyer, you need one in modern day world. I'll have to ask Bob if your idea is a possibility.
Everyone seems to remember that Ford TV commercial you guys/girls did a few seasons ago. Is it true you gave all the royalties to charity?
Michael Torbert: We sure did, Bob. We give most of the money, after covering some expenses, to the children's charities like our children's hospital that you and us both support.
Do the Hoggettes have any official connection to the Redskins? Do you, for example, get preferential seating assignments or any discounts on you season tickets or concessions etc? Good Job on the charity work, by the way.
Michael Torbert: The hogettes are part of the Redskins 12th man. We pay full price for our season tickets just like any Redskins fan. No, we don't get any prefrential treatment.
Mike, tell the story of how you recruited all the original Hogettes. I especially love the part about how one guy said, yeah, yeah, he'd love a free Redskins ticket--and then you told him he'd have to wear a dress to get it!
Michael Torbert: Bob, this answer would take the whole hour. First time around, I recruited neighbors and friends of mine who I thought were though enough to go out in public in a dress. Big Georgette was the one I was talking with when I said I'd get him a Redskins ticket and all he had to do was wear a dress and there was total silence on the phone for about a minute. And then he said okay. In recent years, we've recruited guys who seem to be special in our communities. And we have a waiting list. Bob, how would you look in a dress? Wearing that snout for 5 hours in 90 degree weather is a real treat. You could be a hogette for a day. One of our big benefits this year was our Hogette For A Day raised over $11,000 for Children's chairities to go to one game with us this season.
The Hogettes grew from the nickname of the Skin's front line. Is there a chance that a new group will evolve from any new moniker? There seems to be a lack of identiy among units of the team anymore such as the Hog's and the Capital Offence, Fun Bunch etc.
Michael Torbert: That's a good question. We'll have to see what happens now that things have stabilized with Mr. Synder's ownership and Norv Turner hopefully staying around for awhile. Maybe team identity groups will emerge that fans can hook up with. I think we'll always be hogettes because we are Redskins fans.
Here's the burning question: How do you find dresses big enough to fit a bunch of guys who are.... shall we say... a bit hefty?
Michael Torbert: Bob, they have big sizes in the stores. Big Macette is still wearing his wife's original maternity dress. The funniest techinical problem we had was finding tights we could fit into. But we found them at a truck stop in North Carolina.
Bruce "Pork Chop" Lindsay, one of your Hogette buddies, says he doesn't like to wander around during Redskins games because men (no doubt fortified by alcohol) poke, pinch and prod him. Good heavens, have the Hogettes become SEX OBJECTS???????
Michael Torbert: Our wives have always thought of us as sex objects, hopefully.
What about us women? Can't we also sign up to be part of the Hogette tradition or is this a male only thing? -I can't believe either your or our fair-minded Bob would support something that was discriminatory-.
Michael Torbert: Actually, there are two women hogettes presently. One lady does a hogette for a game each season, this year raising over $11,000 for children's chairities to stand in line with us. I've always been a little nervous for a lady to get fun poked at her for being a hogette. That's why there are not very many. But we don't discriminate.
You and the world's greatest producer, Lynn Ryzewicz, just went down to the Post cafeteria to get a Coke. In the process, you must have passed about 100 people. They aren't used to seeing a man in a dress smoking a fat, phony cigar and wearing a hog's snout. Did anyone say anything to you? Did anyone try to ask you out?
Michael Torbert: Some people said hi. Did not get any date proposals.
I know about all the charity work the Hogettes do. How can I make a donation to the kids through the Hogettes?
Michael Torbert: We would love for you to make a donation. You could send a check in care of Bob Levey at the Washington Post and I'm sure he would be very happy to forward it on to us to pass on to your favorite children's charity.
Quote from former Redskins lineman (and real Hog) Jeff Bostic: "I thought they were crazy at first, to tell the truth. But they've carried it on for years and years." Two questions: Are you crazy, and will you carry it on for many more years?
Michael Torbert: Yes, we are definitely crazy. But we have a good time. And will do it as many years as the Redskins fans want us out there. And our wives put up with our craziness.
Falls Church, VA:
In an age where athletes take themselves way too seriously, it is nice to see you guys enjoying yourselves and keeping the game in perspective.
Michael Torbert: Thank you very much. You do have to have a sense of humor for many things from day to day. It is tough to be humorous when the skins lose, but it's even tougher to face a sick child in a hospital room, and cheer them up with our humorous looks. That's tough.
Any comment on the Fox vs. Cox bloodbath in Fairfax County? A Redskin fan who can't watch his favorite team is a dangerous animal....
Michael Torbert: It's terrible to watch big money fight with each other, isn't it. I would tell the Fairfax viewer to disconnect the cable and hook up the rabbit ears, you can see the game fine.
Fairfax, VA (home of the cable monopoly):
[edited for space] Great win last weekend. It was great to finally have a team out there that played like the winners we all hope-know they can be. It was a shaky start, but they ended the season with their helds held high and we are all very proud.
OK tat being said I must get on to my main point of writing. This whole thing about Cox-Fox is enough to make my blood boil. I honestly don't know which part of the whole scenario is the worst; the fact that Fairfax County government has a allowed a cable monopoly to exist and there is nothing us good citizens can do about their channels or their fees.... Personally I think all of these executives -Cox and Fox- would make great tackling dummies for your next practice. Or maybe not, I don't think they have spines.
Michael Torbert: Try rabbit ears, and let those people settle their own squabble without interfering in your Redskins' support.
Mike, if that was an invitation to wear a dress and be a Hogette for a day, count me in!
Michael Torbert: You got it. We'll work out the details at a later date. You are going to have to tell everybody when you do it, because everybody will think you are just another pig.
What are the usual nutritional for the HOGETTES on game day?
Michael Torbert: Let's see. We eat alot. Last Sunday, we had cream of crab soup, general tso's chicken, orange beef, fried sausage and onions, cold cuts from Vita France... how's that for a tasty morsel? Big Macette had lost 50 pounds over the last 3 months eating from that menu minus carbohydrates. Me, I like food that sticks to my gut, meat and potatoes.
Do you have any opinion on the seemingly endless controversy about the name of the Washington franchise? Would you support a change to Washington Hogs?
Michael Torbert: Bob, you sure like controversary, don't you. This is a very tough issue, with no winning answer. The Redskins is the traditional name of our town's team. It is not meant in the context to offend anyone based on a 19th century usage. I don't think the Washington Hogs would be any good. We would support the team, no matter what their name was. Bob, did you know the NFL as we know it today, is based on the athletic abilities of the Native American Jim Thorpe. If it wasn't for him, we wouldn't have had Sammy Baugh, Sunny Jurgensen, Brad Johnson... a little historic perspective for you.
Are you guys -gals- officially recognized by either Norv or the big Dan - or even unofficially recognized - as a Redskin tradition?
Michael Torbert: We are not officially recognized, but we are unofficially recognized. Many Redskins fans have told us we are a part of the Redskins tradition. Did you know that we are in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, as the Original Redskins' ultimate fan?
In real life, you're a mild-mannered federal government employee. Do your co-workers know that beneath your placid exterior, there beats the heart of a Hogette? Or do you do the Clark Kent thing and pretend that Mild-Mannered Fed is all there is to Mike Torbert?
Michael Torbert: In 1992, your Roxanne Roberts let the cat out of the bag as far as my job is concerned. We just had a reorganization in my agency, and my new big boss put one of our posters up in his office first thing.
Now that we know what you eat, where do the Hogettes tailgate? Can we get autographs or take pictures?
Michael Torbert: You betcha. We'll be happy to sign autographs and take as many pictures as you want. Either outside Gate A, or in the stadium behind Section 132.
Have you ever spent time around a real hog? We're talking serious filth. So why don't you guys get more authentic and roll around in the mud before every game?
Michael Torbert: We would set Right Guard back a century. Actually, I did get to hold a little pig at the Leesburg 4-H show this fall. The only reason he was a smelly little critter was because they kept him in a cat cage without cleaning him up. We try not to be stinky, we work with kids.
Silver Spring, Maryland:
You guys do add to the amusement of the game which can be the only lift to some of the games. Has Danny Snyder ever come over to your group and invited you up to the Owner's Suite? Have any of the Hogs ever invited you to any of their restaurants? You probably would have to go in drag, though.
Michael Torbert: Mr. Synder has had a busy year. I am sure we're way down the list on invites to the owners' suite. I do want to check out the tvs above the urinals. We love to eat the Head-Hogs food anytime.
Is it true that your favorite clothing designer is Calvin Swine?
Michael Torbert: You betcha.
Hi Mike - congratulations on the Football Fan award you received last year! I know you not only had to be a big fan but also very involved in the community - obviously your children's charity work is very much appreciated by all. You've met my parents -I'd rather not give their name in this forum-, who are the grandparents of Jamie, my nephew in Richmond who has many health problems, and you are kind to write them notes inquiring about his health and saying hello. Thank you for this and all you do!! And Go Redskins!!! Sincerely, Jamie's Aunt
Michael Torbert: Dear Jamie's Aunt, thank you very much for the note. Jamie looked good in the Christmas card. It has been wonderful to know him and his family and his grandma and grandpa. It's nice to meet you. Thank you very much.
You mentioned before that the wives of all the Hogettes are supportive. Seriously, your charity work must take an awful lot of time away from your families. Don't the wives (and little hogs) deserve a lot of credit--not to mention the nerves of steel it takes to have a husband/father who looks the way you guys look?
Michael Torbert: Bob, you are absolutely right. Like anything else menfolk try and do, they couldn't get it done without the support of their wives and families. Sometimes their understanding makes it possible for us to do personal appearances and fundraisers. We wouldn't have the hogettes without their support.
Oxon Hill, MD:
I hope that Dan Snyder has invited you guys to the Owner's Box for a drink -and pork chops- during the game. If Levey has the courage to invite you to his luxury digs at the Post, Danny certainly should have you up to the Box for a TV appearance -not on Cox-.
Hope you got to see Dr. Gridlock today - that guy is my hero -sorry, Levey-.
Michael Torbert: Yes, Levey's digs are quite impressive. A working man's space. Haven't seen Dr. Gridlock yet. We will put him on the docket.
What would happen on Saturday if some guy dressed in a Lions' costume came up to one of the Hogettes and challenged him to a fight?
Michael Torbert: You turkey, we are true peacemakers. We'd offer him an adult beverage, encourage him to root for his team, and we would definitely continue to root for our team. One of the benefits to the Hall of Fame experience is we know have 31 new friends in each of the other NFL cities. I almost feel safe going to an away game.
What is the most exciting thing that has happened to you as a Hogette?
Michael Torbert: Winning the superbowl in Minneapolis, since it was such a great win and I got to share it with my oldest son, Shane. The Hall of Fame is a close second.
How did it feel to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame? All you did at the time was to grunt. Now, right here in front of our vast cyber-audience, tell us how you really felt (no grunting allowed).
Michael Torbert: What a tremendous honor to be there representing all of the Redskins' 12th man. Actually, I didn't grunt, I snorted. We have to keep these things in context. It was overwhelming though. My wife tells me that's all I talked about for about 5 months. Hopefully, I'm back to normal now.
I would pay serious money to see Daniel Snyder dressed up as a Hogette. Any chance of that happening?
Michael Torbert: I don't think so. A tie and a hoggette outfit is not a match. Let's leave Mr. Synder to do his job and we'll do ours. Did you know, he and his wife are huge supporters of Children's hospital, they have a wing named after them?
Falls Church, VA:
Any comment on Bob's 8-8 prediction for the Redskins this year?
Michael Torbert: He was only 2 off.
Do you guys go to Redskins' away games, too? If so, share some memories with us..... booing in Dallas.... snowball fights at the Meadowlands....it must have been wonderful. Or was it?
Michael Torbert: The only place we'll go is Dallas, they treat us like kings down there. The last away game we went to was in Miami, I tried to find bullet-proof vests for us. I won't put us in harm's way like that again. This goes back to the new HoF connections and promoting fan comradeship at games.
You guys took the Hogette nickname because the Redskins' offensive line of that era was called the Hogs. But those players are all retired now. Do you miss them? Do you ever see them or talk to them?
Michael Torbert: Of course, we miss them but life goes on. Don Warren is a football coach at our rival highschool. I see Jake and some of the other guys at golf tournaments. They are in great shape going on about their new careers. But now we have Tre Johnson and the rest of the guys who are doing a great job. They are a key for this Saturday, aren't they?
Will the Hogettes be at the rally at Union Station this afternoon?
Michael Torbert: Yes, a couple of the guys will be there.
Do you guys still get featured in as many TV "cutaway shots" as you once did? Or do the cameras tend to show people in the stands who are carrying saucy signs?
Michael Torbert: We get on sometimes, but our location isn't as good as it was in RFK. I don't get to see many of the home games on tv, so I don't know if tv shows alot of the fans, I hope so.
Hi! Why is it that the Hogette's have never fallen into the sort of mean-spiritied, often violent, hooliganism that marks many other famous fan collections - like Cleveland's gawg pound? Does that reflect something about this city and its attitudes toward sports and life?
Michael Torbert: We try and stay positive for our side, instead of being negative for their side. Pigs bleed, so we are very peaceful. We've been where people are not very nice, and it is no fun. I don't know about your last question but let's hope so.
You gus could have "gone Hollywood" long ago--agents, paid public appearances, a TV show of your own. Why haven't you tried to cash in on your fame? I know a lot of people who would have.
Michael Torbert: A little hog goes a long way. We have tried not to get overexposed. But, we love to do tv commercials. We'll cash in on our fame for children's chairties any chance we can get.
The man actually said he liked Levey's digs! His eyesight must be obscured by that hog snout he's wearing.
Seriously, Mike, I want to salute you and all the guys for the work you've done for Children's Hospital over the years. Helping a child never goes out of style, and you've helped many. Well done!
Michael Torbert: Well, thank you, Bob. It is a team effort, and we feel like we are part of the children's hospital team just like you are. I guess that makes us teammates, doesn't it?
Thanks so much to the one and only Mikey T, and go Redskins! Don't forget to join us for the Friday version of our show, "Levey Live: Speaking Freely." It appears from 1 to 2 p.m. Eastern time. Next Tuesday, our guest on "Levey Live" will be David Segal, legal affairs columnist at The Washington Post. He promises not to wear his snout.