Bruce Volat, alias the Madd Hatter, didn't spend much time trying to lead cheers during the second half at Capital Centre yesterday. Instead, he sat on the steps just behind the Bullets' bench, his kazoo and drum silent as the Celtics kept Washington at bay.
Volat, who is easily identified by his giant polka-dot bow tie and an assortment of strange headgear, usually patrols the sidelines, inciting Bullet fans to yell for their team. He used to be the Fat Lady--"not the original Fat Lady, there's a difference"--but he developed his own identity because, he says, "Fans said we needed people like me."
David Register, who can best be described as an avid basketball fan with a very powerful set of lungs, sits near the scorers' table, where he waves a red enameled cane and offers instructions to officials, players and coaches in a nonstop assault on the eardrums.
Register used to sit directly in back of the public address announcer, but when his suggestions began going out over the loudspeaker, his seat was moved. Now when Register talks, everybody doesn't have to listen.
He protested the change of seats by coming to three games, dressed in a black cape and veil, with the word "mute" on the cloth over his mouth. "It was my own form of protest at being silenced," he said.
Why would anyone with a modicum of sanity make a public spectacle of himself at a basketball game?
"If you want attention, you have to do something that will make people wonder why you're crazy," said Volat, who was somewhat subdued yesterday because the Bullets were constantly behind. "Doing this can crank up the crowd. They notice me, and I can get this building hysterical."
Volat was dared by a friend to attend a game in Seattle several years ago dressed as the Fat Lady. He did it, and the following season, he brought out his Madd Hatter character, inspired by his own collection of hats.
"Mostly I collect baseball-type caps," said Volat, a musical instrument salesman in real life. "But these are specially made."
"These" include a floppy polka-dot number, which goes with the tie, a cap with plastic bat wings, one with clapping hands, controlled by string under the chin, and another with a tail-waving skunk on top because, said Volat, "sometimes the refs stink."
Completing Volat's uniform is a Bullets T-shirt, straining up front, and his own enthusiasm.
"I don't use profanity," he said. "And I'm not official, although I would like to coordinate something like this with the team. One official told me he'd like to see eight more Bruce Volats in the building."
Register claimed someone told him there should be at least 200 Registers in Capital Centre, but a quick poll of his neighbor fans produced no such result.
"Obnoxious" is how one of them described him, but Register seems not to care.
"I love basketball, just love it, and get involved in it," he said. Dressed in a red flannel shirt and blue and red checked jacket, Register said most things he wears are in Bullet colors. He also wears a silver wrench around his neck. "A baby alligator wrench," he said. He paused to stand up and yell at the officials, then debated whether to pull out his signs.
Register says his wife Thelma is too ill to come to many Bullets games, but when she does, she tells him to be quiet. "She says I'm embarrassing," he said.
Rumor has it Register will have his seat changed again next season--some fans would like to see it changed to the parking lot--but he said he will keep his season ticket until he's 95. The people around him know, or ought to know, that birthday is 32 years away.