- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
Hogettes retire after 30 years
By KATIE FITZPATRICK
Hogettes founder Michael Torbert recently announced the retirement of the group known for attending football games and charitable events in pig snouts and dresses after more than 30 years.
“I just kind of thought that 30 years was long enough for society to put up with our silliness,” Torbert joked.
Torbert, known as Boss Hogette, said the group has had “an awful lot of fun” cheering for the Washington Redskins at home and away games during the last 30 years, but more importantly, has treasured bringing joy to the lives of sick children.
“Seeing their eyes light up like Christmas trees when we walk in … and helping raise money for the folks that helped those children was really our primary mission,” he said of the Hogettes.
Torbert said he believes people associate the Hogettes with “that old era” of the Hogs, a nickname for the offensive line of the Redskins during the 1980s and early 1990s.
“It’s a new era,” Torbert said. “[Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III] and [tailback Alfred] Morris have demonstrated that they understand winning football. I think all the Redskins fans are going to have a great time rooting for these new kids running around winning football games for the Redskins.”
The Hogettes have a “real connection” to Southern Maryland, where several of the group’s members live, including Dave “Spiggy” Spigler of Lusby, Torbert said.
Spigler, known as Spiggy Hogette, said he became involved with the Hogettes about 20 years ago, several years after dressing up as a “Hogette wanna-be” and attending events throughout Southern Maryland.
The first time he dressed up was during a Knights of Columbus awards dinner because he couldn’t find anyone to present awards to the children. A longtime Washington Redskins fan, Spigler said he was aware of the growing fame of the Hogettes.
“I’d had astronauts in the past, government higher-ups, but that year I couldn’t get anyone of note,” Spigler said. “I decided to dress up as a Hogette wanna-be.”
Spigler, who said he had never been in a dress before that night, walked around the awards dinner “kicking and dancing like a Rockette.”
“I looked out and everybody was laughing and carrying on, and at that moment, I realized I had a little ham in me,” he said.
From then on, Spigler said he was labeled as a Hogette wanna-be and made local appearances. When a spot on the Hogettes opened up, Spigler said he auditioned for it and in 1992, he became an official member.
From there, Spigler said he and a group of about 35 people called Spiggy and Friends formed. Spiggy and Friends help Spigler put on local events to help raise money for charitable causes. Although the Hogettes are retired and he can no longer wear his pig snout and dress, Spigler said Spiggy and Friends will continue its fundraising work, at least this year, with its annual golf tournament.
“It might not be as hilarious … but we’ll be doing another benefit and golf tournament in the fall without pig noses and guys in dresses,” Spigler said. “Spiggy and Friends will still remain a force, I hope.”
Spigler said the golf tournament, which he took over after he became a member, was a Hogette tradition before he joined the group. The tournament used to take place in Washington, D.C., he said, and he “brought it down to Calvert.” He said he also has hosted many children’s benefits and hosts an annual party, which “attracts between 200 and 300 rabid Redskins fans each year,” to raise money for children’s charities.
Spigler said he and other team members did not know the Hogettes were being retired until Monday, Jan. 7, after they all received an email from Torbert.
“It’s a sad day,” Spigler said during a phone interview Friday. “Most of us are in shock. We all … know we’re going to miss it.”
In the 1990s, Torbert said, the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, began selecting the ultimate fan from each National Football League team. Torbert said he was “the guinea pig” for the Redskins and was the first ultimate fan honored by the hall of fame.
Waldorf resident Wes Henson, who is also known as Captain Dee Fence, a local mascot for the Baltimore Ravens, was honored as the ultimate fan in 2002 and has participated in many events with the Hogettes since that time. He said they are part of the annual hall of fame parade in Ohio and have also gone to several blood drives in Fort Meade.
Henson said the Hogettes “set the standard” for other super fans.
“Those guys are icons,” he said. “When you think of the Redskins, you think of the Hogettes. … Those guys are legends.”
Once he became Captain Dee Fence, Henson said he began learning from the Hogettes about what he should be doing to become a “true super fan” and how he could use his position to encourage others to give back to the community as they have.
“Their community service is probably unmatched,” Henson said. “They do it because they know the importance of giving back. It’s kind of sad to see them go. They won’t be replaced.”
Torbert said he will miss working and traveling with the 11 other members of the Hogettes and visiting children at hospitals and at their homes.
“We’ve had opportunities to visit with children who were terminally ill and their families, and it’s just an absolute honor to be able to bring a little sunshine into a very, very dark period in those people’s lives,” he said.
Torbert said the Hogettes’ “blood is burgundy and gold,” and they will continue to cheer for the Redskins, just not in “uniform.” Torbert said he’s also encouraged members of the Hogettes to continue to help raise money for children’s charities.
“I’ve encouraged all of the guys to continue with their new endeavors along that line incognito, or as we like to say, ‘in-hog-nito,’” Torbert said.
The Hogettes were founded in 1983 by Torbert after he dressed up in his grandmother’s black and white polka-dot dress and surprised her at a Halloween Tacky Tea Party, according to the Hogettes website. Because of the response Torbert received, he recruited 11 other men.
“The thing that we tried to do was make people and kids laugh, smile and laugh, because, especially for a sick child, that can be great medicine, and for their families, it’s very helpful, too,” Torbert said. “There’s nothing more powerless than having a child be ill for a parent. If we were able to relieve that tension a little bit … we accomplished our mission.”