If you attended games at the Aud, then you knew about Earl Howze Jr., but perhaps not by that name. Most are more familiar with his nickname, the “Earl of Bud”. For those who are unfamiliar, a little recap should hopefully be fun – and a nice reminder for us older fans.
The “Earl of Bud” was known by that name because he sold beer in both the old War Memorial Auditorium and where the Bisons played (Both the old Rockpile and whatever the new place is being called these days – hell I can’t keep up).
But he was much more than a simple beer-slinger. He had an outgoing personality and everyone wanted to buy beer from him. He would also ham it up for the crowd and sometimes the TV cameras during game breaks to “Tequila”. He maintained a popularity that was as great as, if not better than, some of the players.
He was a local celebrity, posing for pictures, signing autographs, even appearing in some television commercials. I was only a kid when I saw him but I remember everyone being enraptured with whatever he was doing, even if it was simply climbing up the stairs carrying a bunch of beer.
Here’s the Earl of Bud at the last game played at the Aud:
Earl did his shtick through the 80s and much of the 90s until mysteriously disappearing. The only article I could find on it was a repost of a Buffalo News (TBN) article on a blog (the real article is from 2007 and apparently is not in TBN’s database). From the article:
“He went in and quit the ballpark and the arena all in one day,” said Tom Girot, the conspicuous beer vendor known as Conehead. “It was just amazing. One day the Earl of Bud is there, and the next day he’s gone. It was like he fell off the face of the earth.”
Apparently Earl also worked as a firefighter and he injured his knee at some point. The story holds that he got a pension from the firefighter job but they were pissed about his very public job where he was apparently able to lug beer up and down the aisles and dance in front of people.
It seems to fit. Here’s a guy who loves the limelight, loves entertaining people and being The Man. But he isn’t able to do it anymore, partly because of a bum knee and partly because if he does it he can’t make the money he depends on to survive. So he shuffles off into the sunset and heads elsewhere where they don’t know him. Here in Buffalo, everyone would be asking him why he’s not at the games.
The TBN article states that he danced for the last time in August of 1997. Seven months later he filed for bankruptcy and apparently shortly thereafter moved to Chattanooga, Tennessee where his children and grandchildren live.
“I take it easy and visit my kids and grandkids a lot, just fishing and traveling,” Howze said by phone from Chattanooga. “I’m loving the mountains. Everything is different than Buffalo. Everything here is new to me. It’s like starting a different life over again.”
Just like a bad informercial it’s time to throw in a “BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE!” (Side note: “bad infomercial is kind of redundant, isn’t it? Are there good infomercials?) In May of 2007, during game 5 of the playoff series between the Sabres and the NY Rangers, the Earl of Bud returned majestically from out of nowhere and did his thing, dancing before fans and prompting them to yell “TEQUILA!” It wasn’t enough to help the Sabres get the win, but perhaps it helped the Sabres win the series in the long run.
The Earl of Bud also popped up on Twitter last year – apparently. He was only online for a short time in the spring of 2011, if it was indeed him and not a fake account.
Hopefully everything is going good for the Earl. He showed us that anyone can be a star and that you can find unique ways to do common, blue-collar jobs. Just by doing a simple dance and chatting with people he made a more lasting impression on fans than some players do.
A couple other Earl of Bud videos: