Horn Guy talks vuvuzelas
The first time I saw a vuvuzela, my thoughts immediately turned to the 400 level of Verizon Center, and a certain celebrity Caps fan who sits therein. No, not Pat Sajak.
"Wait a second," went my thoughts. "Is Horn Guy really...Vuvuzela Guy?"
"No, I'm not," Sam Wolk told me. "I'm a dork with a plastic horn. Say it in American."
Needless to say, I'm not the only person who's asked him about the V word this month. As the World Cup has morphed into a month-long vuvuzelabration of plastic horns, they've shown up everywhere in pop culture. Vuvuzeligs, if you will.
Much of the publicity, needless to say, has not been positive for the plastic horn industry. It's a tough development for someone like Wolk, who has spent more than a decade harnessing his own plastic horn for periodic good, rather than persistent aural harm.
"There's a lot of haters," he acknowledged. "I'm actually a little concerned that there's gonna be this vuvuzela mania at Verizon Center. Some people are afraid that they'll start banning them. I don't know, if I can't bring 'em in any more it would suck, but it's not like it would be unexpected with the attention that this little plastic horn is getting."
If you don't know Wolk's story by now, I'll provide the highlights. He bought his original horn when he was just a 14-year old kid attending the elder George Bush's inauguration. That one was smashed by Penguins fans, and a fellow celebrity fan provided its replacement. To ensure he had proper backups, Wolk later went to a D.C. United game and bought a handful from a street vendor. Since then, appreciative fans have brought him more.
And as the team's popularity has skyrocketed, so has Wolk's. He's been featured repeatedly on the video board, been interviewed by bloggers, local TV stations and glossy magazines, and is constantly stopped by admirers on the concourse. There have been frequent imitators inside the arena whose tone is often lower; Wolk and his friends refer to this as "brown noise," for reasons that would not be appropriate in a family blog item.
The World Cup drone, to Wolk, sounds like brown noise writ large.
"Like a swarm of locusts," he said. "It sounded like a stadium full of people doing the brown noise, like a constant humming. I can imagine it must be annoying for the people on the field."
He's read how the standard vuvuzela note is a B flat, and he's almost sure his horn produces something higher, although he's able to make about five different tones based on his airflow and embouchure.
Both his original horn and its replacement were technically called "Poly-Trumpets" and came from Evansville; the knock-offs tend to have misshapen mouthpieces and thinner plastic, resulting in a less-robust timbre. But are they vuvuzelas? Wolk says it doesn't matter.
"People can call it whatever they want," he said. "When I started seeing all the press come out, vuvuzela this and vuvuzela that, I was like, 'Wow, I guess what I have is not really a horn, it's a vuvuzela.' A rose by any other name, yada yada."
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