Todd Hartley: I’m With Stupid

Todd Hartley
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

I suppose this isn’t the first time life has imitated “The Simpsons” – there are, after all, more than 500 episodes of that show – but this is the first time I can remember life imitating my favorite “Simpsons” episode, and it has put me in a frabulous, grabulous, zip-zoop-zabulous mood.

Let me refresh the scene for you: In Season 4 of “The Simpsons,” in 1992, there was an episode called “New Kid on the Block,” written by Conan O’Brien, in which Homer sues a seafood restaurant – “The Frying Dutchman” – for falsely advertising its “all-you-can-eat” buffet.

Last week, in Wisconsin, it finally happened.

In this case, the part of Homer Simpson is being played by a man named Bill Wisth who, according to news reports, is 6-foot-6 and 350 pounds. And though Wisth has not yet sued for his right to keep eating fried fish, he did call the cops to report false advertising, and he has been actively picketing a restaurant in Theinsville, Wis. Sadly, the restaurant is neither “The Frying Dutchman” nor “Up, Up and Buffet” but simply “Chuck’s Place.”

Apparently, Wisth, a regular at Chuck’s Place, went to the restaurant recently for the “all-you-can-eat” fish fry. After 12 pieces of fish, and eight more pieces of more expensive fish to take home with him, the restaurant cut Wisth off and told him to leave. Outraged, he created a disturbance, and the cops had to be called to help throw him out. Since then, he’s been spending time marching back and forth on the sidewalk in front of the restaurant with a handwritten sign reading, “Poor Business Practices!”

Mr. Wisth, I hear you. To paraphrase the dearly departed Lionel Hutz, this is the most blatant case of fraudulent advertising since the movie “The Neverending Story.” Wisth is absolutely right to protest that sort of behavior, and he deserves justice. If he didn’t have all he could eat, he was lied to and lured there under false pretenses.

I can only imagine the anguish and emotional trauma Wisth must have suffered as a result of being cut off at a mere 12 fish. I bet his immediate reaction was probably just like that of Homer, who drove around until 3 a.m. looking for another all-you-can-eat seafood buffet and then went fishing. Do those sound like the actions of a man who had all he could eat? How could he not be angry?

In case you’re wondering why Wisth had time on his hands to picket outside Chuck’s Place, it’s because he must not work very much. According to reports, he can’t always afford his bill at Chuck’s, but they’ve let him run a tab anyway. I don’t think such kindness matters, though, nor does the fact that Wisth hasn’t paid the tab. It’s not about that; as Wisth said, “I think that people have to stand up for consumers.”

Funny that Wisth chose the word “consumers,” as that is pretty much exactly how Chuck’s Place described Wisth in defense of its actions. According to the restaurant, Wisth is what the Sea Captain might refer to as “a beast more stomach than man” or “a remorseless eating machine.” On the night in question, a busy Friday, Wisth apparently ate so much fish that the restaurant ran out.

Still, it was not all he could eat, so I can’t help but think the courts will come down on Wisth’s side in this dispute should it ever come to that. Thus, I propose that Chuck’s Place strike a deal with Wisth and come to some sort of mutually beneficial arrangement, much like Homer did with the Sea Captain.

Clearly, Chuck’s Place has been good to Wisth in the past, and right now, he is inadvertently returning the favor. According to one waitress at the establishment, Wisth’s protest has actually increased business for the restaurant as loyal patrons have come out in a show of support.

That boost of solidarity is bound to ebb soon, however, at which point Chuck’s Place will still be saddled with a large, angry man with a sign. I think Chuck should make that situation work for him. Everyone loves a train wreck, so invite Wisth inside and let people come to watch him eat (hence the title of this column). It worked for The Frying Dutchman; it can work for you, Chuck.

Just please do me one little favor if this is the course of action you take: Make sure you call Wisth “Bottomless Pete, nature’s cruelest mistake.” It’s the only fitting conclusion to this saga.