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Published: Thursday, 4/24/2003

`D'oh'! Foes of signs fear more jokes at city's expense

BY TOM TROY
BLADE STAFF WRITER

As Homer Simpson might have said, “D'oh!”

Mayor Jack Ford has delayed approving new welcome signs with “ToledOH!” after learning about the potential for Toledo to be equated with the television cartoon character.

The new signs are supposed to convey a sense of excitement, as in Toledo, Ohio! and are planned to be installed on May 5 at up to 25 locations around the city.

But fans of the animated TV show The Simpsons couldn't help noticing Homer's favorite expression in the spelling of Toledo.

“`D'oh' is what Homer says when he has messed something up, when he's disappointed in himself,” said Councilman Ellen Grachek. “I don't know if that's the image we want to portray.”

Councilman Rob Ludeman, a real-estate salesman, said he likes the bridge picture in the sign, but not the intentional misspelling of “ToledOH!”

“There have been too many instances when people have had an opportunity to make fun of Toledo, and I hope this doesn't provide another opportunity,” Mr. Ludeman said.

Homer Simpson, for those who have never tuned in to America's longest-running animated primetime TV show, is an overweight, middle-age character who lives in the fictional town of Springfield with his wife, Marge, and three children. Homer's favorite activities include drinking beer and bowling. He's a safety inspector for the town's nuclear power plant.

Mayor Ford, who grew up in another Springfield - the one in Ohio - likes the sign because of what it says: “We're Glad You're Here,” and, “A Great Place To Be.” Mr. Ford said he was not aware of Homer's “D'oh” expression.

Megan Vahey, the mayor's spokesman, said the signs have not been made yet by the city's sign shop. She said three focus groups will evaluate the sign, after which the mayor will make a final decision.

“We want to ascertain if there are others out there who see [the Homer connection], and we may bring in people from out of town to be on the focus groups. We want to take our time and get a good read on it,” Ms. Vahey said.

She said the design was reviewed by the city's Gateways Committee and its sign subcommittee. It was produced by a top-notch local firm, Lesniewicz Associates, which has developed logos for Toledo Public Schools and Owens Corning, among others.

Terry Lesniewicz, the president, said no one ever mentioned Homer Simpson during many meetings held to come up with the concept, which he said was valuable time donated to the city. He said he still doesn't see the reference, because of the way the typeface changes.

The letters “TOLED” are in one typeface against a green backdrop. The letters “OH!” are on a blue background in a different typeface.

Mr. Lesniewicz said the sign committee had another popular primetime comedy in mind when they came up with TOLEDOH! - The Drew Carey Show. The show's theme song ends with Drew and the cast shouting out “Cleveland, Ohio!” with the city skyline behind them.

“We thought that was pretty nice of him, putting Cleveland on the map. We just wanted to get some excitement,” Mr. Lesniewicz said.

Not everyone sees harm in the Simpson analogy.

Dr. Angela Nelson, chairman of the popular culture department at Bowling Green State University, said that people who like The Simpsons will like the sign.

“I don't think it's going to make the city look bad at all,” Dr. Nelson said. “Popular culture - we're talking about what people find pleasure in. So anytime there's a connection to their popular culture, there's going to be an increase in good thoughts in them.”



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