Mooseheads show unity

October 29, 2002|By John Woestendiek | John Woestendiek,SUN STAFF

Montgomery County Police Chief Charles A. Moose may have vanished from TV screens, but his likeness can now be found on coffee mugs, T-shirts and lunchboxes, thanks to an Internet "fan club" organized in part by an aspiring comedy writer living in Baltimore.

Started on a whim by four friends who met in an "online community," the site premiered Oct. 13, in the midst of the sniper tragedy, and was boosted by a recent mention on the Howard Stern show. It had received 2.7 million hits by midnight Sunday.

"We were basically just writing for ourselves," said 22-year-old Bronwen Liggitt, who moved to Baltimore in January. With technical help from a friend in Australia, their musings were put on a Web site (www.Chiefmoose.com). "We really were never expecting to be found."

Through an online link to CafePress.com, they began marketing Moose merchandise - solely to raise money for the sniper victims - after two suspects were arrested. One dollar of every sale goes to the Sniper Victims' Fund, administered by The Victims Rights Foundation in Gaithersburg.

"We're not profiting at all," said Liggitt. CafePress says hundreds of items have been sold.

Liggitt, 22, lived in New York City, attending Hunter College and working in a private academic library, before moving to Baltimore with her fiance, a programmer for the Hubble Space Telescope.

"I'm the one who doesn't have a day job," said Liggitt, who is pursuing a career as a writer, preferably of comedy.

"We haven't made fun of the horrific events; we have teased Chief Moose, who is a public figure and who has a really awesome name," says an introduction to the Web site - a blend of Moose facts, Moose fancy and Moose-isms.

The image on the merchandise is a cartoon drawing of Chief Moose with antlers, wearing a superhero cape. It was drawn by Liggitt's little sister, she said.

Moose could not be reached for comment about the Web site yesterday.

The Web site, which began as a humorous, but respectful, online homage, has drawn close to 3,000 posts - some praising the chief as a superhero; others deriding him as inept and inarticulate.

The vast majority, though, thank him for his role in the arrests of the suspects charged in the fatal sniper shootings.

"Our intention is to be entirely respectful with one small caveat [the chief's last name]," Liggitt said. "We're the sort of people who find solace in our humor. We were terrified by the attacks. Two of us live in Baltimore and one in Arlington. It was an attempt to bring some levity to the situation just between ourselves. All we find funny about him really is that his last name is Moose."

"We don't mean to be disrespectful in any way," she said. "There are wonderful outpourings on the Web site - some of them very pure and honest and so much nicer and more fitting than anything we could come up with."

The site includes criticism of the chief as well - but not from its organizers, only in the public postings.

Liggitt did agree with one of those, though: "If he was Charles Smith, I don't think there would be many T-shirts at all."

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