Bob Woolf, 37, has been employed as the Phoenix Suns' dunk-happy
gorilla mascot since 1988.
Why a gorilla? Phoenix is in a desert. Why not a Gila monster?
During the late 1970s a fan hired a singing-telegram guy in a
gorilla suit to sing Happy Birthday to his wife in the stands
during the first-quarter break. After that, it became popular to
bring the gorilla in to do singing telegrams. That's how it
When you took over for the original gorilla, did you get any
I was told the gorilla has a character, that he's trying to be
human. He tries as hard as he can to be the coolest human
possible, but he's just one step short. He doesn't quite get the
How did you get the job?
Acrobatics were my selling point. I was born and raised a
gymnast. I didn't have a lot of basketball experience.
Do you hang out with rival mascots?
Hugo the Hornet and I were roommates at Arizona State. When I
first got the job, he made fun of me, about how I had to go to a
Laundromat to wash my gorilla suit. Then I got a call from
Charlotte, and I suggested him. He's been there 12 years.
Have you formed a mascot union?
No, but we have an NBA mascot conference every summer, usually
in Las Vegas. It's a trip. The guys get together, share stories,
swap ideas. We started it for fun, but now it's a serious
conference. We actually learn a lot. We also hit the gaming
Who lost the most money?
We're all fairly conservative. We play at the dollar tables.
It's about having fun, not about gambling. The Hornet's been
known to do a little high rolling, though.
Who's the wildest?
Oh, criminy. The Bear in Houston, he's a wild man.
How do you go to the bathroom when you're wearing the suit?
Other mascots use a bottle. You finish the Mountain Dew bottle,
and you fill her back up. But my suit has no zipper, so if I've
got to go to the bathroom, I go before or I go after.
How do you get rid of that funky monkey smell?
That's my biggest pet peeve about mascots, when one walks by and
a strange odor is coming out of him. How friendly is that to the
fans? So I try to control the monkey odor. I wash with a lot of
Woolite to keep that fresh smell.
When does a gorilla think about retiring?
Gosh, it's been in my blood for so long. I'd be scared to death
in the real world without the gorilla.
COLOR PHOTO: BARRY GOSSAGE/NBA ENTERTAINMENT (GORILLA)