Tailgating All-Pros

Debra Darnall,
aka “The Bone Lady”

Age: 44

Residence: Lakewood

Day job: Decorative painter

Position: Ubiquitous cheerleader and Pro Football Hall of Fame “Ultimate Fan.” The Bone Lady arrives at the Muny Lot each week in her 1987 Volvo painted like a Cleveland Browns helmet topped with a giant dog bone. “I call it my traveling tribute,” she says. Darnall’s cotton candy-sized orange wig, outlandish dress and dog collar draw attention wherever she goes.

Rookie season: 1999

Tailgating advice: “Make plenty of friends who cook.” The Bone Lady doesn’t cook and she’s had to depend on the kindness of her tailgating friends who feed her at every game.

Career highlights: Honored as the 2001 Cleveland Browns Fan of the Year in the Visa Hall of Fans at Canton’s Pro Football Hall of Fame. “It was an incredible honor to be recognized, especially as a woman. I take it very seriously and I love the game.”

Roy Maxwell

Age: 58

Residence: Apple Creek, Ohio

Day job: Retired

Position: Brownie mascot and soup cook. As a gesture to former Browns owner Art Modell, Maxwell has donned a full brownie elf costume at every game since the team returned in 1999. Modell is credited with removing the elf logo from the Browns repertoire of logos when he bought the team in 1961. “I do it as a way of going against Modell’s wishes,” Maxwell says.

Rookie season: 1957

Tailgating advice: “Bring plenty of food. I like to cook for all my friends. Some of them I don’t even know their names, but I see them every Sunday and I make six gallons of soup so there’s enough for everyone. I like to make chili, bean soup and last year I tried a new one with ravioli and meatballs that was a big hit.”

Career highlights: “Getting my picture in the New York Times, twice. The first time was when I attended the Senate antitrust hearings in Washington, D.C. and the second time was, I think, in 1997 when the Browns were gone. When the Browns actually left, our group of tailgaters vowed to tailgate on opening day anyway. A photographer caught our picture banging on the doors of the old stadium at noon one Sunday.”

Tony “Mobile Dawg” Schaefer

Age: 54

Residence: Sandusky

Day job: General contractor

Position: Bus owner, advocate, feeder of the poor and all-around merry-maker. Schaefer brings a busload — usually about 20 people — of family and friends from the Sandusky area to the Muny Lot for every home game. He bought the old school bus in 1999, “for the return of the team,” for $3,000 and painted it into a brown and orange mobile party. When the Browns were leaving the city in 1995, Schaefer and a number of his crew traveled to an owners meeting in Atlanta to make their case for keeping the team in Cleveland.

Rookie season: 1984

Tailgating advice: “Get there early and bring a lot of food and a lot of beverages. Actually, put the beverages first on your list. Make sure you bring a happy face, too, because it’s all about the fun.” Schaefer usually brings enough food to feed 30 or more people. “Burgers and hot dogs are a mainstay but we always try to do one special item as well: sometimes ribs, chicken or steaks.”

Career highlights: Honored as the Cleveland Browns Fan of the Year in the Visa Hall of Fans at Canton’s Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2004. “It was unbelievable. I feel very privileged and honored to represent the Browns. All the winners from around the country have a banquet every year and it’s been great meeting so many other great fans, too.”

Tom Stroup

Age: 50

Residence: Marietta, Ga.

Day job: Manufacturers sales representative for Nioxin, a salon hair-care product.

Position: Dedicated fan who flies to Cleveland from Atlanta for nearly every Browns home game. Stroup, his wife, Barbara, daughter, Suzanne, and about 15 friends and family have been known to deep-fry just about anything, including turkey and beef tenderloin.

Rookie season: 1999

Tailgating advice: “Pick the right team to play with you. Every member of your party should add to the fun. Proper lubrication and picking a good tailgating spot also help.”

Career highlights: When both a coach and game official gave a game football to his 9-year-old daughter, Suzanne, in 2000. “We have seats in the first row of the end zone and we make it a habit to tease everyone who comes within shouting distance. That includes encouragement to our team members, disparaging comments to the players on the opposing team and a lot of good-natured razzing to the officials. We’ve gotten to know some of the officials and have a lot of fun with them. I don’t know why they gave Suzanne the football, I was pretty well into my own tailgating fun at the time, but it was really special for us.”

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