After years of striving for fame, Ralph Zzyyztzburger is looking forward to going out on the bottom.
He’s earned the last slot in the Spokane phone book, and he’s not even a real person.
“He’s kind of fictitious,” said the man who invented Zzyyztzburger, (pronounced ZEETZburger). “He just pays the phone bill.”
People who compete for the end of the phone book with fake names and high hopes have had their way with the phone company in the past.
It’s a nationwide phenomenon. There’s Axis Zzzzzzz in San Francisco. Vladimir Zzzyd in Miami. K. Zyzom in Seattle. S. Zzye in Portland.
They have different reasons for their quest: being anonymous and notorious, being unlisted without paying for it, achieving a goal.
“I don’t want my real name in the phone book,” said Zzyyztzburger’s creator, who also didn’t want his real name in the newspaper.
But new Spokane contenders will have a difficult time placing fake names, said Sharon Matthews, a spokeswoman for US West. The phone company started asking for legal names a year ago and checking credit on new customers, she said.
The fake names already in place are fairly safe.
“If they were to disconnect and re-establish service, we’d probably catch it,” Matthews said.
The Zzyyztzburger-proxy started his quest at the other end of the phone book. He wanted to be listed first all his life, but the task proved too difficult.
“There’s only so many A’s you can put in front of a name,” he said.
There’s always another Z, though. The man first made a run for the end of the Spokane phone book in 1988. He was young, he was green and he spelled his name “Zyztburger.”
The effort placed second to last in that year’s directory. Coming in last that year was R. Zyzynsky, who first claimed the title in 1987.
For the next four years, Ralph Zyztburger toiled in obscurity, sometimes second to last, sometimes third to last, but never in last place. He made his big push in 1992, changing his identity to Zzyyztzburger.
It paid off. He finally was at the bottom of the heap in the 1992-1993 directory.
Maybe he got cocky. Maybe, fat and lazy. Whatever the reason, Zzyyztzburger wasn’t ready for the 1993-1994 directory.
A new challenger appeared that year - G. Zzyzynsky, who quickly fell to the bottom spot. But Zzyzynsky couldn’t handle the pressure.
“I thought, ‘Well, this would be fun,”’ said Sherry Bursch, who with her husband, Greg, created the name. “All you’d have to tell people is we’re the last one in the phone book.
“But then we got the prank calls. People are really, really rude. Most of the time, I’d say, ‘Don’t you have anything better to do in your life than call the last person in the phone book?”’
Apparently some people don’t. Bursch said her family was awoken many times by calls from people inquiring about the home’s last-place status. One caller offered a $100 million prize at 3 a.m.
In the 1994-1995 phone book, Bursch pulled back. Her family’s new entry, G. Zyzynski, now is third from the bottom, listed before perennial contenders R. and R. Zyzynsky and Zzyyztzburger.
In real life, the Zyzynskys are Bursch’s sister and her husband. The name also is a fake. And next year, the couple could be back on the bottom.
Zzyyztzburger’s creator is thinking about dropping out.
“I’m kind of tired of all the prank phone calls,” he said. “It probably goes unlisted next time.”