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Tuesday, December 18, 2018  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Spokane

Life isn’t always easy at top of the hill


Bill Robinson, who plays the vulture at the top of Doomsday Hill, waits for the moment he needs to don his costume to greet the first Bloomsday competitor Sunday morning.
 (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)
Bill Robinson, who plays the vulture at the top of Doomsday Hill, waits for the moment he needs to don his costume to greet the first Bloomsday competitor Sunday morning. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)

The Doomsday Hill vulture wears shinguards.

Bill Robinson, the man behind the creepy mask, added the protective gear in 1988, a year after he began standing at the top of the hill. Runners, even tired runners, can be mean.

“A lot of people punch me,” Robinson said early Sunday morning as an assistant helped him into his elaborate homemade costume.

The vast majority of runners and walkers pass the vulture’s perch atop the hill with a smile or a gentle brush of the wingtip. But in a race with 40,000-some people, there’s bound to be a few bad Bloomies, Robinson said. About five years ago there was even an attempted tipping.

“High school kids,” said Robinson, who runs a local market research firm when he’s out of costume.

Robinson heard the young men whispering about the plans moments earlier. His pair of assistants, plus nearby helpers rushed to his aid and prevented the bird from tumbling. “It could’ve broken my neck,” Robinson explained.

One of Robinson’s crew members is an attractive young woman. She tends to distract the young hooligans, Robinson said.

Over the course of the morning, Robinson wears off half the soles of his tennis shoes scuffling around on the pavement. Inside the 10-foot-tall suit, two fans keep him cool and inflated.

“Sometimes people come up and hug me and say ‘The vulture’s vibrating!’ If it’s an attractive woman, I say, ‘For your pleasure,’ ” he said, laughing.

 

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