70s-themed Bison getup latest costume for Fargo police officer with history behind a mask
FARGO -- For most of us, last night was the one time of the year we dress up in a costume. But Todd Wahl, when he's not serving as a downtown resource officer for the Fargo Police Department during the week, dresses up in 1970s regalia as the wel...
FARGO -- For most of us, last night was the one time of the year we dress up in a costume.
But Todd Wahl, when he’s not serving as a downtown resource officer for the Fargo Police Department during the week, dresses up in 1970s regalia as the well-known “Disco Inferno” fan at North Dakota State University football games.
So Oct. 31 doesn’t bring a costume for Wahl.
“I haven’t dressed up for Halloween in several years now,” Wahl said. “I’m kind of a shy person.”
If “shy” is a man who spends much of his free time searching eBay and California vintage stores for shiny, skintight menswear to pair with a gigantic fur hat with horns, then, yes, Wahl is shy.
“I suppose my signature is the gold pants I wear,” Wahl said.
If photobombing Hoda Kotb on the “Today Show” in New York in his full Disco Inferno get-up is shy, sure. Wahl’s shy.
If taking photos with Bison fans in towns from here to Frisco, Texas, and with the likes of TV personalities such as Lee Corso, Desmond Howard, and Matt Lauer is shy … well, you get the picture.
So does Wahl, literally.
“Seems like every truck stop someone wanted to get their picture taken with him,” said tailgating buddy and fellow Bison fan Mike Hahn, of that fateful first Disco Inferno appearance, en route to Frisco in 2012 for the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision title game – the first of the Bison’s three consecutive national championships.
“I was trying to determine what to wear for the game,” Wahl said. “I kind of got to thinking, ‘I need to do something more than just a yellow shirt.’ ”
His girlfriend had bought him a leisure suit at the downtown vintage shop Revolver, which fit him well and which he’d worn, as a joke, to a fellow officer’s recent retirement party.
Wahl completed the look with the fur bison hat, a wide-collared shirt unearthed from an old farmhouse, and a pair of gigantic aviators – and called himself the Disco in Frisco.
The Bison won – and they haven’t lost a game since, he points out.
“I’m not saying I deserve all the credit,” he said. “But maybe some.”
Hahn said Wahl also deserves credit for bringing some peace and stability to downtown’s diverse community.
Hahn, the director of the Downtown Community Partnership, met Wahl through his work downtown before discovering a shared love of college football.
He praised Wahl’s ability to strike a balance between toughness and approachability with folks downtown, some of whom are homeless or plagued with substance abuse and mental health issues.
“When you talk about downtown (officers), they have to be stern, but they have to have compassion as well,” Hahn said.
Part of that compassion emerges in Wahl’s work as an instructor for the crisis intervention team to help first responders struggling with mental health issues. He identifies his role with the crisis team as one of his favorite parts of being a police officer.
“To have someone come up and tell you you saved their life – that’s pretty big,” Wahl said.
But on the weekends, it’s time to lay aside the cop’s uniform, and put on another uniform of sorts.
It isn’t the first time he’s brought a character to life by dressing up in costume.
Besides a stint as Hawkeye, the Fargo RedHawks’ mascot, Wahl also did a gig as Thundar, the Bison mascot, at NDSU back in 1992-93.
“I loved being Thundar. It was awesome. I had a lot of fun that year. Probably too much fun,” he said.
Too much fun? It was also work running around in a heavy, sweaty costume, logging hours at volleyball and basketball games as well as wrestling matches, and, of course, football games.
That was senior year for Wahl – putting personal comfort and leisure time aside to root for a cause he believes in. All to make sure the players knew they had the support they needed to succeed, from someone they don’t even know.
Maybe those costumes – Disco Inferno included – aren’t so out of character for a downtown resource officer, after all.