The Simpsons Folder
Matt Groening did more than name “Simpsons” characters after Portland streets. The names for many of the show’s oddball characters came from family members, old friends and other obscure personal reference.
The name Homer came mostly from Groening’s late father but also from the lead character in a favorite book, “The Day of the Locust” by Nathanael West. Lisa and Maggie Simpson were named for Groening’s sisters, while Bart’s aunt, Patty Bouvier, has the same first name as another Groening sister. Margaret Groening, Matt’s mother, has never gone by the name Marge. “It doesn’t bother me if people call me Marge, but I’m nothing like her,” she said. “Homer (her husband) used to really get a kick out of being associated with Homer Simpson.” Matt’s paternal grandfather is named Abraham, just like Grandpa Simpson. Springfield Police Chief Clancy Wiggum shares Margaret Groening’s maiden name.
Dolph, a schoolyard bully who is among the local thugs who torture Bart, is named for Dolph Timmerman, a Lincoln classmate of Matt Groening’s. Timmerman wasn’t a bully at all, Groening said, but a “really cool guy.” Miss Hoover, Lisa’s second-grade teacher, is named after Groening’s first-grade teacher at Ainsworth Elementary School, Elizabeth Hoover, who recognized Groening’s drawing talent early after seeing his picture of a boat.
One of Groening’s high school films was called “Drugs: Killers or Dillers?” In its climactic scene, the filmmakers dangled an old wheelchair off the Vista Bridge in an apparent metaphor for what happens when kids take drugs. “That movie was very funny and very clever, but amateurish,” Margaret Groening said. Margaret Groening’s favorite Simpsons character is Apu, who operates the Kwik-E-Mart convenience store. “I just love his accent,” she said. More Portland street names may show up, and Groening would like to work in the Rose Festival fun center because he has fond memories of counting all the fistfights from high atop the rides. Krusty the Clown is loosely based on Rusty Nails, a popular Portland TV kiddie clown in the 1960s. Rusty (whose real name is James Allen) is sincere and loving, a devout Christian who shared Bible stories with children. Krusty is a lusty hedonist and fallen Jew. As a boy, Groening once watched Rusty’s show from the studio audience.