Call from Bills convinces noted tailgater to keep party going

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Ken Johnson, the Bills' tailgating institution, isn't moving after all.

He does, however, plan to stop his tradition of providing passers-by with shots of Polish cherry liqueur out of the thumbhole of a bowling ball.

Johnson told The Associated Press by phone Saturday he has been convinced not to move from the team's main parking lot, where he has been a fixture for 21 years. The change of heart came after Johnson was contacted by a Bills official asking him to stay.

"They gave me the hard-press," Johnson said of the conversation he had with Christopher Clark, the Bills' director of security.

Johnson said he received the call Friday, as he was driving to Green Bay for the Bills' game against the Packers on Sunday.

"It was a good conversation, and very professional," Johnson said.

Bills spokesman Scott Berchtold confirmed that an official spoke with Johnson and characterized it as "a good and positive discussion."

The call from the Bills came one day after Johnson made headlines and became the topic of national radio programs after The AP reported he planned to move his tailgating event across the street from Ralph Wilson Stadium.

Johnson no longer felt welcome in the team's main lot after an NFL official threatened to close his tailgate after witnessing numerous people line up to have bowling-ball shots last weekend before the Bills' season opener against the Miami Dolphins.

The NFL has grown increasingly concerned about rowdy fans and alcohol abuse. The Bills have joined the Oakland Raiders in a pilot program promoting responsible alcohol use in partnering with Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

In agreeing to stay at his normal location just south of the stadium, Johnson is planning to keep his bowling ball plugged for the most part.

Though he said he might take a traditional shot before the game, Johnson said he won't provide any to fans. The ball, however, will remain on display.

"I've got mixed feelings on that, but it has been getting bigger and bigger and more expensive," Johnson said, noting he spent close to $1,500 on cherry liqueur last year. "Then again, I might put shots of prune juice in it," he added with a laugh.

The bowling ball is only part of Johnson's colorful and popular tailgate, which has been featured on The Food Network, by NFL Films and numerous other media outlets.

Johnson cooks meat on the hood of his red 1980 Pinto. He has converted a filing cabinet into a pizza oven. And, most recently, he has began cooking chicken wings in a mailbox.

Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press

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