POCATELLO, ID—More than two decades have passed since the Douglass family of Pocatello and the Bzymek family of Derby, NY faced off on the syndicated game show Family Feud. But instead of being tempered by time, the feud sparked in November 1979 has grown increasingly bitter with each passing year, and show producers say the two families have reached a level of acrimony unseen elsewhere in the program's 29-year history.
"I haven't forgotten what those Bzymeks did to us," said Porter Douglass, the losing family's team leader. "They stole control of the board in the double-dollar round and took our bank."
Porter added: "They walked away with a cool $5,000, and we were humiliated on national television. Name a bunch of inbred jackasses that deserve a punch in the face. Survey says... The Bzymeks!"
The Bzymek-Douglass appearance began like a typical episode, with plenty of cheering and good-natured ribbing between the two families. As the game progressed, however, the jibes became more personal and mean-spirited, nearly culminating in a fistfight between Douglass and Tim Bzymek, when Douglass called then 14-year-old Jenny Bzymek a "stupid tramp" as the families were leaving the stage.
"He insulted my blood," Bzymek said when asked about the incident. "If you are a loser who can't name the top five things you'd find in a refrigerator, don't take it out on my daughter. Especially when your son is a four-eyes who takes two minutes to decide whether to play or pass!"
The mutual rancor, which has endured five presidencies, a war, and four hosts, shows no sign of abating. Last year, when Jenny's daughter Katie graduated from high school, she received a card from the Douglasses. "Where did you get into school, Katie?" the card read. "Survey says... community college!"
"That was completely uncalled for," Bzymek said. "That was a day of celebration. They could've come down the week after the show and beat me with a baseball bat, and that would've at least been honorable, but this? Too much. They ruined Katie's special day, all because we cleaned their clocks on television."
The families were brought back to the show in 1999 for a "Greatest Contestants" special, but the episode never aired. According to Jason Lowitt, a producer who witnessed the taping, Douglass and Bzymek had to be physically separated by host Louie Anderson during the face-off round, after Porter guessed the number-one answer and took control of the board.
"We came into round four on top, but we lost again because triple points in the fourth fucked us," Douglass said, referring to a controversial rule repealed in 2002. "I blame Louie Anderson. Richard Dawson never would have let that happen under his watch."
Bzymek's wife Beth was reached at home and asked to comment on the ongoing strife.
"The Douglass family?" Beth said. "We asked 100 people who was most likely to lose his sales job for failing to meet his quota. You heard me, Sally Douglass. I'm talking about your no-good husband. If you want to do something about it, step on up. I've got a .45-caliber parting gift loaded and waiting."
Despite many such threats, the conflict has thus far been limited to menacing letters, inflammatory e-mails, and crank phone calls.
"People ask us when this will end," Sally Douglass said. "This will end when the Bzymeks join former host Ray Combs in the Fast Money round in the sky."
"Three strikes and control of the board will pass to us!" Sally added.
Tony Cohen, CEO of FremantleMedia, which produces the current incarnation of Feud, said his company is taking great pains to prevent future contestant altercations.
"We are concerned that some guests may feel compelled to maximize their fleeting time in the public eye by causing a scene," Cohen said. "That's why we have begun doing background checks on all contestants and searching them for weapons when they enter the studio. We don't want a repeat of the 2002 domestic disturbance which sent four Stenzels to the hospital."