‘Question Mark Guy’ gets 80th birthday surprise from Adams Morgan neighbors

The man in the question mark suit, Matthew Lesko, is usually full of answers — but he was recently speechless when his neighbors in an Adams Morgan condominium building threw him a surprise 80th birthday party.

“Wow, 80! I never thought I’d make 80,” enthused Lesko, in a Zoom interview with WTOP. “I’m having the happiest time in my life.”

Since the mid-1980s, Lesko — perpetually dressed in colorful suits with large question marks — has authored books and appeared in infomercials on “getting free money from the U.S. government,” from federal grant programs.

Last Thursday, with the help of Lesko’s wife, Wendy, dozens of neighbors were waiting to surprise Lesko to celebrate his first octogenarian birthday.

“My wife conned me to go somewhere, stupid old men, we do as we’re told, and when we opened the door, there were like 50 people there,” he said.

Lesko was carrying grocery bags as a neighbor held the door open, and he walked into the surprise party in the lobby of the condominium building.

Lesko said after raising their children in the suburbs, he and his wife moved to Adams Morgan a few years ago.

“Here, in the community, I feel like I’m in a dorm, it’s so much fun,” he said. “We’ve got PorchFest coming up — last year we had 400 people in front of our little apartment building last year for PorchFest.”


Neighbors baked cookies, brownies and cakes — drinks were served in colorful plastic cups, and Lesko drank in the adoration.

“I just felt love. I’ve never felt love like that,” he said, reflecting on the bond with neighbors — many of whom are decades younger — which includes happy hours and late nights talking.

As he — and other people — age, he offers, “One muscle you can grow is your heart — you can just love better than anyone else, you can do that better than all these young people.”

Lesko says he began wearing his trademark question mark suits early in his career, “when everything else failed. I have an MBA in computers, back in the 70s, I had a software company that failed. And I wasn’t having fun. So, I thought, maybe I should start with that, because success isn’t guaranteed anyway.”

Now, in addition to the question marks, much of his wardrobe includes large hearts.

“The older I get, I think the heart is more important than your brain. I used to think it was information, with the question marks. But you can’t do anything well unless your heart is in it.”


As fewer people are writing and selling books, Lesko has been providing his expertise on securing federal grants online, on his website.

“I’m getting so much incredible, positive feedback that I’ve never gotten before,” he said. “It’s a community. People help each other. It’s just the most rewarding time of my life.”

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Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a reporter at WTOP since 1997. Through the years, Neal has covered many of the crimes and trials that have gripped the region. Neal's been pleased to receive awards over the years for hard news, feature reporting, use of sound and sports.

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