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A Culinary Mystery Solved : Doughboy Kidnapping Deflated

February 18, 1988|BETSY BALSLEY | Times Food Editor

SAN DIEGO — If a press agent had suggested it as a publicity stunt, no one would have bought it. However at midnight on Friday night someone had the temerity to swipe the Pillsbury Doughboy from the lobby entrance of the Sheraton Harbor Island East Hotel in San Diego where the company trademark was stationed to greet contestants and guests here for the 33rd Pillsbury Bake-Off.

Now the Doughboy may only have been a 4-foot tall foam plastic replica of the giggling puffball who has won hearts in television and print commercials for the company for years, but the company wanted him back.

As it was, it was only by accident that the "kidnapers" were prevented from getting away with a companion trademark, a 7-foot tall plastic Jolly Green Giant also on greeting duty in the hotel lobby.

A Giant Grab

According to a Pillsbury spokesperson, a night clerk at the hotel, Ruth Ann Sparacio, looked up just in time to see a man carrying the Jolly Green Giant out the front door. Yelling "Stop," she and the hotel's assistant manager Bob Masserio hotfooted it out the door after the "kidnaper" who, in turn, dropped the Jolly Green Giant and hopped into a waiting car. Masserio spotted the Doughboy ensconced in the car's back seat as it pulled away, but failed to get the car's license number. The Giant's injuries were sufficiently mild that he was able to return to his entry way post at once.

Who the kidnapers were isn't known, however, the fact that there was a school prom at the hotel that night did cause some speculation. The company offered a reward of an unspecified amount of cash but no word was received from the evildoers and there was no sign of the pillow-like Doughboy with the brilliant blue eyes and puffy chef's hat until Sunday night.

A Traumatic Experience

That's when the unknown thief, obviously suffering from a guilty conscience and hopeful that no charges would be filed, delivered the missing figure to San Diego's Channel 8 TV station. Blindfolded and gagged, the doughboy was unable to reveal anything about his kidnapers.

He recovered quickly, however, for when returned to Pillsbury executives at the hotel on Monday, he arrived in a jeep looking very Southern Californian in a pair of sunglasses, which he may need when he returns to his home in the snow and ice of Minneapolis.

Once the Doughboy reappeared, Pillsbury contributed the reward money to a local charity.

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