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Diving for Dollars in a Tank of Taters

November 25, 1998|BOOTH MOORE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Are you crazy enough to jump into 2,000 gallons of mashed potatoes?

Contestants in the Sega Spud Dive did just that Monday in Hollywood, hoping to win the first off-the-line Dreamcast video game system and $1,000.

Although the Dreamcast launches this week in Japan, it won't be introduced in America until next fall. And for the fanatic Sega fans who turned out in the parking lot of Mann's Chinese theater, that's not soon enough.

"I would do anything to get my hands on the first Dreamcast," said Daniel Medel, 22, a student from La Mirada. Michael Sullivan, 18, a student at Pasadena City College, arrived at 6:45 a.m. for the contest.

"I love Sega," he said. No kidding.

So, Sega, what's with the spuds anyway?

"We've heard of consumers in America who are already putting down money for the systems," said Dan Stevens, a spokesman for Sega of America. "So we planned an event where fans could win them now. Since it's Thanksgiving week, what could be more appropriate than mashed potatoes?"

More than 100 people entered, but only seven were chosen to take the plunge into the potage of potatoes, which had warmed in the afternoon sun. To win, they had to swim around the tank, searching through mounds of spuds for letters to spell out "Sega Dreamcast." Protective suits were provided for the first five divers, but the last two (chosen by a popular vote) went suitless.

Tisza Major, 26, of Hollywood, wore a wedding dress. An aspiring actress, she had a great line, "With my dating life the way it is, I figured this was the only way I could take the plunge."

To Hollywood Boulevard onlookers, it must have been a sight. Divers slurped through the heavy goo, which was buttered and salted to taste. Some climbed in backward, others entered with flying jumps, and at least one splashed mash into the crowd, composed mostly of teenage boys.

"It fits the Hollywood stereotype," visiting Iowa State student Cori Baumer said of the spectacle, with just a hint of disdain.

After a final tater-tossing, tiebreaking round, two potato heads came out on top. In first place was Daniel Aguilar, 20, of La Puente, who said he is going to have a party with his $1,000. A close second, the bride (a vision in white lace and spuds) took home a $500 dowry. She plans to give the prized Dreamcast to her brother-in-law. She said, "I'm having a flashback to when I was a child in the bathtub and my mother told me I had potatoes in my ears. Now it's true!"

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