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He's No Tater Tot: Mr. Potato Head Is an Image Make-Over Professional

March 29, 2000|ROY RIVENBURG

Potato Mishmash Bureau: For centuries, scholars have debated the nature of Mr. Potato Head: Is he a vegetable, a person, a hybrid or what? As Shakespeare once remarked: "Tuber or not tuber, that is the question."

It doesn't help that Mr. Potato Head often mutates in ways that defy the laws of nature--sprouting arms, tobacco pipes and a myriad of detachable facial parts.

Even more baffling is the fact that he recently began adopting the characteristics of pop star Michael Jackson. For example, both wear white gloves and both have undergone similar cosmetic surgery procedures.

As shown in the accompanying before and after photos, Mr. Potato Head has had his teeth capped, his nose altered and his feet enlarged. Also, although it might be hard to detect in black-and-white pictures, his skin is much lighter than it used to be, just like Jackson's.

Potato Head denies dyeing his flesh, claiming he suffers from a medical disorder that destroys potato-skin pigment.

He also denies reports that he now sleeps in a hyperbaric greenhouse.

In other tuber news, Rhode Island just named Mr. Potato Head the official spokes-spud for its latest tourism campaign. The state has even erected dozens of 6-foot Potato Head statues in various locales. (Hasbro, which manufactures Mr. Potato Head, is headquartered in Rhode Island.)

But the ploy could backfire. Off-Kilter has learned that a federal grand jury is preparing to indict Mr. Potato Head for the mysterious disappearances of former competitors Dunkie Donut Head, Kooky the Cucumber, Oscar the Orange and six other anthropomorphic vegetables that were popular during the 1960s.

Exotic Dancer Barbie?: Speaking of toys, Mattel recently unveiled Celebration Cake Barbie, a Barbie that pops out of a three-tiered cake. It comes with real frosting and confetti sprinkles.

Mattel says the doll is aimed at young girls, but we think it has more potential for low-budget bachelor parties.

Spontaneous Human Combustion Update: The human body contains enough phosphorous to make 3,000 match heads, according to a Discovery Channel documentary. This is why Congress now requires all newborns to be affixed with a warning label: "Do not operate near open flame."

Random Facts: Our latest collection of clutter for your brain:

* Shaquille O'Neal's toenails are painted blue.

* The cost of each gift basket given to Sunday's Oscar presenters--loaded with such goodies as a $1,700 designer watch, an $850 charm bracelet and a cell phone--was enough to feed 180 Haitian families, according to World Concern, a Christian relief agency.

* Genghis Khan's last name was Borjigon.

Best Supermarket Tabloid Story: Werewolves will never make it in professional wrestling. According to a report in the Weekly World News, wolf men are much weaker than previously believed. An analysis by the World Assn. of Lycanthropy Studies found that "a large German shepherd can usually defeat a medium-size wolfman in a fight."

Unpaid Informants: Associated Press, http://www.kingbolo.com/association.htm, Allison Joyce, http://www.barbie.com/catalog/Dolls, Paul D. Blumstein (belated), Wireless Flash News Service, Chicago Sun-Times. E-mail Off-Kilter at roy.rivenburg@latimes.com.

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