Tuesday, April 21, 2009

It's 2 p.m. Do you know where your mascot is?

The restaurant industry continues to be troubled by a rash of celebrity kidnappings.

Fortunately, two of the recent victims were returned without mishap, leading authorities to suspect inside help in at least one of the capers. But the fate of a third remains unknown, stoking fears that Kimberly, Wisc., may never again see the clown to whom everyone looked up. At eight feet tall, he just about guaranteed it.

The fiberglass Ronald McDonald was taken on Saturday, the latest victim of the ongoing crime spree. The pink goat that hangs by the front door of New York City’s Cabrito was swiped about two months ago, and a bronze pig was abducted on April 5 from the front of Miguel’s Cocina, a restaurant in Chula Vista, Calif. Long after Big Boy's icon might as well have been wearing a “Steal Me” sign, mascot swiping is back in vogue.

Or is it? Fans of Cabrito say the restaurant’s beloved symbol would not have been easy to kidnap. It hovered a fair distance off the ground, and New Yorkers typically don’t drive around in cars, complicating getaways when a huge pink goat is involved.

They also note that flyers seeking the return of the goat were ready almost the second its absence was noted, and they were hardly the sloppy, hurried handbills that usually materialize when a cat or puppy goes missing. There’s a growing sense that the kidnapping was an inside job, undertaken with the help of management to generate some publicity. If so, the effort clearly succeeded on that basis.

The Cocina pig’s abduction was caught on video, much to the surprise of the kidnappers. Fearing they could be identified and ultimately, they alerted authorities that the brass mascot could be found unharmed outside the public library.

Media reports note the pig came back in a blanket.

There’s no news on the theft of the Ronald McDonald statue, which ironically had been given to Kimberly Village President Chuck Kuen for safekeeping in his backyard. The statue had formerly been standing near the McPlayland of a unit in nearby Fond du Lac. Its replacement value is set at more than $1,000, though Kuen is quoted as questioning how anyone can put a price tag on the statue’s life.

The Hamburglar has yet to be brought in for questioning.

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