Herald of Hash
Last September, Price was just an unemployed car salesman. Then he landed a job as an ad salesman for the Concord Tribune, which included reciting the weekly menus for the Cabarrus County, N.C., school system as part of the newspaper's call-in information service. Making the tape, which generated about 200 calls a month, was a drag, says Price. "There was pasta, fruit and a roll on the end of every menu." So he began to improvise. "You say, 'Wednesday, pasta, fruit and a roll. Thursday, pasta, fruit and a roool! Friday, PASTA, FROOOT and a ROOOL!' That's how it started."
Although his wife, Cathie, 39, a recruiter for a corporate-headhunting firm, was appalled ("My first reaction was, 'You're going to get canned,' " she says), the flourishes were an instant hit. "The first month after I changed it," says Price, "the line got 5,200 calls." Soon, word of mouth landed Price on radio and TV shows. In January he started his own business, recording menus (at $40 per week per county, paid by advertisers), for 30 school systems in 10 states. "I do each menu like it's a show," says Price. "To hear this idiot screaming about cafeteria food like it's something great, that's funny."
Some 18,000 fans around the U.S. now dial 704-377-4444 (extension 1955) each month to hear his manic monologue, order Lunch Menu Man T-shirts or get the address of his Menu Man Web site. The father of two daughters, Maria, 4, and Kara, 2, with a son due in August, Price has just signed a contract to write a kids' book he may call The Lunch Menu Man's Guide to School Lunch. "I'm just a class-clown kid who always wanted to be Elvis," he says.