SURE, SUPERMAN CAN LEAP TALL buildings, and Batman can drive his strange Gothic vehicle through, over and around them, but Lunch Menu Man has them both beat. Menu Man—sometimes known as David Price, 34—has become a cult hero by doing the impossible: He makes school lunch menus sound interesting.
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.
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