An eight-foot-tall fiberglass doughnut was stolen from a billboard in the 2200 block of Baleson Avenue sometime Thursday night, the fifth such large representation of a foodstuff stolen over the past month. The doughnut, decorated with foot-long multi-colored fiberglass sprinkles, was part of an advertisement for Do-Or-Do-Nut, a Star Wars-themed drive-through doughnut stand.
Lt. Arnold Corrigan, a police department press officer, told reporters that police had not yet determined a motive. “Whoever these people are, they’re good,” he said. “I’m talking flatbed trucks, portable cranes, bolt cutters, arc welders. Carting away a giant doughnut? I couldn’t do it.” (“Sure he could!” joked local morning drive time radio host Charlie Wipple in response. “Eight feet across? Foot-long sprinkles? That doughnut could feed the whole department for a month!”) A spokeswoman for Urban Amalgamated Outdoor Advertising, Inc., had no comment.
Until this theft, the lingering question was whether four earlier food thefts were related. Three weeks ago, a 14-foot-tall coffee cup was stolen from the facade of the abandoned Il Sigorio Roasters plant near the Industrial District, a crime that police initially attributed to decay or simple vandalism. The theft of three giant tacos, each mounted atop a Mama Nacho taco truck, was also seen as vandalism. (The trucks had been left overnight in a lot near the Sprang School of Design in Dockside, and the local opinion was that the tacos would eventually reappear in a performance art piece.)
It took the disappearance last Sunday of a paper mache bunch of grapes from the unlocked lobby of P.S. 24, assembled using purple balloons as a third-grade art project, for police to suspect a trend. Four days ago, an oversized rutabaga vanished from the roof of Ryzynsky’s Greenmarket in Little Budapest and a tearful Gabor Ryzynsky appeared on Channel 3 news, pleading for its return. Now, with last night’s disappearing doughnut, police say they believe the thefts are connected.
This spate of thefts is hardly the first problem for the city’s outdoor advertising industry. An 1872 issue of the Weekly Clarion condemned the city’s first billboards as “giant devil-signs” that “would squeeze out the word of God.” The introduction of neon signs in the early 1920s set off a similar uproar: “Noble Gases Deserve Noble Jobs!” read a handbill advocating the passage of a city ordinance to ban such signs.
Large representations of food items, however, have been common in the city since the mid-1940s, when a set of Buckminster Fuller geodesic domes were painted red and topped with green fabric leaves as part of a campaign to plant more tomatoes in local Victory Gardens. (The domes were later stripped to their skeletons and donated to area playgrounds as climbing structures.) The floats of the Giant Food Brigade were one of the most popular segments of the city’s 1958 Fourth of July parade.
Police emphasized that determining a motive will take time. For now, Corrigan advised city residents with giant models of food to take additional security precautions. “Cameras are your best bet,” said Corrigan. “We need video. We can’t let these people get away with stealing the city’s food, small or large, real or fake.”
– Sean Fraga