Anyone who has grown up in the Seattle area, especially if they are over the age of 40, is familiar with the exploits of Ivar Haglund.  Ivar is the well known founder of Ivar’s Restaurants in Seattle and throughout Cascadia.  He was also well known as a character and practical joker who formed a part of Seattle’s cultural life during his lifetime.

Ivar Feeding the Seagulls

Ivar Feeding the Seagulls

Ivar was a folk musician and entertainer who made the big time with his seafood restaurant.  He was well known throughout his life for the puns he made and the pranks he pulled.  He was just gutsy enough to try anything for publicity.  It was said that he did not break the law, but he didn’t always follow it, either.  In the end, his exploits were always either harmless promotion for himself or his business, or some sort of giving back to the city that he grew up in and loved.  Even after his passing, the company for which he was the “flounder” kept his edgy attitude for marketing.

So this September, when the company announced that they had found some underwater billboards that had been placed around Puget Sound in the 1950’s to advertise to a potential underwater audience, Seattleites had the right to be skeptical.  A  few prominent people were in on the joke, like Bob Donegan, president of Ivar’s and Seattle historian Paul Dorpat, who among other projects, has written a book about Ivar Haglund.  When he told the Seattle Times that he had some evidence that the billboards could be legit, there was some cause to believe that the story could be true.  Unless you were not familiar with Haglund’s life and the Ivar’s culture.

This week it came to everyone’s attention that the story really was a hoax, and that the billboards had been “found” in the spot where they were placed not long before.  Everyone had a laugh, and everyone chuckled that Ivar himself would have done something like that.  Also, everyone went down and had a cup of chowder at Ivar’s.  Their sales of the famous soup quadrupled during the faux promotion.

That is to say, everyone had a laugh except for longtime Times reporter Erik Lacitis and his editors.  He felt duped that a noted historian had “lied” to him for the record.  Times Executive Editor David Boardman says he was distressed that Paul Dorpat, the respected Seattle historian and first vice president of HistoryLink.org, had given legitimacy to the fake billboards even though he knew otherwise.  He was going to review whether Dorpat, who had written a local history column for the Times since 1982, should continue to do so, since he had given incorrect information to another Times reporter.

My response to the Times on this matter is to get a life!  You were given a taste of Seattle’s past to write about, and another small chapter was written in the Ivar’s story.  The Times writer had even written the story giving the facts but expressing that it was likely some sort of stunt.  The actions of Dorpat are the result of a 71-year-old man who had spent a lot of time researching Haglund and was not beyond wanting Seattle to relive some of the past.  He and Ivar’s president Donegan get an A+ in my book for simultaneous creativity in marketing and creativity in presenting local history.  Thank you for the bit of fun.  And shame on the Times for not seeing this for what it is.  Fun.