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Take Note: Fruity gelatin ... with feeling

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You say tomato.

I say tomahto.

David Price, however, says "juicy ... red ... tuh-maaaaay-to."

And so far, Mr. Price's dramatic recorded rendition of the weekly lunch menu for the Charlotte-Mecklenburg, N.C., schools is a big hit. His performance on the telephone information line of The Charlotte Observer newspaper is logging 20,000 calls a month.

Mr. Price's way with words launched him from a job selling cars to his current gig as the "Lunch Menu Man," recording school menus on one line while offering T-shirts and his original country music for sale on others.

Last September Mr. Price quit his car-sales job after 10 years and took an advertising-sales job with The Concord Tribune in Concord, N.C., the 14,000-subscriber daily newspaper near his home. His job description included recording the school menus.

The 33-year-old's unorthodox delivery--intended to spice up a bland bit of prose--eventually was getting almost three times as many calls as the newspaper had subscribers. In December he made his debut in Charlotte, the state's largest city. He is also reading menus for schools in the Raleigh area, and this week he debuts as the menu reader for districts near Norfolk, Va.

In a twangy voice that trembles with restrained excitement, Mr. Price gushes over items like "chunky ... oven potatoes" and "scooba-dooba tuna hoagie."

"A lot of people ask me if I'm in pain or if it's sexual, but my intention was to make it sound like it was exciting," he said last week in a telephone interview. "And now, if we go out to dinner, people want me to order like the Lunch Menu Man, or at the bank they want me to make my transaction that way. They want me to say, 'Give me ... cash!"'

Mr. Price has been profiled on a national television newsmagazine and will be featured on the syndicated "Hard Copy" television program this week. His agent is also negotiating for an appearance on Jay Leno's or David Letterman's late-night network talk show.

"There is a pretty big national buzz on him," agent Andy Smith of Insight Talent said of Mr. Price. "We're getting calls from Boston to San Francisco."

--Lonnie Harp

Editor's Note: To hear Mr. Price, call Observer Plus at (704) 377-4444 and enter code 1013.

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