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A party animal loves life as mascot

Under the Ugly Duckling costume is Dave Mansfield, the car lots' employee who dances and perspires to the music.

By JANEL SCHROEDER

© St. Petersburg Times, published June 14, 2000


NEW PORT RICHEY -- Dave Mansfield is the Ugly Duckling.

In hot, humid weather, he's the one sweating profusely under that big yellow fuzzy duck suit, trying to wave customers into the Ugly Duckling car lots around the Tampa Bay area. It's his full-time job, one that he loves.

"I'm proud of what I do, especially when I see the little kids' eyes light up when they see me and run over to give me a hug," he said recently, during a much needed break from the heat at the Ugly Duckling Car Sales lot on U.S. 19 in New Port Richey.

Although he enjoys the novelty of being a duck, Mansfield said, the people he sees on the road can sometimes act stranger than he does.

"I've been flashed, mooned, had things thrown at me from passing cars," said Mansfield, 37. "The one that really stands out is the time some guy who had been (institutionalized) several times thought I was Patty Hearst and began beating on me."

Still dressed as a duck, Mansfield said, he defended himself and broke the man's nose in the process.

Mansfield's path down the road to being a sweaty mascot started in Naples, Fla., where he was the Golden Eagles mascot before he dropped out of Naples High more than 20 years ago.

A few years later, he landed a part-time gig performing as Pizza Hut's Noid character. Now he works for Ugly Duckling car lots as a full-time dancing duck.

Mansfield puts in 40 hours each week at $9 an hour, dancing for 30-minute intervals in the baking Florida sun outside the nine Ugly Duckling car lots in the Tampa Bay area.

"The crowd keeps me going," said Mansfield, who lives in Brandon. "The more they honk their horns and yell and wave, the more I get into it."

On the sidewalk next to him is a boombox blaring Aerosmith and other rock songs. The music gets him moving, he said, and he would like to buy a louder system.

With all the moving and the heavy costume, he sweats.

A lot.

To keep hydrated, Mansfield has to drink about 1 to 2 gallons of water a day, depending on the heat. After each 30-minute session, he strips off the duck suit and sits in the shade to cool off.

And then he goes right back to dancing.

The trick to staying cool, he says, is to put a cold, wet towel over his head, underneath the hockey helmet that holds the duck hat on.

"I love this job," Mansfield said. "Where else can I get paid to party?"

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