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Ads could be all wet

Sat., Sept. 19, 2009

SEATTLE – He has been called the greatest self-promoter in the history of Seattle.

And now, more than 24 years after he died at age 79, Ivar Haglund apparently has managed one more fantastic stunt.

Underwater billboards that date to around 1954.

Anchored to the bottom of Puget Sound with concrete footings.

You know, just in case you were in a personal submarine cruising along Elliott Bay, or Edmonds, or Alki Point.

There they would be: “Ivar’s Chowder. Worth surfacing for. 75¢ a cup.” Or, “Diver’s special. Kids 12 & Under Eat Free* with regular entrée. Includes Jell-O.”

There apparently were plans for seven underwater billboards.

In the past month, the company has had divers bring up three of the billboards – about 7 by 22 feet and made of stainless steel – using a map found in their founder’s immense collection of artifacts stored at the chain’s headquarters at Pier 54.

Included in that collection are Haglund’s LP vinyl collection, his rosé wine collection, illustrations, photos and …

Apparently the actual naval architectural drawings, permit and location map for the billboards.

The operative word is “apparently.”

“This still could be a hoax. Someone could be doing something,” said Bob Donegan, president of Ivar’s. “That’s why we’re being careful on the authentication.”

Of course, if it was a hoax, a prime suspect would be the Ivar’s chain itself.

Ivar’s is promoting the find of the underwater billboards on its Web site, which includes a 2 1/2-minute minidocumentary about finding the first billboard Aug. 21.

As the chain explained about the billboards, “Ivar’s decided to do what Haglund would have done: promote them.”

Donegan said the company will send samples of the paint to be tested to figure out when they might have been painted.

Seattle historian Paul Dorpat also said he doesn’t believe the billboards are hoaxes.

“As far as I can tell, it’s the real thing,” Dorpat said about the papers documenting Ivar’s plans for the billboards. It was Dorpat who found the documents.

“Either someone planted this stuff or Ivar was scheming to pull a few official legs with a promotional first.”

Then, Dorpat speculates, Ivar probably became preoccupied with any number of other promotions. “Or just forgot it.”

After all, he was the one who staged an underwater fight between an octopus and a boxer named “Two-Ton Tony Galento.”

Donegan said divers have gone to five of the seven sites on the old Ivar’s map. Nothing was found at two of the sites.

Dorpat said Haglund would be very proud that the underwater billboards were making news.

“This is the ghost of Ivar Haglund,” Dorpat said. “The greatest self-promoter in the history of Seattle. He will not die.”


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