Entrepreneur Sells Drinking Helmet
In one hand you hold a copy of the Wall Street Journal, and in the other your Harvard banner. It's the first quarter of the Yale game and you need a drink. But which to sacrifice?
Michael Del Ray has the solution--the "Yuppie Drinking Helmet."
This adaptation of the traditional baseball batter's helmet has two cup holders mounted on top of the hat which connect to the wearer's mouth with surgical hose. Fill the styrafoam cups, connect the hose and drinking becomes a hands-off matter.
Del Ray says that his helmet will prove to be the salvation of the Harvard student who is so busy that drinking has to be forgone. "I think Harvard people were the first Yuppies," he says. "You have the original Oxford cloth button down shirts."
And with the approach of that conglomerate of prep, The Game, The Hat may become an-oft seen and bought commodity.
But there are some problems standing in the way of Del Ray's breaking into the Harvard niche. A blue "Y" decal on the helmet, which stands for Yuppie, looks remarkably similar to the Yale "Y".
Del Ray acknowledges the confusion. "Most people assume when they see the hat that the Y stands for Yale," he says. "But let it be known that the creator of the Yuppie drinking helmet prefers that Yale doesn't score a point against Harvard."
No matter what the score of the game, Del Ray will and has been raking in some points of his own. Sales began in January and in the past six months, he has sold over 40,000 helmets.
At $17 to $18.95 a piece, however, the hat's only Yuppie attribute may be its price.
Although Del Ray says he want the Coop to sell his Yuppie Drinking Helmet, Charles MacDonald--a buyer for the Coop--says he has seen a product similar to Del Ray's called the "Hoser," and does not plan to stock Del Ray's version because of the high price and possibility of price fluctuation.
According to Del Ray though, the price may be one of the hat's chief selling points. "Our hat is the only thing Yuppies admit to buying," he says.
Even Del Ray, though, who says he originally created the Yuppie Drinking Helmet "as a joke," says he is astonished by the hat's success.
Del Ray knew his creation was bound for Yuppiedom when "a Yuppie couple" went to Del Ray's booth in an open air market, and left two empty bottles of Perrier on his counter. Del Ray replaced the beer cans in his display helmet with the Perrier cans.
"People laughed and howled when they saw Perrier in it," Del Ray says. "Then people who dressed and looked like stereotypical Yuppies started buying them. I guess beer doesn't give it a clean image."
A test of Del Ray's gadget in the Quincy House dining hall revealed that a few design changes may be necessary.
With both cups full it is difficult to walk, laugh, or even talk without spilling. "They should make it so you don't have to move like you're walking with a stack of books on your head," says Timothy Mangus '86.
Drinking carbonated beverages through the hose caused awkward burps and coughs, while spillage created embarrassing wet spots.
Still, Charles J. Dibona '86 was enthusiastic. "It's what makes America great, like the hoola-hoop, although a Brie-eater would be the ultimate Yuppie thing."
But Del Ray, a 26-year-old undergraduate in business at the University of Southern California, should know the real thing when he sees it. After all, he has been transformed from a pre-natal Yuppie to true breed since he developed the hat. "I drink Perrier, drive a BMW, and don't have an American Express Card, but I'd like to," he says.
Responding to charges that the whole enterprise is his sly way to become a guest on Late Night with David Letterman, Del Ray admits, "Yes, that has been in the back of my mind."
If nothing else, says Del Ray, perhaps his creation will give him a ticket to where he really wants to go--Harvard. "I'm hoping that the administrative offices at Harvard will recognize the contribution I've made to American beverage consumption," he says, "and say, 'come on down, for two years, on the house!"'