South Florida

Casino buys Virgin Mary sandwich for $28,000

Diana Duyser of Hollywood shows a cheese sandwich with what she believes to be an image of the Virgin Mary on it. In 10 years, no mold has formed.
Diana Duyser of Hollywood shows a cheese sandwich with what she believes to be an image of the Virgin Mary on it. In 10 years, no mold has formed. MIAMI HERALD STAFF

Stick  a fork in it. Diana Duyser's "Virgin Mary" grilled cheese sandwich is done.

Sold, as of 8:22 p.m. Monday, for $28,000 on eBay.

The lucky winner? GoldenPalace.com, an online casino whose executives say they were willing to spend "as much as it took" to own the 10-year-old sandwich half with a bite taken out of it.

"It's a part of pop culture that's immediately and widely recognizable," GoldenPalace spokesman Monty Kerr said. "We knew right away we wanted to have it."

The new owners of the sandwich, which the 52-year-old Hollywood woman says bears an image of the Virgin Mary, didn't want to risk it getting lost in the mail.

Kerr and Steve Baker, CEO of GoldenPalace's management company, Cyberworld Group, flew to South Florida on Monday to meet Diana and Gregg Duyser, wine and dine them and make arrangements for a sandwich hand-over.

CASHING IN

Baker will present Duyser with an oversized plastic check at a news conference today, but the actual money will be wired from the online casino into Duyser's bank account first thing this morning, Kerr said.

"I'm numb right now," Duyser said right after the auction ended. "I can't comprehend that this is all happening."

She and her husband were waiting for Kerr and Baker to pick them up for dinner.

The online casino, which is actually  based in Kahnawake, Canada,  will fly the Duysers to Las Vegas later this week for an official sandwich-transfer ceremony.

And after that?

"We'd like to send Diana and the sandwich on a world tour," Kerr said. "We think our customers around the world will really get a kick out of seeing the sandwich at the Taj Mahal, at Red Square, at the Eiffel Tower."

The itinerary sounds good to Duyser.

"I've never even been on a vacation before," said the Hollywood-raised Duyser. "I've always taken care of my mother, and then my father. I haven't had anything like this happen for me."

The buyer has no plans of forcing Duyser to sign a contract vouching for the authenticity of the 10-year-old sandwich half, Kerr said.

"We are talking to a couple of food-decay specialists to try and figure out how this sandwich stayed in such good shape over the years," Kerr said.

And if the experts say the sandwich is 10 weeks old, not 10 years?

"We don't think that's the case," Kerr said. "But if it is, it's still a magical sandwich."

NOT NEW FOR CASINO

Publicity stunts like this are nothing new to Golden- Palace. It often pays boxers to sport the casino's logo in marker on their backs.

In August, the casino paid a 31-year-old Montreal man who ran onto a diving platform in the Athens Summer Olympics while wearing a tutu with "GoldenPalace.com" scrawled on his chest and back. Casino representatives maintained that they paid only for the rights to publish Ron Bensimhon's story and pictures, and that they had no prior knowledge of the stunt.

And this wasn't the casino's first high-profile eBay auction. In July, it doled out about $35,000 for a soccer ball that superstar David Beckham kicked during a Euro 2004 shootout. The casino then raised $160,000 during a Polish soccer event with the ball and gave the money to charity.

For the grilled cheese auction, Kerr stayed glued to the eBay site all weekend and up to the very end Monday night.

By the auction's close at 8:22 p.m., the grilled cheese site had been viewed more than 1.7 million times in the past week.

It drew 27 different bids and spawned more than 250 spinoff auctions.

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