The Bald One has left the Fat One. Now everyone's talking.
For the past eight years, Spaniards have been cajoled into buying lottery tickets in El Gordo (the Fat One) — the world's richest annual lottery draw — by advertisements featuring El Calvo (the Bald One), a silent, mysterious figure showering good fortune at random upon Spaniards as a symbol of the Fat One's beneficence.
But the Bald One, it seems, became too famous for his own good.
Despite being one of the best-known faces on Spanish television, and being credited with having increased lottery ticket sales by 11 per cent a year, El Calvo — who is played by British actor Clive Arrindell — has been dropped from this year's campaign.
"It's like saying Santa Claus won't be coming this year. El Gordo just won't be the same any more," Veronica, 32, said in Madrid.
Spain's lottery bosses have, however, been unmoved by the outcry surrounding the Bald One's removal.
"El Calvo had cannibalized the advertising campaigns, making people forget what they were about," explained a lottery spokesman.
It is difficult, however, to imagine any Spaniard forgetting El Gordo.
Every year, 80 per cent of Spaniards buy lottery tickets for the Fat One, which will be drawn tomorrow, spending the equivalent of €75 (US$100) a person. Then they wait for the elaborate, nationally televised three-hour draw, when children from a disadvantaged Madrid school announce the numbers in plainsong Gregorian chant.
Although the winning ticket earns the lucky owner just €200,000 (US$264,000), what gives El Gordo its fame is the fact that there are a guaranteed 1800 winning tickets and that most of these are sold from the same shop, in the process enriching an entire village or city barrio.
"What if everyone else in my building buys a ticket in the bar downstairs or in the shop down the road except me and they win? I won't be able to show my face in the street," Marisa, a 32-year-old Madrid engineer said.
The relatively high chance participants have of winning something in the Fat One — 13,344 out of the 85,000 tickets win at least €100 (US$132) — means that Spaniards don't say that they have won the lottery; they say it was their turn.