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Glen Bell, 1923-2010

He lived the American Dream, one taco at a time.

3:25 PM, Jan 19, 2010 • By VICTORINO MATUS
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Back in the 1930s, when Glen Bell was a teenaged migrant worker riding trains in California looking for a job, he probably didn't imagine that he'd one day found a fast-food empire of Mexican-American fare that earns billions of dollars in annual sales and be forever connected to a talking Chihuahua. But such is the pursuit of the American Dream.

Glen Bell, 1923-2010

Glen Bell, a Marine who served in the Pacific during World War II and returned home to start a series of fast-food stands, ultimately leading to Taco Bell in 1962, died on Sunday at the age of 86. The New York Times has a thoughtful obituary of the man.

Two years ago I interviewed Patricia Jinich of the Mexican Cultural Institute, who laughed about the differences between a true Mexican burrita ("we have one ingredient that you can really taste") versus the American version ("Here they put everything inside the burrito. To Mexicans, that's not a burrita, that's like a bomb"). Jinich also talked about her 9-year-old son returning from summer camp and telling her he learned to make tacos that were better than his mother's—as she put it, "he likes Taco Bell tacos!" In short, Bell's brain-child has altered American tastes.

As far as lasting images go, our relating Taco Bell to a talking dog may soon be replaced by the enchanting face of "Denise, the Taco Bell girl." (Go ahead, type that into your search.) Equal parts perky and gorgeous, this fresh face may soon become the next Elisabeth Shue. Seriously.

Her name is Nicole Hayden and I predict she will be a big star. Check out her interview over at thundertreats.com, in which she calls herself a dork, talks about her love for sports, and comes off pretty much as perfect. (But of course not as perfect as my wife!)

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