Politics & Government

Woman who gave Obama heart-shaped potato fears he tossed it

KANSAS CITY — On Monday night, a woman from Independence, Mo., and her shriveled-up heart-shaped potato earned their 15 minutes of fame. Haven't heard the story yet? Here's a little background:

Mary Apple, who lives in Independence, was visiting New York City with her husband, Winston Apple. The couple brought a heart-shaped potato — which they consider a good-luck charm — to Monday's taping of “The Late Show With David Letterman.” Letterman caught wind of the dehydrated spud in the audience and cracked a few jokes, which captured the interest of Letterman’s first guest, President Barack Obama.

“The main reason I’m here,” Obama said as he eased into his chair, “… I want to see that heart-shaped potato.”

Mary Apple tossed said spud to Letterman, who handed it over to the president.

“Is your real name Mary Apple?” Obama asked. “And you carry heart-shaped potatoes around?”

Apple (yep, that’s her real name) let the president have the potato and he slipped it into his suit pocket. That oddly touching exchange has made her a quasi-celebrity. Since Monday, she's appeared on “Inside Edition” and CBS’ “The Early Show,” which moved the Apples from their hotel in Queens to fancier digs in Manhattan.

Apple, in a phone interview from her hotel, said her e-mail inbox is full, her Facebook page is inundated with messages and her cell phone voicemail inbox is stuffed, too. Wednesday, Apple and her husband attended a taping of “Late Night With Jimmy Fallon.”

The whole situation is hilarious to Winston Apple. He said he thinks people are drawn to it because it’s funny, strange and heartwarming. Plus, it’s a nice distraction from the health-care debate and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, he said.

This isn’t the Apples’ first time on the heart-shaped potato merry-go-round: Two years ago, when the potato was still a fresh tuber, the Apples brought it to a Letterman taping (they’re obviously big fans) and Letterman made guest Jamie Foxx swear on it that he’d never say his latest movie was good if, in truth, it sucked.

Since then the potato, which the couple got at Hy-Vee, has aged a bit, Winston Apple said.

“It shrunk up. And it’s blue now, instead of potato-colored,” he said.

Since Mary Apple and that potato have so much history together — she took photos with it, kept it in a jewelry box, and even wrote a story about it — she’s a little bummed to see it go.

“We were afraid he might just toss it,” she said. “I’m a little sad. It’s like when one of your children grows up and sprouts wings.”