In 1950, model maker George Lerner fashioned eyes, ears, mouths, noses, and other body parts of molded plastic, each with a sharp prong to be stuck into a piece of fruit or vegetable: Meet Mr. Potato Head, a toy of enduring popularity. Lerner first sold his toy idea to a cereal company which planned to offer the facial parts as a premium in its product packaging. When the Hassenfelds of Pawtucket, Rhode Island, recognized a winning toy in Mr. Potato Head, they offered the cereal company $2,000 to stop production. Mr. Potato Head succeeded because Hassenfeld Brothers advertised it on television. Mr. Potato Head, in fact, was the first toy ever to take advantage of the new medium to reach millions of children and their parents. Soon the happy tuber was joined by a Mrs.; a son, Spud; and a daughter, called Yam. The first Mr. Potato Head, issued in 1952, came with 28 face pieces; children had to supply their own potato. By 1962, enough parents had complained of the stench of rotting spuds (left--somewhere--in the playroom) that Hasbro supplied a plastic potato with its play set. The plastic potato was followed by a plastic Cooky the Cucumber, Oscar the Orange, Pete the Pepper, and others. Amid public health concerns about smoking, Mr. Potato Head, in 1987, gave up his pipe-smoking habit of thirty-five years. The last pipe manufactured was handed over to the U.S. Surgeon General. Mr. Potato Head has changed in other ways. He traded in his derby for a baseball cap; his head and body come in one piece now, not two. Facial pieces today are five times the size of the originals; and the prongs are so dull they could not pierce a potato or other vegetable, even if a kid wanted to. No matter, the funny face kit is as popular as it ever was.