This story has been updated.
Boltman is bummed.
He’s loved the Chargers for a lifetime — even taking the field with the team in 1996 and 1997. But in the mascot game, Dan Jauregui of Ramona is roadkill.
Even as the self-proclaimed “No. 1 Bolts fan” attends public meetings and privately counsels the mayor on a plan to keep the Chargers in San Diego, the NFL team itself hates his guts. (Or rather, hates his glorious, rippling biceps.)
As a short-lived game-day mascot, Jauregui expected the Chargers to pay him — at least reimburse costs of his Hollywood-designed costumes. But when the Bolts balked, Jauregui took his beefs public, saying the team “pooped” on him. He eventually sued the Chargers for costs and legal fees.
Today Jauregui (pronounced Jehr-EGG-ee) says his Boltman losses exceed $100,000.
On top of his feud with the team he worships, Jauregui suffers other sports figures. At least one Boltman impersonator is causing him grief, and even the San Diego Chicken revealed a grudge against Jauregui.
The costumed character grew out of Jauregui’s conviction at the end of the Chargers’ banner 1994-95 season that the Bolts needed a mascot.
His goal with Boltman, he said, “was just to go out there and have fun and lead cheers and be a high-spirited personality and continue just to support the team. That’s it.”
But that’s not how it played out.
Boltman v. Bolts
Jauregui says he had an oral deal with the Chargers and a written one in 1997: Let me do my Boltman thing, and you can pay me later and find corporate sponsors.
Things went south after two seasons.
In August 1998, Jauregui protested his treatment in a press release, and told the Union-Tribune: “I feel like I’ve been pooped on by the Chargers. The Chargers have had a champagne taste on a beer budget, and that budget has been mine. Not anymore.”
(“Our focus-group meetings with season-ticket holders showed mixed feelings toward the character and his antics,” the Chargers said in a news release, according to the same U-T story.)
Four months later, Jauregui took the dispute up a notch — filing suit for breach of contract.
“JAUREGUI agreed to perform services to the CHARGERS as the team mascot, called ‘Boltman,’” said the lawsuit. “JAUREGUI agreed to advance the costs of having the ‘Boltman’ costume constructed and to advance the costs of promotional items, with the understanding that if ‘Boltman’ was perceived as successful with the CHARGERS’ fan base, the CHARGERS would reimburse his for all such expenses and negotiate in good faith a reasonable compensation package.”
Jauregui’s suit, filed in San Diego Superior Court, said he expected a yearly “salary comparable to that paid to other NFL team mascots in the range of $30,000 to $50,000 and obtaining corporate sponsorships for ‘Boltman.’”
Jauregui showed me a document signed by Bill Johnston, the longtime Chargers director of public relations, offering Jauregui $300 a game and $300 for each private appearance as Boltman. When Jauregui rejected what he deemed puny pay, Johnston raised the bid to a flat $20,000 to buy Boltman outright, Jauregui said.
But Jauregui spurned that, too — saying it was still short of covering two years of expenses (including $15,000 for the Boltman costume).
Johnston declined to comment.
The suit was settled in November 1999. Jauregui said he was paid about $35,000. He doesn’t recall whether the agreement included a nondisclosure clause.
The payout wasn’t the only thing that chapped the Chargers’ hide, Jauregui said. He recalls meeting a woman from AT&T during a pregame function and trying to sell her on a corporate sponsorship for Boltman. He says she was game. But the Chargers went ballistic.
The team insisted that he have nothing to do with sponsor recruiting, Jauregui said.
Still, the legend of Boltman grew.
How Boltman Became Beloved by Fans
Cinthia Spears-Cahill, “a Chargers fan since birth,” calls herself ChargerGirl Cindi on social media.
Last November, she interviewed Jauregui on her Bolt Beat blog. What are your future plans for Boltman? she asked him.
“To get Boltman on the field as the San Diego Chargers official mascot and pass the baton to a well-deserved, qualified person to take pride in playing the role of Boltman and continue the legacy and commitment of perfection on and off the field,” he said.
“Boltman adds a lot to the game day experience,” Spears-Cahill told me in an email. “If Dan pops by your tailgate, it makes the day and when he’s in the stands, people go crazy. Literally crazy. He just gets into the role and is such a fan he ignites the excitement in everyone.”
Even fans from opposing teams pose with him, she said.
“No one really knows he does it on his own. They all assume he is on the Chargers’ books.”
Spears-Cahill said she feels for Jauregui and his mission to make Boltman a legitimate Chargers mascot.
“I would support a ticket price increase to pay for that to happen,” she said. “I already pay way too much for my season tickets anyway — what’s another couple bucks?”
Blogger John Gennaro, a Voice of San Diego contributor, called Boltman the “boldest Chargers fan” in a 2011 Bolts from the Blue post.
Still, Gennaro told me last week, “I also don’t think the Chargers would ever consider making him their official mascot. They really only go with internal ideas.”
Except for a brief hiatus, Boltman has been part of the Qualcomm Stadium experience for 18 years. His outfit has changed over the years, and now is mainly a bolt-emblazoned head mask over a We’re-Gonna-Pump-You-Up bodysuit. He almost doesn’t need the bulging biceps, though. His real arms are buff. At 5-foot-7, 180 pounds, he likens his size to ex-rusher Darren Sproles’.
As a season ticket-holder for many years, Jauregui has two front-row seats. He attends the games in costume, but not as an official mascot. The second seat is for a helper who assists with gear and the trinkets he doles out to fans.
Jauregui says he has an understanding with stadium staff — they let him make rounds of the Plaza level as long as he doesn’t block the aisles. (It’s taken him longer in recent years, about two quarters. Folks with cell phone cameras slow the trek.) Still, he’s been warned that he could lose his season tickets.
“I feel like it’s a duty for me [to be Boltman] and just continue what I’m doing,” he said. “This is all the fans get. The players don’t go up there (in the stands). So when they have the opportunity to get one-on-one with Boltman — to them, it’s part of the game setting.”
But Boltman is banned from being shown on the Jumbotron, he said. A cameraman once told him: Sorry, but I’m under orders.
Boltman the Expert
Jauregui is part of an informal group advising Mayor Kevin Faulconer on stadium issues. The first meeting came in February — it ended with Faulconer and staffers posing for pics with Boltman. Another is slated for mid-April, he said.
Faulconer “can’t speak to all the fans, so he invited us to sit down with him and get our perspectives and our opinions.”
“The mayor’s office meets occasionally with leaders of Chargers fan groups to hear directly from the people that represent thousands of Chargers fans,” said Craig Gustafson, a spokesman for Faulconer. “Boltman has attended those meetings. This is not an official advisory group.”
He appeared at the March 3 task force forum in full Boltman regalia.
Jauregui, who works in real estate, says his aim is “basically [to] support both sides in keeping the Chargers here.”
His remarks to the Citizens’ Stadium Advisory Group were picked up by the Associated Press:
“Let’s start focusing and let’s start informing and educating the taxpayers,” said Jauregui, 49, who said he’s been a season ticket holder since 1995. “That’s the most important thing. Everybody’s missing that. Not one person has said that. But at the end of the day, they’re the ones that make the decision whether the Chargers stay here or not.”
On March 24, Scott Kaplan and Billy Ray Smith Jr., the former Chargers linebacker, took a call on their afternoon radio show on 1090 AM from “Tom in San Diego,” who identified himself as Boltman.
Tom was upset about having been put on hold for two hours.
“If you say it’s Boltman, Boltman goes to the front of the line!” Kaplan declared apologetically.
But Tom eventually fessed up: “I’m not the Boltman the mascot. But I’ve been Boltman Tom since I was 14 years old.”
Kaplan announced that the real Boltman was on the phone but noted that a “Boltman” had gone on ESPN radio the previous day “and ripped my ass.”
“Oy vey,” Kaplan said. “This is going to turn into a Boltman Brawl.”
“No, we’re tight, brother,” Jauregui told him.
“That is the Boltman right there,” Tom admitted.
Jauregui told the hosts: “Oh, I don’t care. You can call him Boltman Whatever. I just didn’t want the public to think that the Boltman who dressed up over 18 years at the stadium called ‘The Scott and BR Show’ and ripped Scott a new one. That wasn’t me. I wouldn’t do that.”
If bogus Boltmen give Jauregui heartburn, another local sports celebrity gave him heartache.
A day before my first chat with Jauregui, I wrote to Ted Giannoulas, famed as the one-time KGB Chicken who parlayed his slapstick act into a Padres gig as the San Diego Chicken. I wanted to learn what one iconic mascot thought of another.
“I regret to say that while I honestly don’t recall meeting Mr. Jauregui, working with him or even commenting about him, he has unfortunately made disparaging public remarks about my abilities and character that cannot be overlooked,” Giannoulas wrote.
It turns out Giannoulas was upset over a letter to the U-T he said Jauregui wrote about him years ago. Jauregui says he never wrote a thing. (The U-T says it has no record of Jauregui writing about Giannoulas.)
That’s how I wound up briefly and improbably mediating a dispute between San Diego’s most visible sports mascots. On Monday, the Chicken called me.
Giannoulas reported getting a “very lengthy” email from Jauregui with a heartfelt appeal. He never wrote a critical letter, Jauregui told his mascot role model. Perhaps an imposter did.
“I know that I’m not hallucinating,” Giannoulas said of the letter. “My wife knew I was upset.”
But aware that a “discrepancy” exists, the Chicken says he’ll crack his archives. “I’m going to start looking for it.”
How Boltman Helped Break Up a Marriage
Jauregui admits that years of spending on Boltman gear and game tickets “put a financial burden onto my family.” (He has two children in their late 20s and a 5-year-old granddaughter now.)
“Is it embarrassing telling people (that a mascot mania played a role in his 2008 divorce)?” he said. “Yeah, it’s embarrassing.”
The time commitment compounded things.
“Sundays were church days,” he said. “So it interfered with going to church like we usually do.”
But he didn’t want all the blame put on Boltman.
“We were high school sweethearts. We were married a long time and you become [just] friends. You fall out of love,” he said. “I would say probably a small part of it was Boltman — but not a big role.”
Jauregui said his ex supported him as Boltman — and still does.
Fans in the Front Office?
Jauregui has no doubt that Chargers President Dean Spanos is the reason the Chargers hate him. (Only an “act of God” would get Spanos to deal with him, Jauregui said.) He says he gets along fine with other team executives.
“I don’t go golfing with these guys,” he said of the Chargers staff. “But they are very respectful. They don’t belittle me. They say: We appreciate what he did for the Chargers. … I call [one specific executive]. He doesn’t hang up on me.”
In 2010, when Jauregui tried to sell two Boltman costumes on eBay for $75,000, he was widely mocked. Another flurry of stories reported his failure to sell.
Jauregui faults a friend for poorly crafting the “article” on eBay — which he said didn’t stress enough the sale of intellectual property rights. Boltman wasn’t meant to gather dust in a man cave.
He trademarked Boltman in 1999. (It’s not his only trademark. He also has one for “Float Port,” defined as a “nonmetal, stabilized, floating, multipurpose platform” that could accommodate a stadium offshore.)
In any case, a letter from NFL Properties Inc. gave him pause. Jauregui says he pulled down the eBay ad after a week for fear of the NFL’s wrath.
A Chargers Fan to the End — or Even Los Angeles
If the Bolts blew out of town, Jauregui said his loyalty would follow.
“Through winning or losing seasons, I support the team,” said Jauregui, who prides himself on separating his feelings for the players from the operators. “You gotta do what you gotta do.”
Despite his feelings of “duty,” Jauregui says he’ll have to quit sometime. The mask head isn’t as heavy as it used to be. But it still gets hot, and three months shy of turning 50, he’s not in the same shape he was in his early 30s.
So he dreams of passing the Boltman torch to a new generation — perhaps four on the field at the same time, where his granddaughter can point them out with pride. With funds from a Boltman sale, he says, he’d like to travel with the team, “but no money, no can-do.”
He stressed that Boltman “was never for the money. It’s an expensive hobby [in which] there’s a point of no return. You’re so far deep into it, you just continue to do it.”