ImagePhoto Credit: Peter M., Flickr.

Two weeks ago, McDonalds announced that Ronald is making a comeback for the digital age. Here’s how that went:

“Ronny, my man!” yelped the man on the phone.

Ron couldn’t place the voice. It sounded familiar, and caused a tiny balloon of sadness to float up from his gut.

“It’s Joe!” said Ron’s former agent, a man whose best character trait was teeth. “Know what I’m doing right now? I’ll tell you. I’m polishing a pair of size 30 red shoes. They’re beautiful. It’s time for Ronald McDonald two point oh.”

“Joe?” Ron muttered, his hangover in its angry phase. “Goodbye, Joe.”

He hung up and buried his oddly shaped face in the pillow. The sheets were 14,000 thread count, all of which were badly soiled. He’d long since fired the housemaids. He was upside down on his mortgage–but everyone was. And the short-sale market on mansions made from hard plastic trees wasn’t especially strong. He’d get through it.

The phone rang again.

Vaffanculo,” Ron growled.

“Twenty million,” said Joe. “Of course it’s a 360 deal. They get half of all merchandise, books, remaining healthy sperm. But that’s every deal these days. Twenty…… million, buddy.”

Ron sat up and looked at himself in the closet mirror. His midsection, once well-abbed, was now just a doughy shade tent for his penis. He had a poor relationship with his penis. No one likes to think about clowns having penises, and the “don’t ask, don’t touch” policy had lead to shame.

He couldn’t blame them for what he’d become. At the time, no one knew lead face paint was poisonous. Ron had never been a terribly bright person. After graduating, it wasn’t like “clown school or Yale?” Still, the trace metals made sentences hard.

The Red Dye No. 5 in his hair had raised some serious issues, too. Tumors rise, that’s what they do. His scalp was now like the inverted surface of a golf ball. Luckily, they’d been radiated into non-lethal, purely ornamental state. If McDonalds had assured one thing, it’s that their star–the global embodiment of their festive almost-food–would not become a public relations disaster like the Marlboro Man. When he lost the foot to gout, they got him a top of the line Oscar Pistorius.

The triangles below his eyes were permanent–tattooed on his lower orbital bone after killing a rival in clown school. Just one of those racist rodeo bozos, not a huge deal. Mickey D’s public relations department had managed to keep it buried–mostly because the internet didn’t exist during Ronald’s heyday, and TMZ’s legion of succubus Fabio interns weren’t yet roaming the streets with cameras, ripping celebrity souls out by their stems.

“This is a hashtag,” said the young, self-proclaimed social media guru on Ronald’s first day back at corporate. “It’s like an address for your electronic thoughts. Like this: #NotWearingPanties.”

Ron scratched his head. Why him, why now? They all talked about some grand makeover. But there hadn’t been any quantum leaps in clown technology. Plus the fat people advocates were ticked. They viewed Ronald as a baggy-pantsed Leni Riefenstahl–brainwashing kids into Mickey D’s highly saturated joy agenda.

What are chia seeds? he wondered.

But the biggest thing Ronald couldn’t get over is—clowns. If crying a deep, psychologically frail cry was what you wanted of children, clowns were very effective. Clowns’ approval rating hung somewhere between mimes and ethnic cleansing. Their trembling clown paranoia—which, quite frankly, Ron thought was a tad melodramatic—had lead to Ron’s first existential breakdown and retirement.

No matter, he sighed. Thinking of 20 million reasons and the time he and Hamburglar roofied an attractive franchisee’s orange drink, Ronald McDonald sucked in his gut and selfied.


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Why the Happy Meal is Fast Food’s Greatest Invention All Time

Of all the fast food gimmickry in the world, the Happy Meal is the greatest.

Other fast food chains tried to be clever and baroque with the name of their products. Arby’s Horsey Sauce, for instance — a mix of horseradish and mayonnaise. Cute food wordplay. But I’m staring at a knuckle of brown meat with a vague metallic-green tint, and now is the time you’d like me to think about horseys?

The Happy Meal, on the other hand, tells a child in plain, simple language everything our tiny lizard brains need to know: It’s a box full of puppies and Prozac, kid. A goddamn deep-fried double rainbow. Eat this and forget that you always get picked last in kickball because, well, ever seen your dad run?

American companies need to take a cue from The Happy Meal. Speak plain. Don’t call it Yahoo or Google. Call it Find Shit.

The Happy Meal also capitalized on the fact that most parents only buy their children toys three times a year — Christmas, birthdays and when they messed up big time and probably set your emotional development back a few years. So McDonald’s invented a box that looked like a gift and put a toy inside.


Santa Claus? He’s the deadbeat dad of the gift-giving industry. Just some guy who fills in once a year when McDonald’s is closed. Ronald McDonald was the Santa that stuck by you every single day.

In the ’70s, Happy Meal toys were not the latest and greatest. One featured Ronald’s face painted on a plastic glove that looked vaguely invasive. There was a mini milk carton with legs and eyes. A rubber Big Mac brought about 13 minutes of fun until it realized its destiny as landfill — yet another unpleasant, non-recyclable anal bead for Mother Nature, courtesy of corporate America. Few children who hadn’t swallowed large volumes of paint would actually put them on a Christmas list.

McDonald’s would eventually partner with Hollywood and get fancy through the power of co-branding. Kids in the ’90s would get Buzz Lightyear figurines, Lady and the Tramp sticker books, you name it. But when I was a kid, it wouldn’t have been a surprise to find a pair of wacky googly eyes glued to a used gym sock.

Regardless, my sister and I went ballistic for them. It didn’t matter if within the hour the family dog was ingesting the toy, or it had found a home up my rectum. Those third-rate trinkets, slicked in fry grease and ketchup, were precious gemstones. When Aunt Ann made her beef liver and onions with mashed potatoes, did she serve it with a Fraggle Rock figurine? No, she did not. I believe she’s currently lamenting that fact, since we’re no longer in her life.

The Happy Meal was also the cool lunch box some children never had. In the ’70s, lunch boxes were crucial to a child’s social standing. It takes a while to develop appealing personality traits of our own. So lunch boxes acted as personality replacement therapy. They were basically our entire identity.

If you had a Clash of the Titans lunch box, it expressed that you were a heroic boy, in a musical-theater sort of way. A Dukes of Hazzard lunch box let everyone know that your dad sets fire to crosses on black people’s lawns. A Hello Kitty lunchbox says your parents have serious issues related to the safety of your hymen.

I was truly blessed to have a Clash of the Titans lunchbox, because my parents were divorced and absence made dad’s wallet grow fonder. But many children were forced to attend school with sad, generic plastic boxes that failed to shill for a current TV or Hollywood enterprise. Those children were the ones who usually resorted to hanging out alone by the teeter-totters, selling crystal meth.

Yet even their existential box pain could be alleviated for a few bucks at Mickey D’s. The Happy Meal expressed, “I am a child whose parents care enough to buy me a party in a box!”

The box itself was some genius packaging. It was shaped like a little house, which satisfied young girls’ need to play house and young boys’ need to wreck them. On the exterior were a series of games. The games appeared to be made for the children, but were quite obviously for the adults. Children need nonstop entertainment, which is a serious drain on a parent’s sanity. Nowadays parents glue a portable game device to their hands so they can get a moment of precious silence, during which they ponder setting fire to their reproductive organs.

McDonald’s asked, “Would you like us to give your children a box that keeps them occupied for 20 full, uninterrupted, glorious minutes?” Every parent in the world funded that endeavor. The Happy Meal was the 1970s version of an iPad.

And so the Happy Meal did exactly as its name advertised; happiness for all. Its genius henceforth recognized.


What Ronald McDonald Taught Me About Emotional Depth

It was 1979. I was six. Mom said we were going somewhere special.

I settled into the passenger seat and pulled out my portable video game. On the screen were a series of red lights that represented football players. There were no “men.” No graphics. Video games were different back then. We didn’t have a 3-D vigilante with a five o’clock shadow whose mission was to steal cars, squire prostitutes and systematically urinate on the Ten Commandments. Kids these days have it good.

Three minutes later, Mom pulled into a parking lot of McDonald’s. No different from any other day. We would enter the line of sedans. We would shout our order into the metal box, as if talking to an elderly person whose ears were merely ornamental at this point. We would leave adequately McMuffinned.

Only that day McDonald’s was chaos. A majority of the parking lot was cordoned off with flags and cones. A massive red stage was equipped with 10-foot golden arches. A horde of children ran around like crazy people who’d been denied meds.

Half-eaten burgers were scattered on the asphalt — yet this occasion was such a joyous riot that not one kid was crying over the loss. A boy had a pickle in his hair. Every child had an orange mustache, a sign that McDonalds’ legendary party drink — an aperitif made of sugar, water, sugar and orange stuff — was somewhere nearby. That “orange drink” was black market McDonald’s gold, only brought out at soccer league kickoffs and papal coronations.

Then I spotted him. You couldn’t miss the Sasquatch. Ronald McDonald was what happened when an NBA power forward made an honest woman out of a circus clown. His crimson hairpiece was both Black Panther and Jackie O, male and female. He was part African American, Northern European and whatever ethnicity red-haired people are.

His face was painted white, and below each eye was a triangular, black droplet (it means you killed someone in clown school). His eyebrows had migrated to the far northern climes of his forehead. As a result, he looked permanently, unequivocally amused.

After some hugs and hoots and hollers, I started enumerating Ronald’s many character strengths. I went on and on and mom just nodded and laughed.

Then, I said, “Plus… he’s ALWAYS happy! Can you imagine? How great would that be?”

“True,” she countered. “But we need to be sad sometimes.”

I looked at her stunned. What a downer. But, my god, I thought. The woman is right.

Let’s say Ronald’s buddy Grimace finally lost a limb to gout. He’s laid up in the hospital trying to come to terms with this new development in his life. On the one hand, he hadn’t seen his legs in years on account of being morbidly obese. On the other hand, it had to be a blow to his acting career. Sure, Jabba the Hutt was getting great work with this new Spielberg character. But Jabba had that supple Mediterranean skin tone.

“I’m purple, Ronnie!” Grimace would yell tenderly at his old friend in the hospital. “I’m purple and my main talent is eating burgers, man! A walking hematoma with one trick and… oh, criminy… now one leg to match.”

Ron would be dealing with his own demons, of course, since it was he who convinced Grimace to audition for the McDonald’s gig years ago.

“Look, I was born the shape of an inflamed nostril. I get it. I coped with that. When I grew into a six-foot nostril, I coped with that, too. But all of it together? It’s too much, man. Too much. If H.R. Pufnstuf was still around, maybe… maybe I’d have some options.

“What, exactly, does THIS say to the kids, RON?” he’d ask, pretending to knock on his phantom limb. “‘Hey, have a burger, little buddy! But don’t go ape shit like your Uncle Grimace and eat so many that you lose a leg! Ha ha ha ha ha HA!’

“Speaking of. Where’s Hamburglar? Don’t tell me… rehab again. And where is that nurse with my pain candy?! Am I a nobody already???!”

Grimace would then try to wipe the tears from his terrycloth eyes, but his comically short arms would not be able to reach that far. Ron would have no other option than to sit bedside, listen to his old pal, and look highly amused.

So, yes, mom. I guess eternal happiness is not as cool as it sounds.

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A Man Entered Me From Behind And I’m OK I’m OK I’m OK I’m…

Nothing prepares you for it. Sure, I had a girlfriend with a curious finger. Every grad from a mediocre college has. And I’m aware that by the time men turn 50, it’s a good idea to let the man your mother-in-law wished her daughter would’ve married put a couple fingers in your pleasegodno. Thing is, I’m not 50. And that part of my anatomy has run a dependable export business its entire life. It has steadfastly ignored the import market.

I noticed it about a year ago. It wasn’t much. Just a trace of blood. It was as if my sphincter had begun manscaping on its own and was experiencing minor technical difficulties with its miraculous endeavor. I immediately did what most men in this situation would do. I researched potential trades in my fantasy football league. After about an hour, I Googled “anal bleeding.”

The feedback from internet experts was unsettling.

“Call the doctor instantly!”

“Never ignore anal bleeding!”

“You’re screwed!”

They sounded so certain and authoritative on the chat board. I realize every human body is different. Maybe their duff was uniquely unlike my own. But, really, there can be only so many reasons backsides bleed.

I did what any normal man would do after reading all this. Continue reading

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I Got Canceled by Food Network for Threatening to Kill Duff Goldman’s Cat

“Why did Food Network cancel your show?”

“I threatened to shoot Duff Goldman‘s cat.”

That’s my response and I’m sticking to it.

Six episodes of Crave had already aired. The ratings started strong. Then Dancing With the Stars, Monday Night Football, Neil Patrick Harris and Two and a Half Men all returned to the airwaves during our time slot, rendering us Nielson non grata. Still, the feedback was cool:

“A whole new way of talking about food!”

“The funniest show on Food Network!”

“Someone please tell Bobby Flay to punch Troy Johnson in the throat!”

I was working three jobs as the senior editor for Riviera Magazine, writer-host of Crave and new dad to my daughter. At 1AM I was on the couch solo con boxer briefs, as the Spanish don’t say. I’d just mainlined another coffee. I had to finish writing our episode on SPICY FOOD. The production company was rightly screaming at me. I also had to finish a restaurant review for the magazine.

Over-caffeinated and needing a distraction, I saw this Tweet from Food Network biggie Duff Goldman:

A LEOPARD? BENGAL CAT? I’m not a cat person. So I read this as, “While small, a jungle predator with sharp teeth can and will disembowel some unsuspecting bro in Venice Beach tonight. If you see it, Tweet me.”

I responded thusly:

I expected he and I would share a ROFL and bond over my feline confusion. He’d naturally want to cameo in my SPICY FOOD episode. Then we would ride motorcycles together, with cupcakes and beer in our saddlebags.

Hilarity did not ensue. This did:

Then, silence. Duff went looking for his cat.

The next morning, I received a call from The Network. They were moving the show to a less conspicuous time slot. And canceling it thereafter.

The timing was impeccable. My unintentional cat-whacking threat had been made no less than eight hours prior. Coincidence?

I imagine Duff sitting across from the executive, having just minutes ago stormed into his office yelling, “This psycho threatened to pop a cap in my kitty!”

Late-night dementia notwithstanding, I can’t say I didn’t.

2011-2011 1/2
“A cap was popped in its ass before it could do the same to Duff’s cat.”

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The Greatest Cereal Mascots: A Psychological Eval, Part V


Frank was a sweet boy.

Nothing says, “Eat up!” quite like a bloated corpse pulled from the river. Frank obviously had issues, dental hygiene among them. It didn’t help that his name was childhood slang for male private parts. Judging by his eyeglasses made of roller-skate wheels, Frank was very industrious after eating children. Air Supply is playing in those headphones, which says a lot about Frank’s inappropriate emotional responses. He had the IQ of a frightened rodent. But don’t worry—the cranial tumor was benign.


Immortality can be cruel.

Granted immortality, this guy chose to sell cereal. Ambition wasn’t a strong suit. Life was hard for Count from the start. Doctors described his mother’s birth canal “like a thin straw,” which resulted in his uniquely elongated head. His buck teeth told a special family secret: Someone mated with jackrabbits. As for that shnoz? Well it seems vampires are like humans in that their ears and noses never stop growing. After 300 years, things get awkward. Severely ADHD, the Count never could finish the famous vampire motto. It was always just “I want to suck.”

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The Greatest Cereal Mascots: A Psychological Eval (Part IV)


Bee-pattern baldness.

Realizing regular Cheerios tasted like moths, General Mills slummed their signature cereal with Honey Nut. The Bee was a trailblazer in the cheek implants trend. His hiring marks a first in the industry: a mascot that makes sense for the product. Unfortunately, cereal consumers consider narrative veracity “lame.” As proven many times over, a successful mascot is one who looks deformed into a permanent state of ultra-joy. Hoping to connect with a more mature audience, General Mills cast a bee with a comb-over. These days the bee lives in a retirement hive where he horrifies residents with tales of his “magic honey stick.”


All thumbs, this guy.

Tony was obviously Italian. His talent for hand gestures was unmistakably regional. His vocabulary, however, never surpassed two words: “They’re grrrrreeat.” Tony spent his off-time at Venice Beach, leaning casually against SUVs and sending blood flow to various muscle groups. The gym industry refers to his torso as the “Viscious V.” But his blue nose told a dirty little secret: Circulatory issues. Since the market for gondoliers is limited, we have to believe the sashay around his neck was mere flair. Though technically a tiger, people often mistake him for a bear. Tony has denied his yellow eyeballs have anything to do with bladder issues.

Tomorrow… nothing says “eat up” quite like a bloated corpse.

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A Psychological Eval of Cereal Mascots, Part III

You can read the first two installments here and here.


“Never let ‘em see you shed.”—Sugar Bear

No one is this cool. Even “The Fonz” was eventually outed as a tender self-doubter named Henry Winkler. Sugar Bear was obviously not Anglo Saxon, because no white man except Rick Astley sounds like a real man. When not “hipping up” cereal that liquefies dental work, Sugar Bear read beat poetry to rhythmic coeds. I know what you’re thinking—the turtleneck sweater was a fad. But who was gonna tell Sugar Bear? Certainly not me. Years later, he would embrace his love of high school musical theater as the executive producer of Glee.


Sure, he’s sane.

Body dysmorphia is not restricted to humans. The silly rabbit’s weight obsession eventually drove him to stimulants, as evidenced by the bat-shit crazy look on his face. Troubled by his antics early on, General Mills summoned Trix to corporate HQ to fire him. But the sniffly mammal launched into a series of extraordinarily expressive gestures so zany that the executives couldn’t help but laugh. Today, he’s the self-appointed “house entertainer” at Furry Futures, a live-in rehabilitation center in some field somewhere. The fact that his eyebrows hover above his cranium is not helping his grip on reality.

Tomorrow… A juiced-up Tiger and an insect with a comb-over.

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The Greatest Cereal Mascots of All Time (Part 2)

I write. Seriously in some places, where I have to consider word counts and whether my writing is suitable for human consumption. Here is not that place. This place is free associations from my AA-battery brain.

And so my psychological evals of 1970s sugar cereal mascots continues…


This guy didn’t live in my neighborhood. Sugar Smack was the hippest of the cereal mascots. He grew up on the mean streets, where he first learned to sell smack. He wore his baseball cap stylishly askew, and confidently bastardized the English language at every turn. A savvy entrepreneur, Smack used star power to promote his line of screen-printed tees. He and Kellogg’s relationship has always been mercurial, at best. Some cereal executives have gone on record to say, “Frogs are kinda nasty.” He’d eventually change his name to “Honey Smack” when America decided they’d rather be lied to than feel like they’re eating a giant bowl of granulated cankle-maker. In dire financial need, Smack will eventually sell his legs to a French chef.


Don’t do drugs.

General Mills was forthcoming about the appeal of this product: It’s for people who are high. Only someone who’d inhaled an eighth of weed could grasp the culinary genius of Styrofoam marshmallows in milk. The toasted oats were included merely for the challenge. True connoisseurs systematically eliminated them until all that remained was a slimy, wet mass of Technicolor mallow. At photo shoots the celebrity spokes-leprechaun stat atop a giant mushroom, appearing to eat a bowl of Lucky Charms. Production assistants confirm that he never ate the cereal. He’d simply eat enough of the mushroom until believed in leprechauns. Lucky Charms’ slogan was “Magically delicious.” It’s street slang for felony possession.

Tomorrow… the coolest metrosexual jazz-bear ever.

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The Greatest Cereal Mascots of All Time (a psychological eval)

I was raised on sugar cereal. If you see me twitch, this is why.

My day started with the company of an amiable toucan flying over a bowl of multicolored rings. Fruit Loops looked like a child’s candy necklace had snapped. Resilient, that child gathered the scattered rings into a bowl. Then the child added milk, because children are psychotic. Bowls of diabetes are fun. Over 15 years of eating sugar cereal, I had plenty of time to psychoanalyze my friends. Here’s what I’ve concluded:


The Cap’n, in need of electrolytes.

What a mouth-breathing drunk. After an illustrious career at sea, the good Cap’n went the route of Kenny Rogers and used his star power to shill for consumer products. No one achieves a nose as bulbous as his without treating a bottle of whiskey like a teddy bear. His eyes were crossed, suggesting temporary seasickness or long-term mental illness. He treasured his facial hair, and wept when he lost his eyebrows trying to light a cigar with a kerosene lamp. To cope, the Cap’n glued fake ones to his amusing hat. Judging by his yellow floral epaulettes, he was no four-star general. He will always be remembered by preppies as a trailblazer in the “popped collar” movement.


They resent the hell out of Justin Timberlake.

Snap, Crackle and Pop started as a boy band until their ears got in the way. Out of options, the do-gooders knocked on strangers’ doors to discuss the nutritional value of bloated rice. A good rule of thumb with these guys is: Let ‘em date your daughter, and never listen to their bullshit. Their cereal sucked so bad that its main selling point was the sound—like bacon sizzling in a pan, only without a little thing called flavor. They drank black coffee and chain-smoked. Snap was the chef, with a talent for puffing rice without losing its delicate mediocrity. Crackle was a semi-pro snowboarder with a genetic disease that only allowed his hair to grow in the form of an asterisk. Pop tried to atone for his marching band involvement by always standing just barely more front-and-center than his pals.
Tomorrow… The Toad that pitched oats; and illicit offers from an wee Irishman.

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