Category Archives: Retail

The Greatest Cereal Mascots: A Psychological Eval, Part V

FRANKEN BERRY: NOT TERRIBLY BRIGHT

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.

COUNT CHOCULA: THE LONELIEST VAMPIRE

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)

HONEY NUT BEE: INSECT WITH A HAIR PIECE

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.”

TONY THE TIGER: HOUSE MUSIC ENTHUSIAST

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.

SUGAR BEAR: FUZZY WAS A KEROUAC

“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.

TRIX: BUNNY’S GOT ISSUES

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…

SUGAR SMACKS: PSST… OVER HERE

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.

LUCKY CHARMS: THE WEE LITTLE HALLUCINATION

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:

CAP’ CRUNCH: MR. HANGOVER

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.

SNAP, CRACKLE AND POP: BOY BAND

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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A Fourth of July Eating Manifesto (Plus some random stats about pants)

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“Fourth of July.”

Just hearing the words is panicking. It’s the semi-sorta midway point of summer. “Whaddyou mean it’s half gone!? How did this happen?! Did Madoff take it?!” It’s like discovering someone poked a hole in your fun bucket.

Luckily, Fourth of July was designed to replenish. It’s The Complete Works of Summer, performed in a single afternoon. It’s the world’s greatest cookout, and it is pandemonium.

Today we’ll spray bottles of sunblock as if they’re Champagne and we just won the World Series. We’ll bake old-timey pies even though Iron Chef has us “going through a salted caramel-and-cloudberry sabayon phase.” Today grandma will make blue cupcakes that look like Smurf condos, and we will not recoil at their inedible hue.

If today we see Uncle Sam rollerblading in a Speedo, we won’t hide our children. We will raise Uncle Ned’s lumpy burger in salute.

Today, our USA-sized smoke signal will penetrate deep into space. If extra terrestrials exist, they will seek out our delicious creations. Or they will go to France because they think we are on fire.

Today, we’ll eat half our national population in hot dogs. On Independence Day, dogs aren’t just a distraction from the fact that “pitchers’ duel” is baseball speak for “group nap.” Today the pig torpedo is patriotic Eucharist.

Today, our mouths all have one thing in common: Idaho. And today “salad” has mayonnaise, amen.

Today, we’ll find the few patches of America that don’t have a cappuccino machine and a barista with a tattoo on his face. It might be a beach, park, lake, river, glen, dale, or a strip of Astroturf next to a garden hose. Matters not. We’ll gather our people, grab the crowbar, pry open the grill and not flinch one bit at the sight of last year’s charred bits. (When grilling, the Five Second Rule becomes the Five Year Rule. I believe Thomas Jefferson wrote that.)

We’ll wear our humorous aprons. We will not question the nutritional content of white bread. We will Lee Greenwood (so patriotic, his name is a verb). We will not discuss how “the acidity of the lemonade really balances out the fattiness of the hot dog.” We will eat, drink, and toast the brave ones who sacrificed so that we can dress like Liberace cross-dressing as Betsy Ross.

Whether vegetarian or carnivore, carb-shoveler or gluten-freer, beer-toter or teetotaler, CIA super-chef or kitchen-phobe… Today we’re just Americans, hungry for the smoke of summer.

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STAT: 82% of US households own a grill. 4th of July is the most popular day to use them, with 71% of us assuming the grill position. It’s a day to remember our roots. Like 1776, sure. But also the simian age. Short of waking up an orangutan and ending the day as Brad Pitt, nothing says “Evolution, heck yeah!” quite like cooking over fire.

SOURCE: Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association and Business News Daily

STAT: Kids who regularly eat dinner with their families are 40% likelier to get A’s and B’s in school. Fourth of July brings family together—from distant relatives to the siblings you tried to sell on eBay. And that bonding experience will help our children get into colleges we can’t afford.

SOURCE: National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University

STAT: The US imported $232.3 million of fireworks from China in 2011. Say what? Part of being an American is making all kinds of lame laws. Seems like “the national flag must be made in America” should be one. But what a way to end a meal! Most just finish with someone asking you for money, or with dad staggering to the couch like a freshly tranquilized zoo animal.

SOURCE: US Census Bureau News

STAT: Americans eat 155 million hot dogs on Fourth of July. If placed end-to-end, the dogs would stretch from L.A. to D.C. five times. It’s the national sharing stick. It’s also pre-cooked. If anyone can figure out how to use a grill like a microwave, America can.

SOURCE: National Hot Dog & Sausage Council

STAT: 42% of Americans are country music fans. The other 58% tolerate it on Fourth of July. Are you a twangy singer who lists “petting bald eagles” as a personal interest? Today, America loves you. (Except maybe Portland.)

SOURCE: Billboard Magazine

STAT: 86 million Americans (41.9% of us) own patriotic apparel. American flag bikini? Next week it’s vaguely treasonous. But on Fourth of July it’s OK to wear stars, spangles or Bruce Springsteen’s clenched, patriotic teeth on your person.

SOURCE: National Retail Federation

STAT: Americans bought nearly $14 Billion worth of jeans last year. Most of them will be worn today. The only dress code for a park is “clothes.” Jeans are not “apparel” today. They are leg napkins.

SOURCE: Cotton Lifestyle Monitor

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Spicy Food: My Abusive Relationship

Security detail at Avery Island. Home of Tabasco. On scene for the “Spicy Food: Taste the Pain” episode of CRAVE. This little guy literally jumped out of the water trying to eat our boom mic. I wet myself a little.

I don’t advocate violence against children. But as a kid, I was punchable. I commend my father for not dropping me off somewhere. Like, say, deep in Mexico. And then growing a mustache and changing his name.

Forbidden by laws and morals to do harm to our kids, parents find other ways. Piano lessons. Brussels sprouts. Falcon’s Crest.

My dad, cunningly, used pizza. At a pie joint in Big Bear City, he pointed to a bottle of red and yellow flakes. He dared me to take one of them—just one—and put it on the end of my tongue.

I scoffed. They were tiny! Wussfood! Not wanting to back down and lacking the mental acuity to sense a good trap when I saw one… I did exactly that.

I sat there, tongue out, that little red dot perched on the tip. Five seconds. Nothing. Ten seconds. Nothing.

Ha! I scoffed in his general direction.

Fool! My tongue was obviously a bad-ass. A callous appendage that may have a teardrop tattoo that I’m unaware of. If I stuck a spoon in my mouth, it would come out a shank.

Then it started to creep. A little buzz at first. Then it got a little hotter. My neener-neener-neener smile started to weaken. And hotter. My lips quivered a bit. Then it started to BURN. Like I’ve heard peeing does when you’ve been indiscriminate with your affections in the wrong part of town.

Then, ohholyjesustractorpullyeeeeeowwww… it felt like the time my sister told me it was cool and fun to pour hot candlewax on my face because it would make an awesome mask.

I spit it out. I held the dainty, wet little flake in my hand. I looked at it with an expression of pain and confusion. Painfusion. I felt like I’d just had the crap kicked out of me by Tinkerbell.

Gone from my mouth, I figured the pain would stop. Nope. Got worse. How does that work?! I felt like I’d been carjacked, managed to throw the jacker out of my car, only to realize he’d cut the brakes and passed some truly offensive gas.

I grabbed water, started gulping it. Relief? No. It just spread the pain to my entire piehole. My dad was crying from the laughter. He was on the floor. Revenge was his.

Nose running, eyes watering, my tongue waving in the air like it’s having a seizure… I looked my dad straight in the eye, squinted so he could really understand the gravity of what I was about to tell him… and said,

“Dude. That. Was. Awesome.”

I’ve loved spicy food ever since. Maybe I like to hurt myself. Not a lot. I’m not gonna carve an ex-girlfriend’s name into my thigh. But spice? Yes, please.

The next episode of Crave is my journey across America to find the perfect spicy food. And my effort to comprehend why, when I was 10, I had my a** kicked by a tiny little red flake of wussfood. And liked it.

Crave airs Friday, 11:30PM EST/8:30PM PST on Food Network.

TWITTER: @T_R0Y (that’s a zero, not an ‘oh’)

FACEBOOK: facebook.com/cravetroy

FOOD NETWORK PAGE: foodnetwork.com/crave

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