As a Father’s Day treat, I’m going to change things up for today. Instead of my usual kilograph on the quirks and weirdnesses of pop culture and history, I’m offering up a quiz. The following questions all pertain to fictional characters who at one time shilled food products. Some of the answers may surprise you. Or make you hungry. Either way, happy Dad’s day.
The answers are found in the links at the end of each question.
1. This pastry-hocking corporate mascot was conceived in 1962, originally as an animated being. But once the ad agency’s copy writer saw the stop-motion titles on the Dinah Shore Show, he re-imagined the little guy as a more realistic being. Answer.
2. This corporate logo used to be a character (done in blackface, of course) in a late 1800’s vaudeville minstrel show. Legend has it that the performer who inspired this character was actually a German immigrant named Pete F. Baker, who embodied this classic character for his live show and inspired the company’s owner. Answer.
3. This character was conceived for a… well, that’ll just give it away. But the character existed before the company, I’ll say that. His catalog of products reads like an elementary school primer on insults: Runts, Nerds, Dweebs, Redskins, Tart ‘n Tinys, and Fun Dip. Answer.
4. The real-life inspiration for this character – also the company’s founder, president, and spokesman – came to American through Ellis Island in 1914. He then supervised the homecoming meal at the White House for 2000 returning WWI veterans, served up by President Woodrow Wilson. He died in 1985, but will live on in supermarkets forever. Answer.
5. This creature was introduced in 1997, and survived in the world of commercials until July, 2001, when the public decided that they hated it (and rightly so). Gidget, the actress who portrayed the character, continued to work after her moment of fame had elapsed, appearing in spots for Geico in 2002, and in the insipid Legally Blonde 2: Red White & Blonde. My wife won’t like me calling that sequel ‘insipid’, but come on. It was. Answer.
6. This guy was allegedly created by Hawley Pratt, the same guy who came up with the animated Pink Panther. He appeared in two games for the Sega Genesis and Super Nintendo systems. Once, he was portrayed on an episode of Family Guy, crushing the product he shills into rails and snorting it. Answer.The Pink Panther, of course, only snorted fiberglass insulation.
7. In 1945, this lady (who doesn’t really exist, except as a corporate entity) was voted the second most popular woman in America, after Eleanor Roosevelt. Her current image is apparently an amalgamation of 75 different real-life women. No actual woman was ever photographed as her likeness, nor do we have any idea what she looks like from the shoulders down (three boobs maybe?). Answer.
8. I already wrote about this creature. It aims to please, and features a website in which you can conduct him in a supposed real-time video feed to execute more than 300 commands, including ‘puke’, ‘fart’, ‘breakdance’, ‘pee on the couch’, ‘roshambo’, and ‘be a duck’. He might be the most surreal food character ever created. Answer.
9. This creature was invented for a film, and didn’t really act as a spokesperson for a food product until over 25 years after the movie was released. Up until then, he was nothing more than a Kenner-produced, movie-tie-in toy. Answer.
10. In 1979, Scott Spiegel (writer of Evil Dead II and actor in Spider-Man 2) wrote and directed a short film about this character, in which it comes to life and tries to murder a housewife. In the process, it butchers the milkman, played by the director of those aforementioned films, Sam Raimi. The film was most likely not approved by the brand this character was designed to represent. You can view the film here, thanks to the glory of the internet. Answer.Sam Raimi…. visionary?
11. This unusual corporate shill sings Bobby Darin, looks like Jay Leno, and was once employed (as a cardboard cutout) to babysit the kids on The Simpsons. Though it won’t help anyone uncover the answer, I should add that I once tried to create a comic book involving this character, in which he patrols the night-time streets of New York City like Batman, solving crimes and frightening people with his hideous visage. I stopped after a few pages, when I realized how stupid an idea this was. Answer.
12. This character, whose life goal was to be captured, slaughtered, and served to humans by the corporation who used him as a shill, was allegedly killed by mercury poisoning (at least according to a George Carlin bit). There’s an unsubstantiated rumor that he was first drawn by actor James Dean, six years before he appeared on television. NFL coach Bill Parcells earned a nickname based on this character. Answer.Hint: The character’s name was not Shinyshirt Highshorts.
13. In 1989, a mentally ill guy named Ken, who shared the same last name with this corporate icon, became convinced that the commercials for this restaurant were making fun of him, personally. He took a local establishment hostage, forced its employees to make him food, and demanded $100,000, plus a book to read. After five hours, Ken surrendered to police. He “avoided” a guilty plea by reason of insanity. No kidding. Answer.
14. These claymation creatures had a Billboard hit single, their own animated cartoon, several albums, video games, and merchandise of every conceivable variety. Seriously, four albums released in 1988. And people bought them. Their television Christmas special won an Emmy. This is why people make fun of the Emmys, and the entire 1980s. Answer.
15. Possessing the face of a Chicago maitre d’ named Frank Brown, this marketing creation was chosen because of the brilliance with which West African slaves could produce this company’s crop back in the day. In 2007, the corporate image was promoted to Chairman of the Board of the company, so as to distance the brand from its somewhat racist origins. Answer.
16. This female mascot was voiced by a few actresses, notably Mary Kay Bergman, who provided the voices of Liane Cartman, Sheila Broflovski, Shelly and Sharon Marsh, Mrs. McCormick and Wendy on South Park, until her death in 1999. She (the mascot, not the actress) appeared with Kim “Tootie” Fields in commercials during the 80s. Her innards are yummy. Answer.
If you achieved a perfect score on this quiz, you either cheated or you know more than the average mortal should about corporate logos. I bow to your trivia excellence. There is no prize.
— Marty Schwartz is currently in the midst of a silly writing experiment here, where he can be seen writing a thousand words a day for a thousand days. He plans to celebrate Father’s Day by posting this article. Now that he’s done that, he’s going back to bed with some bacon beer, in hopes that people will continue to stalk him on Facebook.