Monday, October 26, 2009

Bonked out

I still remember the day when the Bonkers funhouse came to my local shopping center. Actually, it was less of a funhouse and more of a trailer converted into a funhouse. The inside was pretty awesome though as pressing a button would lower large fruit down from the ceiling. There were also the standard surprise pop outs that were, instead of horror related things, fruit related things.

The best part? On the way out my sister and I received free Bonkers candy, which was new at the time. I believe I got strawberry and grape while my sister got orange and watermelon. Up until that point, I had never heard of Bonkers candy, actually, I don't think anyone had. It was brand new and in turn all over the place in a flash of television commercials and advertising spots.

Take for example this one taken from a comic book:

This ad is for the ill advised, considering the fruit nature of Bonkers, chocolate Bonkers. Actually I remember those being delicious.

However, nobody cares about the comic book ad. The actual advertisements that everyone remembers are these ones:

You know the pattern some stereotype of a stuffy person who would find it to be a sin to dance or are too well bred for wackiness are railing against Bonkers and then they eat one, giant fruit falls from the ceiling crushing them and in turn making them into laughing maniacs with an unquenchable thirst for Bonkers. That's how I remember it anyway.

This one has what appears to be a guest appearance by a live action version of the Monopoly guy. For some reason these high society types appear to be having a party at a courthouse while an angry member of the moral police runs around getting everyone crushed under giant fruit before eventually succumbing to that fate herself.

There are tons of these commercials. These are just an example. Bonkers used to be a high power candy monster. It was everywhere. I used to buy packs of them at the local 7-11 myself. Even at Halloween, mini packs of bonkers were a high point.

Then, the commercials of stodgy folks being knocked into insanity tapered off and so to did the popularity of Bonkers. Eventually, the product disappeared entirely, never to be seen or heard from again. And so passes Bonkers, son of Nabisco, steward of chewy candy.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Discount! Discount!

For a time in the late 80's and early 90's there was a war being fought. No, I'm not talking about the Gulf War, I'm talking about the discount pizza war. It seemed like for a time the airwaves were awash with increasingly cheap pizza from a variety of vendors. Dominoes, Pizza Hut, Papa John's, Papa Gino's; they all got in on the wild price slashing that went on to attempt to undercut competitors.

However I will go as far as to say no pizza chain ever took it as far as the master of cheap pizza, Little Caesars. I know, I know, Little Caesars is still a functioning chain of pizza shops so technically they shouldn't be here, and that is true but there is a gimmick aspect to their pizza sales that does belong here. The double pizza box.

However, before I get into that, let's set some groundwork for those who might already be confused. Little Caesars is apparently the 4th largest pizza chain in the US. They've been going for 50 years or so and have spread around the world (thought I take the existence of them in Japan as heresay). They also are well known for their slogan "Pizza! Pizza!" spouted by an animated, bespeered Caesar. Something like this:

This one is probably one of the more famous commercials.

They expanded it beyond "pizza pizza" of course. Soon you had this:

This one is specifically awesome because of the living stereotypes that make up the vegetarian group shown. The guy with the acoustic guitar makes this.

Then it gets out of hand:

We start to get "Pan! Pan!" and who knows how many other variants until the Little Caesars in my area was washed away by urban blight, or maybe it was a laundromat, I'm not sure. I'm not even sure there is a difference between those two things.

Anyway, back to the main topic, the boxes. As you can see from these commercials, Little Caesars was the unrivaled king of cheap pizza. While Papa John's got as cheap as $5.99 with a coupon for one pizza, nobody ever matched the sheer cheapness of 2 for $9.99 at a constant rate. You will probably not be surprised to hear that the pizza was not incredibly delicious. And nobody ever matched ridiculous boxes that the pizza came in.

The boxes, which I couldn't find pictures of where double length boxes which fit two pizzas side by side. They also, if I am remembering correctly, didn't have covers so much as a paper covering taped over the cardboard frame of a pizza box. It was very distinctive in a "cheap pizza purchased for a school event or for a pizza party" type way.

Unfortunately, the current Little Caesars restaurants use normal boxes which means the old boxes have completely disappeared from the minds of everyone. And the pizza has literally disappeared from anywhere within a 50 mile radius of my home town after many of the shops were shuttered.

Monday, October 19, 2009

A yumma yumma

From childhood we are constantly bombarded by advertising on television in the form of product placement and commercial breaks. The world of television molds a lot of the interests of children and what their interests tend to be. It also inflicts damage.

I'm not talking about the kind of "violence on television causes kids to be violent" garbage so much as the mind numbing effect of commercial jingles. Yes, these things are short songs for commercials that are usually catch little tunes to advertise something. Who doesn't know the Oscar Meyer wiener song or that old Big Mac jingle (you know the one, "two-all beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles on a sesame bun")? However these are products that have decades and decades of exposure at their backs.

What I want to mention today is something special. In 1987, any kid with a TV set will probably remember something of this monstrosity:

Seriously, look at this. It's been more than 20 years since I've seen this commercial or tasted this product but just the mention of the phrase "a yumma yumma" brings me back to the steel drum memories of the racist stereotypes of pacific islanders hawking fruity "volcano rock" cereal. Obviously there is some sinister force at work here.

This commercial on often enough to leave a lasting impression for 20+ years but the cereal itself left the market the same year it debuted, 1987. Meaning, though I imagine the vast majority of people living during that time will have had this jingled drilled into their brain like some kind of parasitic mind controlling worm, they have also never had a chance to actually taste it. I was one of the lucky few I guess.

Fruit Islands as a cereal wasn't terrible but not especially great either. Imagine a Fruity Pebbles rip off. You know, it doesn't taste bad but it changes the milk an insipid gray color due to the mixing of so many different food colorings. I wouldn't eat it now but when you're a kid and the only way you can get "a yumma yumma" out of your head is with a bullet or a box of cereal, you opt for the cereal.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

The Cherry Coating

For a brief time in my childhood I remember when it seemed like everything was cherry coated. Probably this is due to a skewed memory across however many decades. However, the cherry coating was a real thing. The kind of ephemeral thing of memory that was seemingly everywhere and now lives approximately nowhere in the collective conscious of whoever.

This blog is about exactly those types of things. The kinds of things that seemed universal at a point but now have seemingly been relegated to the back stages of an already forgotten history. Think of this as the virtual island of lost toys for all advertising ephemera, gray area memories and corner store treasures that have crossed my path.

All of these things have gone the way of the cherry coating.