View My Stats

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

This Generation's Mr. Whipple.

Anybody here not old enough to remember Mr. Whipple?
In this case, I envy you your youth.

Mr. Whipple was the guy who ran the supermarket in the 1960's TV commercials where this really annoying woman, to us, and to him, would squeeze the Charmin toilet paper.
Mr. Whipple would admonish her and say "Please don't squeeze the Charmin!"
The woman was actually far more annoying than Mr. Whipple.
These commercials sold more toilet paper than you would at a Diarrhea Convention.
One of the most successful ad campaigns in history.
And easily the most annoying.
It blatantly tried to be funny, and, as the kids say today, was so not.

"Please don't squeeze the Charmin" became a national catchphrase.
It was a turning point of sorts, where advertisers first realized that the more stupid the commercial, the more successful it would be.
Because it appealed to the lowest common denominator.
Never was there a better example of it's mesmerizing powers than when my mother came home from the supermarket with the cart she wheeled, and sitting on top of it were two eight-packs of Charmin.
Now, you've got to understand, my mother virtually never bought ANYTHING if it wasn't on sale. It's part of our heritage.
And the conversation between me and she went as follows:

Me: Ma, Charmin?

She: Uh huh.

Me: It was on sale, right?

She: No.

Me: No?

She: No.

Me: Was any other toilet paper on sale?

She: I think so.

Me: You THINK so?

She: Uh huh.

Me: Ma, why did you buy this?!

She: (Imitating the commercial perfectly) "Please don't squeeze the Charmin".

I thought, "God, imagine the effect this is having on Gentiles!"

We have a new Mr. Whipple in our midst.
Even though there seems to be far more than the seven channels I had when I was growing up,
she seems to be on all of them.
And even though I watch everything on Tivo now, I can't seem to get rid of her.

I'm speaking of Flo, the Progressive Car Insurance Lady.
In the white smock.
Wearing too much lipstick.
Dealing with people with a mixture of concern and mild contempt.
She's everywhere.
She's even showing up on print ads on the Internet.

The Flo commercials aren't really as bad as the Mr. Whipple commercials.
They aren't completely unfunny.
That makes them even worse.
Because they keep being repeated.
And hearing a fairly lame joke that you've heard more than once gets worse with each re-hearing.
My only hope is that some genius at some network decides that it would be a brilliant idea to give the actress who plays Flo a series.
That would isolate her, and I wouldn't have to look at her any more.

The Geico gecko and his dim-witted boss ARE completely unfunny, and give Mr. Whipple a run for his money with regards to annoying.

But these commercials are both for car insurance.
The audience they are being targeted for has to
A- Know how to drive a car, and
B- Know that they have to have car insurance.
So they can't be going for as low a common denominator as the Charmin people.
All their audience has to know is that they have to wipe their asses.

It's kind of like the Republicans going after the Independent vote.
Why the Independent voters aren't coming out in droves for the Democrats is beyond me.
At least Obama and Nancy Pelosi are trying to get things done.
And they are succeeding, as much as the Republicans will let them.
The Republicans don't want to do ANYTHING.
The only thing they are good at is marketing.
They know what idiots their base is made up of.
And they are catered to with great care.
And the Republicans are apparently doing a great job on the Independent voters.
Maybe these voters are, and are perceived as being, just one measly cut above the Republican base.
So they have to be played to as if they at least know how to drive, and know that they need to have car insurance.

Whereas the Republican base needs only to be played to as if they only know how to wipe their asses.

.......and we're walkin! .........and we're walkin'!


Monday, August 16, 2010

The Post That Would Not Die.

A year ago June, I posted an article called "Fine And Danny".
It was essentially a Report Card of "Danny and Sylvia, the Musical".
It is easily the most Googled article I get.
There are apparently a lot of Danny Kaye fans out there.

My review was thoroughly mixed, and fairly long.
But it contained these relatively brief paragraphs:

"What was great about it----They found a guy who simply nailed Danny Kaye.He channeled him. He captured all that was great about him.
It was as if you were seeing Danny Kaye in a great live performance.
Better, in fact.
Because it came without all of the negatives that have since been associated with Danny Kaye, the person.
From all accounts, Danny Kaye in real life was, as my friend Lenny Friefeld would describe him in his intentionally redundant way, as "a shmuck and a putz".
He would always go out of his way to snub autograph seekers.
He would go to nightclubs at dinner shows and sit with his back to the onstage performers.
In the show "Two By Two", he would intentionally wreak havoc on stage.
He would always be bragging about who he was flying around in his private plane.
He apparently treated his wife, Sylvia Fine, abusively, something not covered in the musical I saw.
But then who wanted to see that, anyway?
So watching him on clips on YouTube, or in his old movies, meant accepting his personal baggage along with him.
I find this difficult to do.
It's not like Jerry Lewis, whose professional and personal persona is pretty much that of a shmuck and a putz.
If you like his work, you know what you're getting going in.
But Danny Kaye's public persona was that of an erudite, charming, likeable humanitarian.
And this apparently was not him.
He was entirely a lie."

What I wrote here was pretty much accepted within show business circles as common knowledge, and was hardly the main thrust of the article.
You can check it out in it's entirety if you care to.

But it engendered a brouhaha in the Comments section that lingers to this day.
It is apparently still ongoing.

I'm going to reprint the Comments section of that article to save you the trouble of hunting for it.
Please note that I removed four exchanges that I deemed too personal and/or ugly for public consumption.

Stef said...
"He was entirely a lie."For me, this sort of thing always begs the question: if what I want out of a performer is a good performance, why should I care about how much of a sonovabitch he is? I usually avoid tabloids and such that will take delight in telling me of celebrity pecadillos and foibles. Wouldn't knowing stuff like that undermine my enjoyment of their performance? Danny Kaye and Sylvia Fine are now both dead, but his performances of her songs live on, and can still be enjoyed, and maybe discovered by new audiences yet unborn. Unless some spoilsport comes along and says, "See that guy up on the screen? He was shmuck and a putz!" [Not you, dear Mark. Some spoilsport sitting in a movie house revival, I mean.]
June 12, 2009 11:31 PM

Stef said...
[And kicking the seats.]
June 12, 2009 11:32 PM

mark rothman said...
In this case, I am simply cursed with too much knowledge to enjoy him anymore.
Some performers survive this kind of exposure better than others.
To me, he doesn't.
And I'm not the first one to stand up and say that the King is naked.
He did it himself in "The Emperor's New Clothes", in Hans Christian Andersen".
June 13, 2009 3:18 PM

Kirk Jusko said...
In a similar vein, I'm going to have a difficult time listening to any song--no matter how good--that Phil Spector had something to do with.
June 13, 2009 4:26 PM

Joe said...
As much as I'd like to be above-it-all, once someone is revealed to me to be a schmuck and a putz I can't enjoy the performance. Not that it's my particularly noble nature at play, I simply can't rise above how much of a lowlife Person X is.[shrug]I never knew that Danny Kaye was an awful guy, but now I won't be able to see him in any other light.
June 16, 2009 8:49 PM

Anonymous said...
Sad it is to see how years and decades of somebody's life and work turn into rubbish as easy as that, only because of somebody's "wise" remark that they are a schmuck and putz. I wonder how you would react if ever the same sort of thing should be said about you and you find yourselves in a hell of a lot of mess ?
March 5, 2010 10:06 AM

mark rothman said...
This wasn't just somebody's "wise" remark.
This is a consensus of many "wise" remarks from many different sources.
March 5, 2010 1:35 PM

Anonymous said...
OK, but no matter how many - don't you think that much more numerous will be the ones who do not share this opinion (unfortunately the bulk of these - his contemporaries I mean - are dead by now, so that the "wise" remarks somehow keep coming from the much younger smart alecks who hardly knew Danny as a person) ? Don't get me wrong, I respect everybody's freedom of speech, but it seems all the negative arguments featured here totally lack substantiation, and Danny Kaye in fact deserves better treatment and more respect...
March 6, 2010 2:46 PM

mark rothman said...
Specific sources: Martin Gottfried's biography of Danny Kaye, Paul Mazursky's autobiography.
Paul Mazursky worked as a writer on Danny Kaye'sTV variety show, and witnessed shmuck and putz events first hand.
I knew Alan King, who talked about how he was performing in a nightclub and Danny Kaye sat with his back to him as he ate his dinner.
King eventually called him on it, and Kaye had no memory of it.
There is smoke and fire.
I know of no one who knew him who thought he was a doll.
How much more substantiation do you need?
I know you live in Russia, and Kaye made hay singing about Russian composers.
So maybe you hold him in unnecessarily higher regard (He said, jokingly.).
I'm not trying to convert you, but the case I'm making is a legitimate one.
I have no axe to grind about him personally, only about the show about him.
March 8, 2010 9:32 AM

Barbara said...
I have to comment here as one who can see his performances and not be affected by his personal life. One, because his personal life does not affect me. Two, many, many performers are charmers on camera and assholes off camera. I can name MANY.But lastly, I understand that this affected you profoundly, but by repeating the stories, you ruin the performances for many who see them, or have yet to see them. Even if 200 people proved that he was an asshole in real life, that DOES NOT diminish the remarkable talent he PROVED over and over, nor does it diminish his ample humanitarian efforts.To continue to drag a fantastic career in the mud after the man has been dead 24 years does service to no one.Yes, I hold Danny Kaye in higher regard BECAUSE of his talent, not his personal life. I cried when he died, and I cry for no celebrity.As for the show, I saw it and thought it was awful. The actor playing Danny had no personality at all, he just mugged, sang flatly and moved stiffly; they cut the Sylvia part to almost nothing, making her a one-dimensional character. It's a pared down show from the "full length" show he did four years ago, and it got horrible reviews as well. Should you fix it? Hell yes. Get new actors and rewrite the whole damned thing. It was terrible.
March 16, 2010 10:36 PM

mark rothman said...
Well, we half agree about the show.
Maybe most people are like you, and won't have his performances ruined by what I say.
There are far more people who have access to his performances than read my blog.
He was enormously talented, but his public persona simply didn't jive with his private one, and in this case, it got in my way.
It doesn't have to get in anyone else's way.
Al Jolson was, by all reports, a major egotist and asshole, and his radio and movie persona merely enforced this, and it did him no harm.
Yet, "The Jolson Story", a work of complete fiction, portrays him as being completely charming in private.
And I'm a complete sucker for it whenever it's on.
So who knows how people will be affected by anything?
Particularly about what I write.
March 17, 2010 2:59 AM

Barbara said...
The whole point of my post was this: Why does it matter? We pay to see a performance, not a personal life. Your opinion, whether you regard it as far-reaching or not, affected a couple of people in your comments section alone. I found your blog on a random search of Danny Kaye. The internet is endless. Your words are there forever, affecting the judgment of a mans performance based on his personal life.All I require from a performer is a performance. That should be all that is required.
March 17, 2010 1:28 PM

mark rothman said...
I think it depends on what the performer is selling.
But that's only my opinion.
And as you see, it is shared by others.
April 8, 2010 12:38 PM

Barbara said...
Yeah, two people you told this to. Three supported my opinion.
April 26, 2010 4:06 PM

mark rothman said...
Yup. It's a landslide.
April 26, 2010 7:22 PM

Anonymous said...
I am a Danny Kaye fan. I have been for 30 years. I had a bad crash on him and I used to think him a cross between a saint and a hero. Then I read his biography and I went completely off him ... for a while. Soon, I had to admit that, whatever else he was, he was a person who has marked me and will always mean a lot to me. He was not a saint but he was not a monster either. He was complex and difficult and troubled but he was still a genius in many fields and in the course of his stormy life he has offered a lot to his fellow human beings. Something that people with less emotional baggage haven't done. No one has matched, for example, his contribution to UNICEF. I still love Danny Kaye. Not as a hero, but as a human being who has lived his life as fully and as best he could. Someone who struggled with his demons like we all do. And I miss him enormously.
April 30, 2010 2:41 PM

mark rothman said...
You know, I'm not as anti-Danny Kaye as you seem to make me out to be.
And you seem to only know me from this article.
There are more than 200 others on this blog to be read, and I'm getting a little tired of arguing about this one.
Why don't you read some of the others and we can argue about them.
I like arguing in general.
I'm just worn out with this one.
May 10, 2010 7:40 AM

Barbara said...
So basically, you're saying that you're not willing to stand behind your statements? That you're tired of defending your position? Figures.
June 2, 2010 6:24 PM

mark rothman said...
Barbara, you just can't seem to let this go, can you.
There is no reason to be what you accuse me of being, which is judgemental.
And in your case, in a rather snotty way.
There is nothing inconsistent about what I have said.
Danny Kaye was enormously talented.
I never said he wasn't.
Apparently I don't adore him like you do.
The reports on his personal life have affected MY enjoyment of those talents.
Some personas can handle it easier than others.
Some agree with me about this. Some don't.
That was my ONLY point.
I'm not prostheletizing, and yes, I'm tired of defending my position, because I'm not really that adamant about it.
I considered this a very minor point in the article when I first posted it.
Ask yourself honestly which one of us is more objective about this matter.

August 1, 2010 2:28 PM


I don't know when or if this will ever end.


Thursday, August 5, 2010

Observing My First Turf War.

Most people my age observed their first turf war up close in the movie "The Godfather".
But that was fiction.

The first turf war I witnessed close up took place years before "The Godfather", and in reality.

I was in my early teens, and lived in a garden apartment in Bellerose, Queens.
This was the early sixties.

We were a good mile away from the nearest shopping area.
Too far to walk.
Not too far to take a bicycle, as when my mother made me ride my bike to the Cracker Barrel Supermarket in my notorious trek to purchase her boxes of Kotex tampons.when I was 14 and had no idea what they were.

We were mostly one-car families, and the men took the cars to go to work.
The women stayed home.
And the less-creative-women-than-my-mother rightly considered themselves stranded when it came to food shopping. They usually had to wait until the weekend to take the car and go to the supermarket.

Some enterprising companies took advantage of this situation by providing trucks that would come to these neighborhoods offering up baked goods.

In these instances, there were invariably the quality trucks, offered by a company called Dugans. Great cupcakes.
And it's considerably inferior knockoff, Krugs. Great nothing.

The Krugs drivers usually made it their business to get to our street before the Dugans drivers, knowing that they had an inferior product, but looking to satisfy the uncontrollable baked goods Jones of women who couldn't wait for the Dugans truck.
Krugs barely made a dent in Dugans business, and gradually folded it's tent, leaving the field exclusively to Dugans.
So, no turf war there.

Just the other day, passing in front of my house in Michigan, was an ice cream truck.
An old-fashioned ice cream truck.
Where all the ice cream was pulled out of the freezer by the proprietor and sold to kids.

Just like the old Good Humor Ice Cream Trucks when I was a kid.
I didn't know that any ice cream trucks were still in existence.
I don't know if Good Humor Ice Cream Trucks are still in existence.

But again, for kids who had no other access to ice cream during the week, the daily appearance of Hank, our local Good Humor Man, and a man of extremely good humor, ringing them bells, sent kids begging for dimes from their mothers to go get Hank's variety of treats that he pulled from the freezer.
I tended to think of Good Humor as rather ersatz ice cream, preferring to wait for my mother's weekend sojourns so she could bring home the real deal like Breyer's Premium Ice Cream to sit in the freezer.
My sister, having been previously established as having no taste, was somewhat of a slave to Hank.
She adored Hank.
My sister had been in a minor auto accident where she bumped her head on the windshield, due of course by my mother's incompetence behind the wheel.
Hank knew about this and regularly asked my sister how she was doing with her head.
My sister was touched by Hank's attention.

Hank did have some minor competition from a company called Bungalow Bar, which was a cheesy and even more ersatz version of Good Humor.
And the Bungalow Bar driver, much like the Krug's driver, made sure he got there before Hank, to get those kids who just couldn't wait.
Bungalow Bar was not even the slightest threat to Hank.
So no turf war there.

Then one day, in about 1962, it all changed.

Out of the blue, a truck showed up on our street, ringing a large, loud electric bell.
A much bigger truck.
And the driver, aside from driving it, was also inside of it, providing things that you couldn't just pull out of the freezer.
Soft ice cream cones that you actually saw him make, Sundaes, Shakes, Malts, Floats.....
It was a veritable Dairy Queen on wheels.
It was called Mister Softee.
There was nothing ersatz about Mister Softee.
It was the real deal.
It was great.
I onced asked the Mister Softee proprietor what his name was.
He told me it was Irving.
From that moment on, he was known to me, and called by every other kid, "Irving Softee".
A rather unpleasant man, he did not take well to this.

Irving essentially left Hank in the dust.
Hank's business suffered a severe setback, no matter how much good will he had generated.
As much as my sister loved Hank, she also left him in the dust and made the irreversable crossover to Mister Softee.
She had at least enough taste to realize that Mister Softee was a far superior product.
Sometimes food takes precedence over caring.

It all culminated one afternoon when Hank and Irving showed up simultaneously on our street.
Hank, a burly, large gentile, looked at Irving, a short, shrimpy Jew, thought he had the measure of him, and I guess out of frustration, challenged him to a fistfight.
In front of all of the kids.
This certainly upset the kids.
It was kind of like watching two clowns beating each other up at the circus.

The fight began, and Irving, quickly, and with dispatch, summarily beat the crap, the living daylights, out of Hank.
I would have taken odds that it would have gone the other way, and I would have lost my shirt.

Apparently Hank was losing his shirt trying to compete with Irving, and pretty soon, Hank was just a memory.
Poor Hank.
Even if he would have won the battle, he was going to lose the war.

This, perhaps more than anything else I've experienced, prepared me for adulthood.



Blog Archive

About Me

Hi. I am, according to my Wikipedia entry,(which I did not create) a noted television writer, playwright, screenwriter, and occasional actor. You can Google me or go to the IMDB to get my credits, and you can come here to get my opinions on things, which I'll try to express eloquently. Hopefully I'll succeed. You can also e-mail me at Perhaps my biggest claim to fame is being responsible, for about six months in 1975, while Head Writer for the "Happy Days" TV series, for Americans saying to each other "Sit on it."