Hipstercrite
Hipstercrite

6 Obscure Facts About the Noid

Hipstercrite
Hipstercrite

If you watched American TV in the late 1980s, you'll remember the Noid, the crazed anti-pizza terrorist who served as mascot for Domino's Pizza under the banner "Avoid the Noid." (Domino's pizzas were, of course, Noid-proof.) Although Domino's eventually dropped the Noid, here are six items of Noid trivia for your enjoyment.

1. The Noid Led to a Hostage Situation

In January 1989, 22-year-old Kenneth Lamar Noid interpreted the Domino's ads as a personal assault on his character. Believing he was engaged in an ongoing battle with Domino's head Tom Monaghan, Noid took matters into his own hands, holding up a Domino's outlet in Georgia. From Time magazine:

Kenneth Noid, 22, walked into a Domino's Pizza shop in Chamblee, Ga., with a .357 Magnum revolver and took two employees hostage. When police arrived, he demanded $100,000 in cash, a getaway car and a copy of The Widow's Son, a 1985 novel about secret societies in an 18th century Parisian prison.

All Noid got was the pizza he ordered. After a five-hour siege, the two employees slipped away and Noid gave himself up.

Noid was charged with kidnapping, aggravated assault, and theft by extortion. He was found not guilty by reason of insanity. Domino's stopped runing Noid ads, and we all moved on.

2. "Affordable Fun": The Avoid the Noid Video Game

Game image courtesy of The Internet Archive

In 1989, California Merchandising Concepts developed an Avoid the Noid video game for DOS. Billed on the box as "Affordable Fun!" the game is utterly horrible; you play a Domino's Pizza delivery driver trying to deliver a pizza to Doom Industries, while avoiding the Noid and his bizarre traps. Your defense (aside from jumping) is a Noid Avoider, which can only be used five times. When the Noid destroys all pizzas, the game ends. You can play it online courtesy of the Internet Archive, though I doubt you'll enjoy the experience.

3. Yo! Noid Brought Pizza-Smashing to Nintendo

Capcom

Capitalizing on The Noid's success, Capcom altered an existing Japanese game for the Nintendo Entertainment System called Kamen no Ninja Hanamaru. The 1991 remake, entitled Yo! Noid, was surprisingly detailed and difficult—probably because it was originally intended to be an entirely different game and the pizza content was tacked on.

In Yo! Noid, the Noid is actually the hero of the story, using his magic yo-yo to battle his way through New York City, eventually confronting Mr. Green (just another Noid, but green).

Yo! Noid has a surprising fan following on the web. Check out, for example, the Yo Noid! Shrine and an online version of the game.

4. The Noid's Non-Advertising Appearances in TV & Film

Aside from his advertising gig, the Noid has appeared in episodes of The Simpsons and Family Guy. He's also briefly visible in Michael Jackson's Moonwalker. (Fortunately Jackson manages to Avoid him.)

5. The Noid & The California Raisins: Separated at Birth?

The Noid was brought to life with claymation, the creation of Will Vinton, the same man who brought us '80s icons like The California Raisins (official spokesraisins for the California Raisin Advisory Board) and The Adventures of Mark Twain.

These days Vinton is still producing commercials, including the computer-animated M&M character ads.

6. The Noid Used Voice Talent from Masters of the Universe

Pons Maar in Return to Oz // IMDB

Actor Pons Maar lent his voice to the Noid, summoning bursts of crazed laughter and bubbly warbling which made the character genuinely weird. Aside from his Noid gig, Maar is perhaps best known as the lead Wheeler in the movie Return to Oz. He also voiced various (somewhat obscure) cartoon roles over the years—the one I remember best is the hissing Saurod from Masters of the Universe. Maar also did puppet work on major productions like Team America: World Police, Monkeybone, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

A Sample Noid Commercial

Here's an example of the Noid in action:

Note: A version of this story first ran on June 3, 2008.

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Kars4Kids, YouTube
The Cruel (But Effective) Agony of the Kars4Kids Jingle
Kars4Kids, YouTube
Kars4Kids, YouTube

It can happen suddenly and without warning. Driving in your vehicle, a commercial break comes on. In addition to the standard pleas to use a specific laundry detergent or contemplate debt consolidation, the voice of a preadolescent, out-of-tune child materializes. Your grip on the steering wheel gets tighter. The child begins to warble:

1-877-Kars-4-Kids, K-A-R-S Kars for Kids, 1-EIGHT-SEVEN-SEVEN-Kars-4-Kids, Donate Your Car Today …

An adult breaks in to repeat the lyrics. The two begin to sing in unison:

1-877-Kars-4-Kids, K-A-R-S Kaaaaars for Kiiiids…Donate Your Car Today!

In roughly a minute, it’s over. You go on with your day. But the song’s repetitive melody sticks to your brain like sap. You hear it when preparing dinner. While brushing your teeth. As you put your head on the pillow. When it's finally worked its way out of your brain and you've started to forget, it reappears.

The song is engineered to be obnoxious. And its producers wouldn't have it any other way.

 
 

Since 1999, an untold number of Americans have found themselves reduced to mewling heaps of distress following exposure to the Kars4Kids jingle. The 501(c) nonprofit organization based in Lakewood, New Jersey, spends up to $17 million annually making sure this earwig of a commercial is played across the country. While the purpose is not expressly to annoy you, the fact that the song is irritating is what makes it memorable. And successful. And more than a little controversial.

Kars4Kids began in 1995 as a way to capitalize on the trend of automotive owners donating their unwanted cars in exchange for a tax deduction. Owners who donate their vehicles are able to get an IRS write-off—though typically for only a percentage of the current value—if they declare it a charitable donation. Kars4Kids arranges for the vehicle to be towed away and sold at auction, with proceeds going to afterschool and summer programs for students.

According to the organization, business was slow until one of their volunteers had an idea to craft a commercial song. The melody was purchased from a singer and songwriter named Country Yossi, and Kars4Kids enlisted a child to perform it at an in-house recording session. It debuted in the New York market in 1999, and spread like the plague to the West Coast by 2005 and nationally by 2007.

Aside from Yossi, however, the company has repeatedly declined to identify anyone else involved with creating the song. The reason? Death threats. The tune has apparently enraged people to the point of contemplating murder. Speaking to SanFranciscoGate.com in 2016, music cognition expert Elizabeth Hellmuth Margulis said that the combination of repetitive structure and the overly simplistic message was engineered to grate the listener's nerves.

“This simple melodic line is also probably responsible for some of the annoyance,” she said. “These kinds of three and four note lines are often the ones specially crafted for kids learning how to play instruments ... It probably conjures up associations of painful practice sessions.”

 
 

The line between irritating and memorable is often blurry. Kars4Kids has repeatedly pointed to the song as being effective in driving telephone traffic to their number. When they debuted a television commercial in 2014—complete with lip-syncing kids who subsequently got bullied for their participation in the spot—donations went up by 50 percent. To date, the company has received 450,000 cars. In 2017, contributions totaled $39 million.

Surprisingly, people have reserved animosity for something other than the commercial. In 2017, Minnesota's attorney general chastised Kars4Kids for not making it clear to donors that many of the children who benefit from the fundraising are located in the northeast: Kids in Minnesota received just $12,000 of the $3 million raised in that state. Other times, the organization has been criticized for leaving information out of their solicitations. In 2009, both Pennsylvania and Oregon fined the charity for failing to disclose a religious affiliation. (Most of the funds raised go toward Orthodox Jewish groups.) Oregon’s Department of Justice said that Kars4Kids needed to disclose such information in its ads.

Those speed bumps aside, the jingle shows no signs of leaving the airwaves any time soon. Rather than run from the negative response, Kars4Kids marinates in it, sharing hateful diatribes from others on social media.

“Newer people join the [media] team and when they are first exposed to the level of hatred on Twitter they'll be like, 'Are you sure you think this is a good idea that we should keep on playing this?,'" Wendy Kirwan, Kars4Kids’s director of public relations, told Billboard in 2016. “And we've looked at that time and again, and we've come to the conclusion that it's definitely worth sticking with.”

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Rebecca O'Connell (Getty Images) (iStock)
How Frozen Peas Made Orson Welles Lose It
Rebecca O'Connell (Getty Images) (iStock)
Rebecca O'Connell (Getty Images) (iStock)

Orson Welles would have turned 103 years old today. While the talented actor/director/writer leaves behind a staggering body of work—including Citizen Kane, long regarded as the best film of all time—the YouTube generation may know him best for what happened when a couple of voiceover directors decided to challenge him while recording an ad for Findus frozen foods in 1970.

The tempestuous Welles is having none of it. You’d do yourself a favor to listen to the whole thing, but here are some choice excerpts.

After he was asked for one more take from the audio engineer:

"Look, I’m not used to having more than one person in there. One more word out of you and you go! Is that clear? I take directions from one person, under protest … Who the hell are you, anyway?"

After it was explained to him that the second take was requested because of a “slight gonk”:

"What is a 'gonk'? Do you mind telling me what that is?"

After the director asks him to emphasize the “in” while saying “In July”:

"Why? That doesn't make any sense. Sorry. There's no known way of saying an English sentence in which you begin a sentence with 'in' and emphasize it. … That's just stupid. 'In July?' I'd love to know how you emphasize 'in' in 'in July.' Impossible! Meaningless!"

When the session moved from frozen peas to ads for fish fingers and beef burgers, the now-sheepish directors attempt to stammer out some instructions. Welles's reply:

"You are such pests! ... In your depths of your ignorance, what is it you want?"

Why would the legendary director agree to shill for a frozen food company in the first place? According to author Josh Karp, whose book Orson Welles’s Last Movie chronicles the director’s odyssey to make a “comeback” film in the 1970s, Welles acknowledged the ad spots were mercenary in nature: He could demand upwards of $15,000 a day for sessions, which he could use, in part, to fund his feature projects.

“Why he dressed down the man, I can't say for sure,” Karp says. “But I know that he was a perfectionist and didn't suffer fools, in some cases to the extreme. He used to take a great interest in the ads he made, even when they weren't of his creation.”

The Findus session was leaked decades ago, popping up on radio and in private collections before hitting YouTube. Voiceover actor Maurice LaMarche, who voiced the erudite Brain in Pinky and the Brain, based the character on Welles and would recite his rant whenever he got the chance.

Welles died in 1985 at the age of 70 from a heart attack, his last film unfinished. While some saw the pea endorsement as beneath his formidable talents, he was actually ahead of the curve: By the 1980s, many A-list stars were supplementing their income with advertising or voiceover work.

“He was a brilliant, funny guy,” Karp says. “There's a good chance he'd think the pea commercial was hilarious.” If not, he’d obviously have no problem saying as much.

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