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Catching Up With 9 Advertising Icons

There's a lot of buzz around this year's slate of Super Bowl ads. But will you even remember these commercials next year? Let's catch up with nine advertising icons who've managed to stick around for at least a generation—in our memories, at least.

1. Crazy Eddie

Crazy Eddie dominated the New York airwaves from the mid-seventies until bankruptcy in 1989. Not until Eddie Antar fled to Israel to escape fraud charges did I realize the TV spokesnut and CEO were not the same person. (I was 10, and in my defense probably hadn't given this much thought.)

Crazy Eddie (the actor) was played by Jerry Carroll, a DJ for WPIX-FM in New York. Since 1989, Carroll has appeared in commercials for 6th Avenue Electronics and Neil's Auto Group, a Long Island car dealership. He started an advertising agency with his wife called East Coast Media. And he reprised his role during the unsuccessful Crazy Eddie relaunch.

After his extradition in 1992, Crazy Eddie (the CEO) was sentenced to 12.5 years in jail. One of the U.S. Attorneys prosecuting him was former Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff. The verdict was thrown out, and Eddie later accepted a plea agreement that put him behind bars for nearly seven years. An attempt to revive Crazy Eddie (the store) as an online retailer was not successful.

2. The Gerber Baby

babyjpg1.jpgMystery author Ann Turner Cook found fame early in life, as the model for the Gerber logo. As a four-month-old, she was the subject of a simple charcoal sketch by her Westport, CT, neighbor, Dorothy Hope Smith "“ an artist who specialized in drawing children.

After a lifetime of teaching literature, Cook wrote three novels: Trace Their Shadows, Shadow Over Cedar Key, and Homosassa Shadows.

While we're on the subject, Snopes has debunked the sub-Saharan legend that Africans believed jars of Gerber actually contained liquefied Caucasian baby.

3. Wendy

wendy.jpg

Founded in 1969, Wendy's was named for Dave Thomas' daughter, Melinda Lou (nicknamed Wendy by her siblings). She went on to attend the University of Florida. And now Wendy takes her kids to the restaurant that bears her name every day. Just like her father.

As of 2007, in addition to her frequent dining, she was operating 32 Wendy's restaurants with her siblings.

4. Little Miss Coppertone

coppertone.jpg Joyce Ballantyne Brand used her 3-year-old daughter, Cheri, as the model for Little Miss Coppertone in 1959. Today Cheri works as a personal trainer at a YMCA in Florida. According to the St. Petersburg Times, her mother has lived a fascinating life. "She spent two years at the University of Nebraska and two years at the American Academy of Art in Chicago. She met and married her first husband, artist Eddie Augustiny. She said she drew pictures for dictionaries, did maps for Rand McNally, painted murals for movie theaters and learned to fly a plane. She was barely 25."

Ms. Ballantyne Brand went on to create memorable work for Pampers, Ovaltine and Schlitz. In the mid-1970s, she and her husband moved from Chicago to Ocala, Florida. She passed away in 2006.

5. Dutch Boy

dutchboy.jpgThe Dutch Boy was, in fact, an Irish kid from Montclair, New Jersey. The Dutch boy idea came from a series of sketches by Rudolph Yook, which were to be refined by portrait artist Lawrence Earle in 1907. He spotted Michael Brady and offered him a $2/day cash windfall for posing duties.

Dave Yates has written about Dutch Boy, explaining what Brady did with his paycheck: "Arrangements were made: wooden shoes, blue coveralls and the cap were purchased, and Michael was asked to wear them for a few days so they'd look natural on him. His playmates had great fun at his expense until they discovered he was being paid the princely sum of $2 per day, which in 1907 bought great gobs of candy and soda pop for him and his friends. He consumed so much himself that, by the third day, he became ill and the family doctor was summoned to diagnose a mysterious stomach ailment!"

Brady grew up to become a political cartoonist, whose work was published by the Brooklyn Eagle.

6. Sailor Jack

crackerjack.jpg
Boxes of Cracker Jack featured Sailor Jack and his faithful dog, Bingo. Jack was inspired by Robert Rueckheim, the grandson of the company's founder. Robert tragically died of pneumonia when he was only eight. The image of Sailor Jack is etched into his tombstone at St. Henry's Cemetery in Chicago.

7. The FedEx Fast Talker/The MicroMachines Guy

fedex.gifJohn Moschitta, Jr., has talked his way into commercials for both Federal Express and Micro Machines. He's done a stint on Sesame Street, served as the announcer on the new Hollywood Squares, and lent his voice to Transformers: The Movie. Moschitta has also rapidly summarized our greatest literature in Ten Classics in Ten Minutes.

He was #6 on a recent list of the Ten Creepiest Advertising Icons (Crazy Eddie also made the list, at #10). More recently, he parodied his fast-talking self on Robot Chicken.

8. Little Debbie

LittleDebbie.jpg"Little Debbie" is Debbie McKee, granddaughter of founder O.D. McKee. She's parlayed her child modeling into a career with McKee Foods, where she's currently on the Board of Directors.

Little Debbie now sponsors NASCAR, but on her terms. According to a 2007 press release: "The McKee family wanted an association with a NASCAR team, but on terms that upheld its convictions. Typical sponsors want maximum exposure. That's what they pay for. Little Debbie may seem to be everywhere, but come Saturday, you won't find her at a NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series track. The McKee family observes its Sabbath from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday. They are Seventh day Adventists and while their products may be sold on their Sabbath, the business of promoting sales stops for one day each week."

9. Mikey

mikey.jpgContrary to popular belief, Mikey did not die in a tragic Pop Rocks/soda accident. I enjoyed how Wikipedia put it: "The myth — long since disproved as both nonfactual (as John Gilchrist is still alive) and scientifically improbable (as the chemicals in both Pop Rocks and soda are not capable of exploding a human stomach) — still resurfaces every few years, usually surrounding an identifiable child actor."

Gilchrist went on to appear in over 250 commercials in his teenage years. As of 2000, John Gilchrist had found a home on the other side of the camera. Or more accurately, in a different room entirely, with cameras not involved at all. He found work as an advertising salesman for WKTU, a New York radio station.

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Maynard L. Parker/Courtesy of The Huntington Library in San Marino, California
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The Concept of the American 'Backyard' is Newer Than You Think
A home in Long Beach, California, in the 1950s.
A home in Long Beach, California, in the 1950s.
Maynard L. Parker/Courtesy of The Huntington Library in San Marino, California

Backyards are as American as apple pie and baseball. If you live in a suburban or rural area, chances are good that you have a lawn, and maybe a pool, some patio furniture, and a grill to boot.

This wasn’t always the case, though. As Smithsonian Insider reports, it wasn’t until the 1950s that Americans began to consider the backyard an extension of the home, as well as a space for recreation and relaxation. After World War II, Americans started leaving the big cities and moving to suburban homes that came equipped with private backyards. Then, after the 40-hour work week was implemented and wages started to increase, families started spending more money on patios, pools, and well-kept lawns, which became a “symbol of prosperity” in the 1950s, according to a new Smithsonian Institution exhibit.

A man mows his lawn in the 1950s
In this photo from the Smithsonian Institution's exhibit, a man mows his lawn in Long Beach, California, in the 1950s.
Maynard L. Parker/Courtesy of The Huntington
Library in San Marino, California

Entitled "Patios, Pools, & the Invention of the American Back Yard," the exhibition includes photographs, advertisements, and articles about backyards from the 1950s and 1960s. The traveling display is currently on view at the Temple Railroad & Heritage Museum in Temple, Texas, and from there it will head to Hartford, Connecticut, in December.

Prior to the 1950s, outdoor yards were primarily workspaces, MLive.com reports. Some families may have had a vegetable garden, but most yards were used to store tools, livestock, and other basic necessities.

The rise of the backyard was largely fueled by materials that were already on hand, but hadn’t been accessible to the average American during World War II. As Smithsonian Insider notes, companies that had manufactured aluminum and concrete for wartime efforts later switched to swimming pools, patio furniture, and even grilling utensils.

A family eats at a picnic table in the 1960s
A family in Mendham, New Jersey, in the 1960s
Molly Adams/Courtesy of the Smithsonian Institution, Archives of American Gardens, Maida Babson Adams American Garden Collection

At the same time, DIY projects started to come into fashion. According to an exhibit caption of a Popular Mechanics article from the 1950s, “‘Doing-it-yourself’ was advertised as an enjoyable and affordable way for families to individualize their suburban homes.” The magazine wrote at the time that “patios, eating areas, places for play and relaxation are transforming back yards throughout the nation.”

The American backyard continues to grow to this day. As Bloomberg notes, data shows that the average backyard grew three years in a row, from 2015 to 2017. The average home last year had 7048 square feet of outdoor space—plenty of room for a sizable Memorial Day cookout.

[h/t Smithsonian Insider]

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