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10 Sweet and Colorful Facts About Mike and Ike

Through wars, presidential administrations, and even a manufactured breakup, the famous candy duo has seen it all in 75 years together. Here are a few facts about the early days, their public split, and whether or not Mike and Ike were real people.

1. THEY DEBUTED IN 1940.

Sam Born, a Russian immigrant who made a fortune by inventing a machine that inserted sticks into lollipops, started the Just Born candy company in 1923. The name was meant to imply freshness, and the original Just Born logo was a slightly creepy picture of a baby lying on a candy scale. In its early years, the company relied mainly on acquisitions for revenue. Then in 1940, eager to harness the growing demand for fruity, gummy candies, Just Born came out with its first major brand—Mike and Ike.

2. MIKE AND IKE DON’T EXIST.

Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Just like Aunt Jemima and Betty Crocker, Mike and Ike are fictional food characters. As for where the names originated, nobody knows—not even the company (or so they claim). Popular theories include a reference to Dwight Eisenhower, to a popular vaudeville act, and to a 1937 song titled “Mike and Ike (The Twins).” In response to a question on its website about the names’ origin, Just Born cheekily claims that Mike and Ike are “the founders of Mike and Ike candy brand.”

3. JELLYBEANS AND MARSHMALLOWS HELPED THE COMPANY GROW.

In 1953, Just Born purchased the Rodda Candy Company, which specialized in manufacturing marshmallows and jellybeans. Rodda’s jellybean expertise helped Just Born expand Mike and Ike into new fruit flavors and additional varieties like cotton candy. The marshmallow Easter Peeps that Rodda workers painstakingly made by hand, meanwhile, were automated by Sam Born’s son, Bob, and became a mainstream hit.

4. THE FIRST FLAVOR ADDITIONS INCLUDED ROOT-T-TOOT AND JACK AND JILL.

Mike and Ike’s original fruit mix, which contained cherry, orange, lemon and lime candies, carried the brand through its early years. Starting in the ‘60s, the company began introducing new flavors like Root-T-Toot, Jack and Jill and Jolly Joe’s. The first was a root beer flavored candy that featured a smiling steamboat on the package. The company discontinued it in the '70s, and then brought it back as a limited anniversary edition in the late '90s. Apparently that went over well, since a few years later Just Born released a Root Beer Float flavor. Earlier this year, the company brought Root Beer Float back once more, along with the popular Cotton Candy flavor. In all, there have been close to 40 different flavors of Mike and Ike.

5. THE FIRST MIKE AND IKE WERE A PAIR OF DANDIES.

For years, Just Born resisted depicting Mike and Ike in physical form. Then in the '60s, the company updated its Original Fruit packaging to show two mustachioed gents. One wore a top hat and resembled a redheaded Willy Wonka, while the other was a stouter, Dr. Watson-esque figure donning a green bowler. Was this a nod to the brand’s vaudeville origins? Perhaps. The characters were certainly a far cry from the two dudes representing Mike and Ike these days.

6. THEY’RE BIG AT THE MOVIES.

Mike and Ike is the best-selling non-chocolate candy at movie theaters, and has been for years. Most movie theaters carry the 5-ounce theater box, but super fans can also upgrade to the 1-pound and 1.5-pound boxes.

7. THEY WENT THROUGH A VERY PUBLIC SPLIT.

Three years ago, the fictional characters announced (via a very pricey media campaign) that they were going their separate ways. Mike, the musician, and Ike, the artist, just couldn’t see eye to eye on the direction the company was going, and decided to pursue separate interests. Or something. The campaign was a way for the brand to enter the national conversation, and to appeal to the much sought-after teen demographic. It unfolded on product packaging, with one or the other name scribbled out, and across national ads, the company’s Facebook page and fake Tumblr accounts given to both characters. "Instead of all this hassle, now I’m just gonna jam,” Mike wrote. “Been laying down heat with my friend Blaze.” Kids these days.

8. THE CAMPAIGN BOOSTED SALES.

Just Born spent $15 million on its breakup campaign in 2012. Just for perspective, the previous year the company only spent $125,000 on advertising. So a lot was riding on the faltering bromance—and according to most reports, it succeeded. Sales of Mike and Ike saw their biggest increase in more than a decade, the brand’s Facebook page tripled its number of fans, and Barack Obama (among others) became a follower of the company’s branded Twitter account.

9. THEIR SPLIT ANGERED THE RELIGIOUS RIGHT.

Although Just Born never specifically said Mike and Ike were gay, that’s the way some interpreted the duo after announcing their split. One of the most vocal critics was Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council. In a radio address, he claimed the company had a political agenda and was “sexualizing candy.” And despite the fact Mike and Ike were never joined in matrimony at any point in their 70-year relationship, Perkins also claimed the candy duo was “chipping away at the value of marriage.”

10. THEY EVENTUALLY GOT BACK TOGETHER.

The manufactured breakup eventually came full circle, and Mike and Ike repaired their friendship/romance/whatever. The company celebrated the reunion with sleek new packaging and a new flavor called Strawberry Reunion. There was also a very dramatic movie trailer that aired on national TV.

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Pop Culture
How Jimmy Buffett Turned 'Margaritaville' Into a Way of Life
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Few songs have proven as lucrative as “Margaritaville,” a modest 1977 hit by singer and songwriter Jimmy Buffett that became an anthem for an entire life philosophy. The track was the springboard for Buffett’s business empire—restaurants, apparel, kitchen appliances, and more—marketing the taking-it-easy message of its tropical print lyrics.

After just a few years of expanding that notion into other ventures, the “Parrot Heads” of Buffett’s fandom began to account for $40 million in annual revenue—and that was before the vacation resorts began popping up.

Jimmy Buffett performs for a crowd
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“Margaritaville,” which turned 40 this year, was never intended to inspire this kind of devotion. It was written after Buffett, as an aspiring musician toiling in Nashville, found himself in Key West, Florida, following a cancelled booking in Miami and marveling at the sea of tourists clogging the beaches.

Like the other songs on his album, Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes, it didn’t receive a lot of radio play. Instead, Buffett began to develop his following by opening up for The Eagles. Even at 30, Buffett was something less than hip—a flip-flopped performer with a genial stage presence that seemed to invite an easygoing vibe among crowds. “Margaritaville,” an anthem to that kind of breezy attitude, peaked at number eight on the Billboard charts in 1977. While that’s impressive for any single, its legacy would quickly evolve beyond the music industry's method for gauging success.

What Buffett realized as he continued to perform and tour throughout the early 1980s is that “Margaritaville” had the ability to sedate audiences. Like a hypnotist, the singer could immediately conjure a specific time and place that listeners wanted to revisit. The lyrics painted a scene of serenity that became a kind of existential vacation for Buffett's fans:

Nibblin' on sponge cake,
Watchin' the sun bake;
All of those tourists covered with oil.
Strummin' my six string on my front porch swing.
Smell those shrimp —
They're beginnin' to boil.

By 1985, Buffett was ready to capitalize on that goodwill. In Key West, he opened a Margaritaville store, which sold hats, shirts, and other ephemera to residents and tourists looking to broadcast their allegiance to his sand-in-toes fantasy. (A portion of the proceeds went to Save the Manatees, a nonprofit organization devoted to animal conservation.) The store also sold the Coconut Telegraph, a kind of propaganda newsletter about all things Buffett and his chill perspective.

When Buffett realized patrons were coming in expecting a bar or food—the song was named after a mixed drink, after all—he opened a cafe adjacent to the store in late 1987. The configuration was ideal, and through the 1990s, Buffett and business partner John Cohlan began erecting Margaritaville locations in Florida, New Orleans, and eventually Las Vegas and New York. All told, more than 21 million people visit a Buffett-inspired hospitality destination every year.

A parrot at Margaritaville welcomes guests
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Margaritaville-branded tequila followed. So, too, did a line of retail foods like hummus, a book of short stories, massive resorts, a Sirius radio channel, and drink blenders. Buffett even wrote a 242-page script for a Margaritaville movie that he had hoped to film in the 1980s. It’s one of the very few Margaritaville projects that has yet to have come to fruition, but it might be hard for Buffett to complain much. In 2015, his entire empire took in $1.5 billion in sales.

As of late, Buffett has signed off on an Orlando resort due to open in 2018, offering “casual luxury” near the boundaries of Walt Disney World. (One in Hollywood, Florida, is already a hit, boasting a 93 percent occupancy rate.) Even for guests that aren’t particularly familiar with his music, “Jimmy Buffett” has become synonymous with comfort and relaxation just as surely as Walt Disney has with family entertainment. The association bodes well for a business that will eventually have to move beyond Buffett’s concert-going loyalists.

Not that he's looking to leave them behind. The 70-year-old Buffett is planning on a series of Margaritaville-themed retirement communities, with the first due to open in Daytona Beach in 2018. More than 10,000 Parrot Heads have already registered, eager to watch the sun set while idling in a frame of mind that Buffett has slowly but surely turned into a reality.

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Design
The Secret to the World's Most Comfortable Bed Might Be Yak Hair
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Tengi

Savoir Beds laughs at your unspooling mail-order mattresses and their promises of ultimate comfort. The UK-based company has teamed with London's Savoy Hotel to offer what they’ve declared is one of the most luxurious nights of sleep you’ll ever experience. 

What do they have that everyone else lacks? About eight pounds of Mongolian yak hair.

The elegantly-named Savoir No. 1 Khangai Limited Edition is part of the hotel’s elite Royal Suite accommodations. For $1845 a night, guests can sink into the mattress with a topper stuffed full of yak hair from Khangai, Mongolia. Hand-combed and with heat-dispensing properties, it takes 40 yaks to make one topper. In a press release, collaborator and yarn specialist Tengri claims it “transcends all levels of comfort currently available.”

Visitors opting for such deluxe amenities also have access to a hair stylist, butler, chef, and a Rolls-Royce with a driver.

Savoir Beds has entered into a fair-share partnership with the farmers, who receive an equitable wage in exchange for the fibers, which are said to be softer than cashmere. If you’d prefer to luxuriate like that every night, the purchase price for the bed is $93,000. Purchased separately, the topper is $17,400. Act soon, as only 50 of the beds will be made available each year. 

[h/t Travel + Leisure]

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