Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Where Would We Be Without You, Clara Peller?

You really can't bring up 1980's pop culture without mentioning everybody's favorite comic grandma, Clara Peller. She appeared in a Wendy's commercial in 1984 and became an instant celebrity. The fiesty little old lady with the signature catch phrase that you couldn't get out of your head...all together now, folks....


Yeah, the early '80s were full of this stuff. Rubik's Cube, Pac-Man, Devo, Michael Jackson's Thriller, MTV, Atari, Cabbage Patch Kids, and "Where's the beef?" Eh, it was probably better if you were a kid at the time.

Clara Peller was huge. Freakin' huge. You really have no idea; she was literally everywhere. Wendy's continued a number of comedy commercials, and even commissioned a 45 record. I still remember a puzzle with her likeness that Wendy's sold with their Happy Meals, or whatever they were called. Like you would know that. They're Happy Meals. Get over it.

The story of St. Clara had a tragic ending. In 1985, she appeared in a commercial for Prego Sauce, sitting in a rocking chair, gleefully boasting, "I finally found it! After all these years, I finally found it!" Wendy's reacted in the calm, compassionate way that so perfectly captured the spirit of the Reagan Era - they fired her.

On August 11, 1987, St. Clara died. That's right. Wendy's killed off Clara Peller. Sick evil bastards. It's enough to make you wanna walk into the nearest store and shout at the employees, "You bastards killed Clara Peller!"

But let's remember the good times. What amazes me is that this whole pop phenom ever happened. Can you imagine any tv ad creating that kind of national craze? There have been fads here and there - "Can you hear me now?" and "Whazzup!!" come to mind - but those are all minor blips compared to the pure comic genius that was St. Clara. I'm serious. Watch the commercial for yourself. This woman, a hairdresser by trade, possessed impeccable comic timing. Three words. That's all. And you're instantly hooked. Admit it.

Okay, the '80s became a mess somewhere between Hair Metal, Rambo and Iran Contra, but this was from the good part of the decade. Don't even try to pretend you don't like this.

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