Voice of Aquaman, Norman Alden, Character Actor for 50 Years Dies

The first celebrity I ever met was an actress called Judy Strangis. It was at Universal Studios in California in the mid 70’s. I watched her on a TV series called “Room 222” and had seen her in a few TV appearances of “Batman.” During these shows she worked alongside Julie Newmar who played the slinky, conniving Catwoman. Electra Woman and Dyna GirlWhen I met Ms. Strangis she was working on “Electra Woman and Dyna Girl”, a children’s Saturday morning program. In this female version of Batman, the women donned outfits with capes and battled a bevy of costumed villains. They operated out of the secret Electrabase, which was headed by Frank Heflin. Heflin designed and built the heroines’ sophisticated equipment, and he helped them track down the bad guy of the week using the mysterious, high tech gadgetry that also gave them their special powers. Heflin was played by Norman Alden, a character actor who had parts in hundreds of films, TV shows and commercials.

Norman Alden has taken his final taxi at 87.

Alden entertained me – and countless other children – for many years. I was an avid Justice League of America comic book fan so when the cartoon “Super Friends” came out in 1972, I was jazzed to see some of my favorite heroes every Saturday morning. Alden was the voice of several characters on the show but is perhaps best known as the voice of Aquaman.

Born in Fort Worth, Texas, Alden got his start on “The Bob Cummings Show” in 1957 and appeared in hundreds of TV series episodes, including ” Rugrats,” “Honey West,” “Fay,” “My Three Sons,” “Bonanza” “My Favorite Martian,” “The Big Valley,” Lassie,” “The Streets of San Francisco,” “Hogan’s Heroes ,” “The Rookies,” “Adam-12,” “Aaahh!!! Real Monsters,” “Combat!,” “Planet of the Apes,” “Charlie’s Angels,” “JAG” and “Rango” where he had a recurring role as Capt. Horton.Norman Alden In the mid 1970s, he starred in episodes of the comedy TV soap opera parody “Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman” until his character Coach Leroy Fedders drowned in a bowl of soup. I recall him being in the 1960s television series “Batman,” where he played one of the Joker’s henchmen.

One of my favorite Disney films is “The Sword in the Stone” (1963). In the movie, Alden voiced Sir Kay, King Arthur’s brother. He played Johnny Ringo in 1961’s “The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp” and also had movie roles in “Tora! Tora! Tora!” (1970), “I Never Promised You a Rose Garden” (1977), “Semi-Tough” (1977), “They Live” (1988), “Ed Wood”(1994), “Patch Adams” (1998),”K-Pax” (2001) and in the 1986 animated film “Transformers” where he played the voice of a Kranix, a robot who narrowly escapes destruction by Unicron, voiced by Orson Welles. Many will remember him in 1985’s “Back to the Future” as the owner of the coffee shop who employs future mayor Goldie Wilson. One of the funniest scenes in the movies is his character’s exchange with Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) about “Pepsi Free.”

This multi-talented man – and his face and voice – will be sorely missed.


Alan Sues – One Nutty Guy

I think I grew up eating nothing but peanut butter sandwiches.

There was always that satisfying mix of peanut butter with jellies, jams, bananas, honey or even apples served in our kitchen. Mom always had first choice of getting the brand name but sometimes us kids were given a chance to pick what type we would get. There was Koogle peanut butter flavored with chocolate, cinnamon, vanilla and banana. Other favorites were Jif, Skippy and the local Bama brand. There was even one pre- mixed with grape jelly…but the one I always wanted to buy was Peter Pan.

Sure I knew who the character was from the Disney cartoon and the old Mary Martin television specials, but the real reason I like this brand was because of the crazy commercial that aired on TV featuring an insane and bumbling adult dressed as Peter Pan pushing the product. In the 70’s this was played by comedian Alan Sues.

Alan Sues took his Final Taxi this week at the age of 85.

Sues will be better known by some people as the flamboyant regular comic on “Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In” in the late 1960s and early ’70s. He played mostly effeminate characters, such as Big Al, in a time when ‘coming out’ meant the end of your professional career. Sues joined the weekly cast of Goldie Hawn, Ruth Buzzi, Judy Carne, Jo Anne Worley, Arte Johnson and Henry Gibson in the hip and wacky comedy show.

Sues played in a few films such as “The Americanization of Emily” (1964) and “ Snowballing” (1984) but I adored him in the 1980 movie “O Heavenly Dog” with Chevy Chase, Jane Seymour and Benji. He also appeared in episodes of “The Twilight Zone”, “The Wild Wild West”, and “Punky Brewster”. He was the jealous reindeer in “Rudolph and Frosty’s Christmas in July”.

Alan Sues was one nutty guy.


Youtube commercial for Peter Pan:

Pringles Can Inventor Buried In His Own Package

I remember my mother buying “Pringle’s Newfangled Potato Chips” sometime in the 1976. It was not long before when everyone at my school was bringing in these tube cans of chips that all looked exactly alike. I didn’t like them because of that. Every Pringles looked just like the other and tasted that way too. Where was the diversity?

Pringles are a brand of potato snacks produced by Procter & Gamble. Pringles were first sold in the United States in October of 1968; they were not rolled out across America until the mid-1970s. The name was chosen from a Pringle Avenue in Finneytown, Ohio because it had pleasing sound.

According to the patent , Pringles were invented by Alexander Liepa of Montgomery, Ohio. Science Fiction and Fantasy author Gene Wolfe developed the machine that cooks them. It’s famous logo is a stylized representation of a man with a large moustache and parted bangs.

Pringles are especially known for their packaging invented by Fred Baur, which consists of a tubular can with a foil-coated interior, and a resealable plastic lid. It is Fred Baur who has taken his Final Taxi, but that taxi takes the shape of one of his famous designed cans. For Baur has asked for his ashes to buried in one of the iconic cans.
The man who designed the Pringles can had part of his cremated remains buried in one, his family says.

Fredric J. Baur, of Cincinnati, was an organic chemist and food storage technician who specialized in research and development and quality control for Cincinnati-based Procter & Gamble Co.

Baur filed for a patent for the tubular Pringles container and for the method of packaging the curved, stacked chips in the container in 1966, and it was granted in 1970, P&G archivist Ed Rider said.

The 89 year old inventor’s children said they honored their father’s request to bury him in one of the cans by placing part of his cremated remains in a Pringles container in his grave in suburban Springfield Township.

The rest of his remains were placed in an urn buried along with the can, with some placed in another urn and given to a grandson.

My question is: was Baur buried in a 170g, 163g, 50g, or 23g size can?

PODCAST: Life Squeezed From Mr. Whipple- Dick Wilson

Mr. Whipple Takes Final Taxi- Download the MP3

The man who made the phrase “Please don’t squeeze the Charmin” famous, Dick Wilson, has taken his Final Taxi at  91.

Mr. WhippleFor more than 20 years Wilson appeared as Mr. Whipple in the television ads for Charmin. As a grocery store manager he would monitor the aisles and ask customers to refrain from picking up the paper product and squeezing it.

Wilson also appeared on several episodes of “Hogan’s Heroes” and “Bewitched.”

Restauranteur Bob Evans Is In Hog Heaven

How many times have you ever stopped and ate at one of his restaurants?

You have seen them. There is over 590 Bob Evan’s restaurants in 18 states.

The creator of this food chain Bob Evan has cruised down the road taking his Final Taxi at 89.

Evans ventured into the restaurant business in the 1940s, operating a small diner. Evans complained that he could not get good sausage for the restaurant. So with $1,000, a couple of hogs, 40 pounds of black pepper, 50 pounds of sage and other secret ingredients, the farmer opted to make his own, relying on the hog’s best parts as opposed to the scraps commonly used in sausage. He began selling it at the restaurant and mom-and-pop stores, and peddled tubs of it out of the back of his pickup truck.

Evans formed Bob Evans Farms in 1953 with five friends and relatives. The chain emphasizes farm-fresh food, cleanliness and service in a homey atmosphere.

In the 1960s, the first Bob Evans Restaurant opened its doors in Rio Grande, eventually becoming the first in a chain of restaurants that made up the Bob Evans Farms, Inc.

The company also operates 108 Mimi’s Cafe casual restaurants in 19 states, mostly in the West. Its sausage and other products are sold in grocery stores.

Although Evans retired from the company in 1986, he remained actively involved in his community and numerous causes. Evans encouraged local farmers to utilize livestock grazing techniques that are friendlier to the environment and more efficient, and he promoted wildlife preservation. He also used his passion for agriculture to support groups like the Future Farmers of America (FFA) and 4-H.

..But Wait, There More: Ronco Declares Bankruptcy

Well- another Father’s day went by and I didn’t get what I had hoped for from my children. I guess I should be happy that I didn’t end up with a Popeil Pocket Fisherman.

For years now we have been bombarded with TV commercials trying to sell you everything from the Veg-O-Matic ( It slices, it dices, it makes 100s of French fries..) to Ginsu knives. We have bought a few items through the years. I had the record vacuum that you place your vinyl LP in and it spins it around and sucks off the dust. ( I ruined my brother’s Mike Oldsfield Tubular Bells record with it.)

I had bought my mother the Armorcote non-stick pan. It worked till the non-stick part came off in a dish she was making.

I even still have a few LPs that were made with the Ronco label. One from the UK has a great collection of New Wave hits.

Well it looks like that famous name of Ronco will be taking it Final Taxi as they have filed for bankruptcy in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Woodland Hills, California.

Ron Popeil, 72, started the Chatsworth, California-based company around 1958 and became a household name by hawking products in late-night television ads. He was known for infomercials selling his products and got his start pitching his father’s Veg-O-Matic manual food processor . During the 1970s, Ron Popeil began developing products on his own to sell through Ronco. Ronco became a household name with its commercials for kitchen products including the Ginsu knife, and Armorcote (and Armorecote II) non-stick saucepans and frying pans. They aired incessantly, especially during off-hour TV viewing times, these commercials became known for their catchphrases such as “…but wait, there’s more!” “50-year guarantee” (later expanded to a “lifetime guarantee”), and “…how much would you pay now?”

Other inventions by Popeil include a machine that scrambles eggs inside the shell, a food dehydrator, an automatic pasta maker and a spray to cover bald spots on people’s heads. Among the company’s best-selling gadgets is the Pocket Fisherman, a compact rod and reel. I think my kids bought my wife the Showtime Rotisserie, a small oven designed for cooking meat and poultry, using Popeil’s latest catch-phrase: “Set it, and forget it.”

I know people who still have the electric shock to tighten up your stomach muscles with a 9 volt battery- or the one that shocks your acne away.

Ronco’s television ads were so familiar to viewers that they were spoofed by several comedians including Dan Aykroyd’s famous 1976 sketch on “Saturday Night Live.” In the sketch, Aykroyd advertises the “Super Bass-O-Matic ’76” by “Rovco,” a blender that

turns a whole fish into a brown liquid, which is then drunk by Laraine Newman, who co-starred in the segment.

“Wow, that’s terrific bass!” she says.

Stand-up comedian Gallagher satirizes Ronco with perhaps his most famous routine involving a large wooden mallet called the “Sledge-o-Matic”, used to pulverize fruit, other food items and still other random objects. Gallagher delivers the routine in a manner similar to Popeil in his infomercials.

According to a court filing, its current assets include inventory of $7.7 million and $3 million in cash and uncollected bills. The company said it generated $45 million of revenue last year. The company has arranged bankruptcy financing, and the restructuring is supported by secured lenders, he said. A hearing to approve the new loan and other court requests has been set for June 19.

So is this the end of Ronco? Somehow I think we may still hear the phase “..but wait, there’s more..”

Cream of Wheat Chef gets gravestone 69 years later.

Frank White- Cream of Wheat Man

I never was a big oatmeal eater when I was a kid. During the cold months mom would cook me Cream of Wheat instead.

I remember staring at the box as this black chef smiled at me every morning. I often wondered if this was a real person or a character much like Tony the Tiger or Capn’ Crunch.

He was REAL!

In fact the man widely believed to be the model for the white-hatted chef whose face has greeted breakfasting Americans for more than a century on Cream of Wheat boxes finally has a grave marker bearing his name just this week.

Frank L. White died in 1938, and until this week, his grave in Woodlawn Cemetery in Leslie, Michigan bore only a tiny concrete marker with no name.

On Wednesday, a granite gravestone was placed at his burial site. It bears his name and an etching taken from the man depicted on the Cream of Wheat box.

Jesse Lasorda, a family researcher from Lansing, started the campaign to put the marker and etching on White’s grave.

“Everybody deserves a headstone,” Lasorda told the Lansing State Journal. He discovered that White was born about 1867 in Barbados, came to the U.S. in 1875 and became a citizen in 1890.

When White died Feb. 15, 1938, the local paper, the Leslie Local-Republican, described him as a “famous chef” who “posed for an advertisement of a well-known breakfast food.”

White lived in Leslie for about the last 20 years of his life, and the story of his posing for the Cream of Wheat picture was known in the city of 2,000 located between Jackson and Lansing and about 70 miles west of Detroit.

The chef was photographed about 1900 while working in a Chicago restaurant. His name was not recorded. White was a chef, traveled a lot, was about the right age and told neighbors that he was the Cream of Wheat model, the Jackson Citizen Patriot said.

I can’t help but wonder if Nancy Green, the lady who was used for the logo of Aunt Jemima, has a grave stone telling who she was.

Memorable Ads From Howard Field

As I think back about all the TV I watched as a kid, you have to admit that if the TV show sucked you always had some good commercials to watch. At least they were memorable.

Okay, I will have to admit that we’ve occasionally been known to sneak off to the bathroom or kitchen or to Tijuana during commercial breaks. But there were certain ads that will always stick in our brains.

Who can forget Rosie the waitress, or Josephine the plumber? They were strong roles and they kept us entertained while selling their product.

Clad in silver armor and mounted on a white steed, the Ajax White Knight galloped valiantly down neighborhood streets zapping dirty laundry with his magic white lance  to the tune of “Stronger than Dirt.”

How about the Wesson oil commercial where the father comes in and ask the mother what the daughter is doing cooking bread in Wesson. I think you could fry anything in that stuff from fried chicken to the neighbor’s cat.

The reason for my remembering these is that the creator of these and many other commercials, Howard Field has taken his Final Taxi.

 After graduating USC he was signed as the youngest contract writer at MGM Studios. He was one of the first writers of plays for television. But the Big Apple beckoned and he went off to write for Young & Rublacam, Grey and Compton Advertising Agencies. He began the character commercials that were ground breaking.

Besides the ones I had talked about Field also gave us the Revlon commercials which featured Barbara Feldon, and he made us want to bake great Duncan Hines cakes.

 Howard Field won many Clio’s for his creativity.

One never knows what kind of impact you will have on people, even in just creating TV ads.