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Thursday, March 20, 2008

Snake Mittens

Americans, an annoying European explained to me decades ago, are people who buy things they don't need with money they don't have to impress people they don't like. God Bless America (even when we don't sneeze).

I'm a child of the novelty and the more novel something is, the more childish, I mean childlike, my sense of wonder becomes. We have a station on our cable system that, as near as I can determine, has nothing but infomercials (a word that didn't exist until the Eighties because there was no such thing) those long form commercials that look like an television show but sure don't taste like tomato juice, so to speak.

I missed their origins, being overseas toiling away on the Cutting Edge of the Sword of Freedom and all (actually, I was working as a radio and TV dweeb for the American Forces Radio and Television Service, not exactly the hardest duty in the military. If you were a jet mechanic or a tank maintenance grunt and forgot to tighten a belt, there could 'big trouble' in terms of loss of equipment or life. In my case, what would that be? I could miscue a record and the Russians might cross the Fulda Gap? I think not), but I suspect it was during the same Pax Americana that had the Secretary of Health and Human Services (a cabinet-level position) declare that ketchup in school lunches was a vegetable (as opposed to the level of brain activity needed to come to that conclusion).

I love infomercials. There's a series of them starring, though that's an odd word since the humans are props in these things and the Product is King, a bug-eyed woman. I apologize for that characterization, I don't know how else to describe her. Her facial expression is always in a semi-permanent state of astonishment at how many miracle drop cloths you can get for only $14.99 plus shipping and handling or how the Silver Bullet slices, dices and helps you make your own ammo from leftover cole slaw. Her incredulity knows no bounds--and my favorite programs have her in a 'studio audience' setting where she can share her joyous and ineffable delight at learning her latest product can be either a desert topping or a floor polish all in front of a highly enthused group of like-minded folks.

I also call myself a Child of the Sixties (sorry, Robert Klein) and a Yankee Junior but I can remember sitting on a coffee table in 'my house' which was an apartment in Elechester, which was in Flushing, Long Island, watching, on a little black and white TV as Jack LaLanne would pull a HUGE truck, with tractor, attached to a chain with his teeth to prove how big and strong he was. I did my four-year old interpretation of his jumping jacks, and sit-ups and all the other exercises he handed out to us in a fifteen minute show (even then, span of attention was a problem in the USA, I guess) all to the bemusement of my Mom. I said good night prayers to God in those days and knew He was all-powerful but suspected Jack could give Him a run for His money. And now, look at him. What is he? Something like two hundred and fourteen years old? And all he has left is this Juicer thing that looks like it might be a vegetable shredder except such an item would be neater.

It's not just that he drinks the juice produced by squeezing an orange, two Lima beans, a stalk of celery, a strawberry and what looks like a tennis ball, though that process is sometimes a bit off-putting, even on Thursday mornings at a quarter of three when the Jack has finally run out and I remember why I hate the taste of cola neat, but that he opens this little compartment where all the guts from all this stuff has ended up and then he eats that because it's so full of nutrients and that's the secret to how he's lived this long. Thanks for that tip, Jack. He's still wearing one of those one-piece black gym suits, or jump suits, that zip up the front, fifty years later, but now everyone, to include the folks seated in the studio audience, are all taller than he is, and he doesn't notice that. Is that part of the Juicer's legacy as well? And considering the shape most of us are in watching this stuff, how funny is the name of the product you want me to put on my Visa card?

I'm not giving Ron Popeil a pass or pulling punches on a guy like Billy Mays. Somewhere I still probably have the Popeil pocket fisherman I bought with my own money in the hopes my Dad would take me fishing, not that that ever happened. And Jerry, if I knew where it was, you could have it for your mentoring outreach since it has, obviously, little sentimental value.
With Billy Mays, I've never really understood the appeal of a guy who yells at me for 30 minutes. He calls it enthusiasm-I call it irritating, be it for Oxy Clean or the fake chamois, or those little skinny hooks that you push through drywall and that hold up to 7.6 metric tons or some such number. Didja notice how Billy never stands under any of the heavy objects Dick and Doof mount on the wall? His mother raised crazy (and VERY LOUD) children, but not stupid ones.
And the jury's still out on whether they'll support a Juicer and no, you don't wanna know how I would know that. The sun is not yellow; it's chicken.
-bill kenny

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I have to hear exactly what Todd will change with that!?!