Monday, March 29, 2010


One of my regular readers, name of Lydia, points out that Conan O'Brien has been twitting about Circus Liquor, in North Hollywood, at the corner of Burbank and Vinleand Boulevards. I know it well, and drive by it once in a while, and I had thought of including it in my post about clown-related consumption.

The reason I didn't was that I don't have a my own picture of the sign, and although there are many fine ones online, most of them are very recognizably the work of particular photographers and I'm being careful about just filching things off the web.

Howeevr, since Conan's giving it away for free on twitter, here it is.

Conan's caption reads, "This is down the street from where we're rehearsing. I guess nothing sells liquor like a maniacal circus clown."

By the standards of some of the clowns on cereal boxes, it seems to me this this guy looks amazingly benign.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010


Before I move on from cereal, a small thought about the imagery and characters companies use to sell their food products.

We all know that millions of dollars go into marketing, market research, focus groups, and whatnot, but in advertising agencies the world over, after all the time, money and effort has been expended, somebody in the office evidently says, “Ah screw it, let’s just stick a clown on the packet.” And everybody else says, “Sure, why not?”

Obviously it works pretty well for cereal, so why wouldn’t it work for other things?

Why not cotton candy?

Why not imitation raspberry drink mix?

Why not Pepsi?

And, above all, why not hamburgers?

As the picture above shows, McDonalds weren’t the first to come up with a hamburger-related clown. This one is in Fort Worth and seems to be a local landmark, though I I’m not sure it’s still it’s in business anymore.

And of course clown-related pushing of food to kids reaches a kind of apotheosis with the Simpsons’ – the KrustyOs “a nutrition-free food” and Krusty Burger “If you can find a greasier sandwich, you're in Mexico!”

I suppose advertising guys know what they’re doing, but the thing is, I used to be a kid, nd I remember what it was like. And I remember that I HATED clowns, and asking around, I’m far from alone in this. I wouldn’t want to eat a product just because a clown endorsed it, but actually EATING a clown, as below, oh yes – I’d be prepared to do that.

You’ll note that it contains preservative and colour - now there’s a surprise.

Thursday, March 18, 2010


A more worldly set of kids would have realized that the Top Cat theme would have been unlikely to celebrate the joys of dripping. Hanna-Barbera were the go-to guys when it came to providing cartoon characters for sugar-rich, child-targeted cereal. I admit I fell under the spell.

My memories are imperfect. I do recall various cereal boxes with Yogi Bear, Huckleberry Hound and Quickdraw MacGraw on them, but I have no memory of which character went with which cereal. I’d have said Yogi Bear was associated with Sugar Smacks, but it seems I’m just conflating bears and honey-eating. He was actually on the Cornflakes box, but we never ate cornflakes in our house: not sweet enough.

However, he was also on the OK cereal box, which I think we did have in the house, but I have no idea what it tasted like. Apparently it was Quickdraw MacGraw who was on the Sugar Smacks box. The association between children and any kind of “smack” of course now seems blissfully decadent.

I can’t really understand why I ate this stuff with such enthusiasm, because I wasn’t a big fan of Hanna-Barbera cartoons. Even as a kid I could tell there was something a bit crappy about those repeating backgrounds and the canned laughter. When I got to know Jay Ward’s Rocky and Bullwinkle, it was obvious that here was something far smarter and more grown up.

Rocky and Bullwinkle, I discover, appeared on packs of Cocoa Puffs, Cheerios, Trix and the alarmingly named Sugar Jets. I’m pretty sure Cocoa Puffs and Trix were available in the UK though I don’t recall seeing any Rockie and Bullwinkle packs, the rest may not even have been available there. Boris and Natasha appeared on Lucky Charms from 1950 to 1962, Sherman and Mr. Peabody shilled for Wheat Hearts. Again, these were unknown quantities in my childhoods, and possibly only sold in America. If I’d known about them I’d definitely have wanted them.

Visiting my local supermarket here in LA the other day I discovered no sign of Rockie and Bullwinkle but Cap’n Crunch (another of Ward’s creations) is still very much with us, now with added peanut butter. There were also the Flintstones, Tony the Tiger and the Snap, Crackle and Pop kids.

The amazing thing is that these characters are about 50 years old. Where are the modern replacements? Sure the Simpsons have appeared on Butterfinger, and Sponge Bob seems to have some special relationship with Burger King, but when it comes to cereal it’s all very old school.

Partly, I’m sure, it’s because cereal companies have decided that trying to fill the kiddies with sugar isn’t the most caring, health-conscious marketing strategy right now. Life cereal (which I confess I’d never heard of) makes some claims for healthiness and has real live children on the box rather than cartoon characters – I can’t work out if that’s more or less exploitative.

But my great discovery in the cereal aisle, and I now know that this has been much mocked elsewhere, was the kashi-based cereal called Good Friends. Again the boxes feature real live humans, and they seem to be promising racial harmony and (very possibly) miscegenation. What kid wouldn’t want that?

Thursday, March 11, 2010


You’re probably too young to remember the Hanna-Barbera TV series Top Cat. It was made for a surprisingly short time, I discover, just 30 episodes in 1961/2, but I watched it avidly at the time. Imdb tells me it was called “Boss Cat” in the UK but I’m pretty sure we all referred to it as Top Cat, not least because of the theme song. There was a UK brand of cat food called Top Cat, which I suppose may have been the reason for the title change.

Like everyone else I had trouble understanding a couple of lines in that theme song. The first line “Close friends get to call him T.C.” is clear enough, but the line that comes after was notoriously impossible to make out. Thanks to the internet, of course, no such problems need bother us anymore. The line is “Pro-vi-ded it’s with dignity,” which still isn’t a model of clarity but we know what they mean.

Back in the day one of my school pals suggested, with at least some degree of seriousness, that the line was “Step right in, there’s dripping for tea.” We were in Yorkshire, the home of dripping, and dripping was to be had for tea, and just about any other meal. It was spread on white bread with a lot of salt shaken over it. What could be better for a growing lad?

Wikipedia says that Yorkshire folk call bread and dripping a “mucky fat sandwich.” Well, they’ve never called it that in my hearing, and my Sheffield friends agree. Julia, who originally came from Hull, says she’s never heard it called that either. Leeds however is a different matter. The mother of a friend, born in that fine town, says she’s very familiar with the term. What they say in posh places like Harrogate and Beverley is anybody’s guess.

I’ve never claimed any great expertise about dripping, and I’m sure that every family eats its dripping in its own way. The blessed Fergus Henderson (may his tribe increase) recommends it on toast, which strikes me as just not so good as having it on fresh Mother’s Pride, but I’m sure it’s all about what you’re used to.

As far as I can see “mucky fat” includes the brown jellyish substance underneath the solid lump of lard, and these days I think it’s the tastiest part, though when I was a kid I liked my dripping sans muck.

Anyway, since the loved one and I were cooking roast beef over the weekend, I decided to collect the dripping(s) and have it (them) on bread. I know there are those who prefer pork dripping, but I was happy with what I’d got. I had it for yesterday’s lunch. It looked like this.

It’s much darker than the dripping of my childhood, but the loved one is a great believer in starting meat at a high temperature, and I’m sure this had its effect.

Anyway, it was just bloody wonderful, as they say in Yorkshire. Eating this bread and dripping, knowing that my arteries were being clogged, that my cholesterol levels and blood pressure were sky-rocketing with every mouthful, well, that felt so good, so damn wicked, so utterly forbidden. I imagine it was a little like eating the last dodo, although I’m sure it tasted a whole lot better.

Top Cat, as we see below, despite being a cat and living in an alley, seems to have eaten rather well.

Monday, March 1, 2010


I’ve always thought that two of the most extraordinary-looking women in the history of the world were Kay Kendall, see below

and Slim Keith, also below, who was also known as Slim Hawks for a while when she was married to movie director Howard.

Both women had those fine chiseled angular faces that don’t seem to exist anymore, and it’s hard to believe they ever did. Now, it doesn’t surprise me to discover that Kay and Slim knew each other. But given their ethereal slenderness I never imagined they were great eaters. But now I find this in Keith’s autobiography “Slim: Memoirs of a Rich and Imperfect Life.”

She writes, “Kay always supported my theory of entertaining. That is, the greatest compliment you can give your guests is to serve them what you most like yourself. If you love brisket of beef or corn beef hash, that’s what it should be. … In Kay’s case, I always served the same thing whenever she came for dinner: smoked salmon with hot boiled potatoes served in their skins with hickory salt and two small dishes on either side, one of sour cream and the other marinated raw onions. Kay would at this dish for first course, the main course and for dessert.”

I’m not sure what I find more amazing, that Kay Kendall and Slim Keith ate a lot of potatoes or that they didn’t worry if their breath smelled of raw onion. Either way, I very much like that in a woman.