“Eenie Meanie Chili Beanie, the spirits are about to speak”

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‘The time Rocky starred in a Hershey commercial’

I was all set to write about the origins of the Henry HooHah when, oh no, I saw in the Times that June Foray had died.

I’ll be back. Tune in next week for the origins of the HooHah

Now the name “June Foray”, no doubt, does not ring a bell. But for those of you, like me, who grew up watching the ‘Rocky and Bullwinkle Show’, you’ll know her as the voice of Rocket J. Squirrel, AKA ‘Rocky’. (Yup, Rocky was a girl.)

Now, it may be hard for those of you who did not grow up watching this show to understand not only how hilarious it was, but also how, um, culturally pervasive. Well, at least at my house. We kids would torture each other — and our parents — by endlessly repeating the show’s catch phrases, “Eenie meanie chili beanie” being just one example. And the puns? Ouch. Here’s the Times, from that juicy June obit: 

No pun was too awful, no malaprop too shameless. Rocky trained at Cedar Yorpantz Flying School. Bullwinkle’s alma mater was Wossamotta U. A jeweled toy boat, the Ruby Yacht of Omar Khayyam, sailed across Veronica Lake. “For a powerful magnate,” Rocky tells a tycoon, “you sure don’t pick up things too quickly.” In one episode, the heroes track a monstrous whale, Maybe Dick.

There was also a character, Ma Ramjet, I think was her name, who “lived in the town Time forgot — and I didn’t get my Ladies Home Journal either.” And the Times forgot my mom’s fave, an episode featuring the Kirward Derby. Even way back then, we kids were too young to know who the heck Durward Kirby was. Mom explained, between guffaws, that good ole Durward was a guy from the Olden Days of TV. He may have been a relative nobody, but he was apparently self-important enough — and mad as a wet hen to boot — about being compared to a hat with magical powers on a cartoon show to threaten to sue. Well. The producer of the show was not dismayed by this. Oh no. In fact he offered to pay Durward to sue — for the publicity.

But back to June Foray, and Rocky. In case you’d rather not click on the link to her New York times obit, or her Wikipedia entry (yup, she’s got one, and it’s pretty packed), here’s a quote from the afore-mentioned Times story:

June Foray, an actress of a thousand voices, who portrayed Rocky the flying squirrel and the fiendish spy Natasha Fatale on the wickedly satirical animated adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle in the 1960s and myriad other animated creatures and characters on television and film, died on Wednesday in Los Angeles. She was 99.

Now, I scoured that Times story — and the Wikipedia entry — and couldn’t find any mention of what I consider one of June’s finest roles: as Rocky in a Hershey Kisses TV commercial, which I (ahem) wrote. It’s a spot from sometime in the Eighties, and was for a product which probably doesn’t exist anymore, a snack-pack containing eight kisses. Now why someone wouldn’t just buy a big bag of Kisses and take out eight at a time for a snack is not an issue I had at the time. The fact that Hershey wanted to promote this product was good enough for me. It meant I got to make a commercial (not all by myself, of course, but still.)

Making commercials, you see, is one of the most fun things about advertising. Which is a profession which is packed with fun things, or at least it was back then. See any story under the tab “Adland Lore” in the sidebar on my home page for proof. Like “Short Men and Flat-Chested Women”. Or “The Most Fun You Can Have With Your Clothes On”.

Well. My art director partner and I (sorry, Whomever You Are, I can’t remember which one you were; if you’re reading this, don’t be afraid to chime in) came up with this idea using Rocky and Bullwinkle. Why? Who cares? It made a pretty nifty commercial. And here it is:

The only thing that was a bit of a (relative) downer about this commercial was that it was animated. Which meant we had no shoot to go to. A “shoot” is where you go somewhere, like a studio or — even better — a place, which is called “going on location”, to film (yes, “film”) your commercial. For details about how extraordinarily fun a shoot can be, see  “Around the World in 80 Shoots”. Heck, even bad shoots are fun, as is evidenced in “Pantene, Queen of the Desert”.

But I don’t want to digress. Or at least not too much. As I was saying, our Rocky and Bullwinkle spot, being animated, involved no shoot, per se. But we did get to go somewhere — to LA, so we could record the voices. Now, these days, no doubt, this would be done in some magical, virtual, way. But in those days, we got to fly out to The Coast, stay in some fab place like the Beverly Hills Hotel or the Chateau Marmont, and dine out at Spago or the Ivy or Michael’s in Santa Monica. All on the company’s (er, client’s) dime. (As I’ve mentioned before, though, the clients didn’t mind too much, seeing as how they got to go too.)

I must say it was loads of fun seeing this teensy woman do her Rocky Thing. (I honestly can’t remember which Bullwinkle we used, since there was more than one.) She was funny, she was nice, she was professional. (Unlike another guy I had to record for a commercial, an experience you can read about in “Karl Malden’s Nose”.)

So good-bye, June. It was a pleasure working with you. I promise that Time won’t forget you. But, nope, I can’t promise you’ll get your Ladies Home Journal.

Amagansett, New York. August 2017

16 thoughts on ““Eenie Meanie Chili Beanie, the spirits are about to speak”

  1. I was a Rocky and Bullwinkle fan and it is so cool you worked with the woman behind the Rocky voice. It was indeed a fun show, and your commercial is great fun too. I wonder if you can stream those old shows? I’d like to introduce my grandsons to them. I must look to see if I can find them.

  2. Deborah

    I used to do a pretty good Bullwinkle impersonation as a kid, but for the life of me I can’t do it at all anymore. Believe me I’ve tried.

    As a graphic designer for a few architectural firms during my career I used to have to art direct photoshoots. Lordy, they were boring. before I ever went on one I was so envious of other people who got to go. Then I went on one or two and realized it was all about sitting and waiting. The planning was fun, collecting the props etc, then when the time came to actually go on a shoot, the set up was interesting and then time crawled as the photographers arranged their cameras and lights and took test shot after test shot. We’d look at polaroids of the tests back in the day, and later of course we’d look at digital displays on a laptop. Plus the photographers had to schlep so much equipment around it seemed a lot less glamourous. It could take an entire day to get maybe 2 or 3 final images, if we were lucky. I got to know some pretty cool photographers during my stint and that was great, so there were some perks.

    • Ah, the glamour of it all! Film shoots are (or were, back when I went on them) a bit more exciting. Especially when the location was someplace exciting, like Paris, London, Sydney, Cape Town — all places I’ve been on somebody else’s TV production dime. Which reminds me; I really must tell the One About The Dentu-Creme Shoot in Milan (!) But. There was indeed a lot of sitting around and waiting. I took up knitting, in fact, to fill in some of the waiting time. (And to keep myself away from the Craft Services snacks). p.s. Thanks for chiming in — I wish I could hear your Bullwinkle impersonation!

  3. Cathy

    We were in Montana recently, and a large Moose came into our front yard. I immediately thought of Bullwinkle and Rocky! Ah, the memories! Our whole family would gather around the TV to watch the latest episode, we all loved their antics. Of course, we didn’t get all the humor, that was reserved for the parents! And then we were just in LA, and the mere mention of the Beverly HIlls Hotel, The Polo Lounge, Spago and the Ivy all brought back fond memories. Oh, for the decadent life!

    • Yes, those were the days, weren’t they? And yes, I saw ‘your’ moose in a FB post. He (she?) was a Big One. Which reminds me of another awful pun, one which my Oldest Brother Scott came up with, upon seeing one of those warning road signs out west. On the sign were written the words ‘Deer Elk’ To which Scott quipped ‘Moose and Squirrel are fine’. Thanks for the readership and the comment, dear Cathy!

  4. Don Westrich

    Fun fact: Jay Ward was a graduate of the Harvard Business School (and probably the most influential in history, for me at least).

    • Wow! I did NOT know that. (And I thought I knew a lot about Rocky and Bullwinkle — and Jay.) But, silly me. You also knew about the Game with the Dishtowel — the ‘I can’t pay the rent’ one, I mean. So I certainly should not be surprised that you knew the Harvard Thing.

  5. Hokey Smokes! I was sad to hear of her passing too. So many childhood memories. Rocky and Bullwinkle were quoted endlessly in our household too, as was Super Chicken and my personal favorite, Underdog. My brother even had a Whatsamatta U sweatshirt!
    On another note, I worked at a firm in the late 80s/early 90s that did storyboards for many of the big advertising agencies in Chicago. I need to take some time to dip into your Adland Lore.

    • Oh please do dip right in. I bet, with your background, you can relate in many ways. As for Rocky and B, I think one of my brothers had that sweatshirt too (not the very same one, but you know what I mean). As for Underdog, us too — “there’s no need to fear; Underdog is here!!!

      • “when sweet Polly calls, I am not slow – it’s hip hip hip and away I go!”
        “What’s that in the sky? It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s a frog!” “A FROOOOG?!” 🙂

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