‘The time Rocky starred in a Hershey commercial’
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