Editors Note:


EDITOR'S NOTE: Fresh off a three year managerial stint, your friendly neighborhood lenslinger is back on the street and under heavy deadline. As the numbing effects of his self-imposed containment wear off, vexing reflections and pithy epistles are sure to follow...

Friday, July 10, 2009

Mascot or Not

Dignity free we three...
Bloated torsos, extreme tunnel vision, halftime flatulence ... you'd think photogs would have a lot in common with the average mascot. Not. So. Sure, there's a few decent sorts 'inside the head', but for every mutant turtle who simply wants to fist-bump the cameraman, there's a Styrofoam pirate who wants to jab with me with his dagger, a felt hillbilly with a hundred gallon hat and hemp on his whiskers or some deranged cheeseburger who won't keep his pickle to himself. The kids may go nuts when these lumbering icons bum-rush the cheap seats, but me - I don't like 'em. Perhaps I've rubbed up against too many in packed, pungent locker rooms, could be I've caroused with a giant chicken across the wrong county line, maybe I was just dragged to Chuck E. Cheese a few too many times when my kids were little...

Oh, who am I kidding? My distaste for corporate mascots goes back a decade and a half, to a lovely Spring afternoon at a swanky country club where I got totally dissed by a certain churlish clown...

It was the mid 90's and I was till producing promos. Most were smarmy anchor profiles, 'teeth and hair' pieces I called them. But amid the hometown hero poses and super-duper Doppler spots, I was occasionally tasked to shoot a P.S.A. Public Service Announcements, that is, those unpaid segues urging you to donate blood, save the clock tower or stockpile water for the coming apocalypse... we've all seen them, and three out of four of us tuned them out. Which is why I really wasn't sweating it the day I met two household names on the back nine of a high dollar golf course outside Greenville. VIP #1 was an NFL quarterback who will remain nameless, a lump-shouldered cretin coming off a stellar year who counted among his many vices expensive cigars and cheap women. He was a handful himself that day, but the real putz of the hour was VIP #2, a grumpy, vaguely chubby Ronald McDonald.

The plan was simple: Captain Quarterback would lob the old pigskin at everybody's favorite carnivorous clown, who'd catch the pass with a modicum of flourish before delivering his line. It was not to be; hours passed before we got the shot. The sun, the gear, the fact that my NFL guest was more concerned with the relationship status of the country club's cocktail waitress than fulfilling his charitable obligation that day ... each contributed to the lack of progress that afternoon. In desperation to finish my mission, I began to work the crowd of PR flacks and hangers-on that turned out to watch tee-vee not be made. At one point, I ended up standing beside Ronald, who exhibited a good deal more facial tics than I'd ever seen on those Saturday moring cartoons. Wondering how one came to embody the globe's burger joint of choice, I leaned over and asked that clown what felt like an innocent question...

"So, what, do they have a Ronald for every state or do you like work the whole Southeast region?"

McDonald's head swung as if on a swivel, a ghastly sneer stretching across his heavily made-up face as he looked at the local TV schlub in disgust...

"Man, I cain't be tellin' you that!" he sputtered in a high, Southern drawl before spinning on the heel of one incredibly big red shoe and flopping away in indignation. As he did, the quarterback looked up from the digits he just scored from his new waitress friend and chuckled through the haze of overpriced stogie smoke and I vowed to never again give a walking logo so much as a passing glance... Now if you'll excuse, that creepy Burger King guy is at my rec room window again and this time he swears he scored some special sauce....

1 comment:

Weaver said...

Have I ever mentioned that my 5th Cousin-once removed- was the very first Ronald.

He later became a famous morning show weather man/centanarian well-wisher.

I saw a McDonald Documentary on CNBC recently that mentioned him being the first Ronald and Ronald being one of the (or maybe THE) first mascots used for fast food.