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It ain't licorice. The Past In Candy:
Five Good Foods, Five Bad Commercials

Matt - 1.02.02

Well, 2002 is here, meaning we're just a scant three years away from seeing how far off all those old sci-fi flicks were when they estimated what life would be like in 2005. According to past flicks, that's gonna be one hell of a banner year. So, enjoy the simple life while you can, it's just a matter of time before you get knocked on your ass by a buncha hoverboard skaters and people who smoke antigravity cigarettes. I never did quite understand why eras past marked 2005 for the year our world became a futuristic place of much neon and frequent trips to Mars, but I shudder to think about all the e-mails I'm gonna get in three years from TF fans asking me to do a mock funeral tribute for Optimus Prime. Still, 2002 is an important time for all of us, as any of our dyslexic friends will finally, finally have a chance to write the year on their checks without fear that they're doing it backwards.

And now, candy!

I'm a junk food junkie. I wasn't born that way, though. I can say this without shame or regret because, frankly, I didn't have much of a choice growing up. Though she's calmed down in recent years with all her kids out of the house, my mother has to hold some kind of record for the largest amount of ridiculous dinner preparations by a housewife in history. I mean, this wasn't just a case where she'd watch some cooking show every now and again and fail miserably trying to duplicate what she saw - it was almost as if her subconscious mind was forcing her to seek revenge on us kids for ruining her childhood dreams of becoming a famous ballet dancer. One meal in particular that I can remember rearing it's head over and over again was this weird, mutant split pea soup - the kind they used on the set of The Exorcist whenever that little girl needed to vomit. Amazingly, my mom's stuff would've been better suited for the flick, because the soup actually did taste and smell like vomit, and I'd imagine the actors on the set would've been able to portray their parts with a much more intense realism because of it.

Obviously, I'd refuse to eat the stuff with the convictions of someone about to be force-fed concentrated Agent Orange. As punishment, she'd make me sit there at the dinner table for hours - long after the rest of the family was gone. She probably thought I'd cave in and just eat the stuff, but by this point it was freezing cold on top of being disgusting, and I'd sooner gnaw off my arms than taste it. The point of all this is, with my mom's sometimes-satanic cooking regime, I had to seek other outlets for nourishment. Other, far more sugary outlets.

To tie this all together, awhile back somebody sent me a batch of old sweets commercials from the time period I was growing up in, and it was a major trip for me to see some of these old candies I haven't eaten since elementary school. Well, it wasn't exactly a trip, but it was fun for a few seconds. I'm gonna parlay that few-second fun into an article today, to show you some of my faves growing up - the candy and foods that grocery stores forgot, but we never did. As a special bonus, each entry into this daring diary comes complete with downloads to the actual commercials. So if my words aren't moving enough to jog your memories on the stuff we all ate and loved, I'm sure the ad jingles sure will be. Some of these featured foods still do exist, but for the sake of the article, let's just pretend they don't.

#1 - Giggles Cookies: Giggles were essentially a more kid-friendly Oreo, if you can believe such a thing existed. I mean, as if Oreos in themselves weren't gregarious enough, here another cookies marches in and shakes the very foundation of our lives by being that much friendlier. It's no wonder they didn't last long in store aisles - between you and me, I just don't think the world was ready for this much joy.

The cookies were standard circle shaped, only with happy faces etched on to them, so on top of the wonderful taste, you got the added bonus of being able to pretend you were eating somebody's face with every bite. 'I'll give you something to laugh about, cookie! Oh I get it - think you're safe huh? Let me introduce you to another smile!' Plus, the cookies came in both vanilla and chocolate varieties, so racist kids could really have a field day eating the faces of their choice to death. Fun little games like this really made the eating process a great time for all involved.

Tastewise, they were just like every other cookie out there that had creamy filling. Real, real sweet. Giggles one-upped their competitors by having a two-tone creme - each cookie had both white and dark chocolate filling, making the insides look like poorly drawn monster eyes or a French dessert dish. There was just something about them that made them totally irresistible to me and my friends - we'd liken the cookies to money, hoarding them, caressing them, sometimes eating them, but always loving them. It's actually because of Giggles that, to this day, whenever I'm holding a cookie, I'm not sure whether or not I'm supposed to swallow it or make it a little house out of cardboard. Either way, the ad spot was really odd:

Two brothers have the admirable task of telling the world about this hot new cookie, but things just go all to Hell when the younger brother can't stop himself from laughing like a hyena watching a Golden Girls marathon - an apparent side-effect of Giggles cookies is that they're so friggin' giggly, you'll be in a heap on the table, too giddy to eat anymore. I guess that's how kids didn't get fat devouring Giggles - you could only eat so many before you started choking with laughter. I guess. The older brother's trying to run through the gamut of Giggles' features, from the two-toned creme to the smily faced cracker and so on, but his younger bro keeps halting the steps with insane bouts of funny business, ruining what could've easily been the ad spot of the year back whenever this came out. I don't remember the exact year, so we'll just say it was some time ago. You can't buy these anymore, so the best you can do is break out some tube frosting and draw red Tiki gods on your Nilla wafers. It won't make you laugh hysterically, but you'll gain valuable experience in cake art.

Download the Giggles Commercial By Clicking Here!

#2 - 2-Flavors-In-1 Bubble Yum: Gum was the return favor for everything in my elementary school. If you wanted to copy someone's homework, you had to offer up two pieces of gum. If you wanted the first spot in kickball, that's three pieces easy. If you wanted a braver soul to steal that contraption that let you draw on boards with three or four pieces of chalk simultaneously, we're talking four or five packs. This barter system worked great - really made us wonder why all these countries we learned about it social studies had so much trouble with trade negotiations. 'Well, if they have all the oil, why don't we just give them more gum?' I still stand firm in my believe that chewing gum could solve 95% of the world's problems. Seriously, have you ever really felt bad about anything if you still had three pieces of Bubblelicious left? They were sort of like cigarettes to us kids. Whenever our stress levels were mounting to an uncontrollable crescendo, we'd just pop in a piece of 'red' (yes, our favorite flavor was 'red') and let the sugary chemicals heighten our serotonin levels.

Maybe the appeal in gum for us was in the school's strict 'no gum' ruling. They never made a point to tell us that we couldn't eat candy, never told us to not kill anyone - in fact, the only thing they seemed serious about was making sure we didn't chew gum. In a nod to reverse psychology, this made us want it 5,000 times more, to the point where we'd be shamed to appear in any type of social circle without a wad of Bubble Tape hanging out of our mouths. See, if we chewed gum on the sacred school grounds, we were rebels, living on the edge, outside of society. We were too young for cigars and motorcycles and piercings and too into our Freezy Freakies to let a leather jacket interfere with our wardrobe, so if we wanted to be badasses, we had to chew gum. And if we dared put it under our seats when we were done, hell they might as well have built statues in our honor. We were truly cutting edge.

Personally, I never used my gum to vandalize - I lived under the false pretense that I should swallow my gum, a mistake I continue to indulge in to this day. Urban legend back then dictated that gum didn't digest for seven years. If that's true, it explains why I lost so much weight when I hit seventeen. I'd estimate that 6,500 sticks of Big Red came out of me in one massive shot.

2-Flavors-In-1 Bubble Yum was the end all, be all choice for a while. It had the distinct powers of two entirely different flavors in each and every piece - giving the gum that sleek double-color look, and giving our mouths a blast of two different Hydroxichlorisides - #112 and #94. We really couldn't ask for much more. I don't know why it didn't last on the shelves long - I guess it had something to do with some of the flavor combinations including banana, the world's longtime leader in bad candy flavors.

The ad spot here features my personal favorite - Rockin' Raspberry. Gums usually had simple flavor names like cherry and grape. This was long before the nihilistic reign of the dreaded 'blue raspberry' that'd make so many waves in later years. So, all we really had was cherry, strawberry, grape, lemon, and so on. But here they throw a title like 'Rockin' Raspberry' in our faces, and there was just no way to turn it down. Besides all this, the commercial features a bad acid trip full of Vegas-like billboards, giant Swatch watches, and a teenage girl who's hair was amazingly uneven. It was all so confusing that we just accepted it to mean that this was really good gum.

Download the Bubble Yum Commercial By Clicking Here!

#3 - Fruit Roll-Ups: We knew they were candy, but our parents were thrown off by the inclusion of the word 'fruit', so they let us eat the things blindly, not knowing that they were giving in to our sweet tooth's wanton needs and providing us with the necessary energy to throw sugar rush-induced tantrums at every fifteen minute interval. So, we ate, and we smiled: finally, a candy in disguise! Things were a lot different back then, though. See, nowadays, if you go to buy a Fruit Roll-Up, they're six different manic colors and they usually have some sort of voodoo skull etched on to 'em, allowing for peel-off fun and a lot of general sloppiness in the de-wrapping. Back then, they were just regular roll-ups: elasticy sheets of fruit-flavored candy material that looked like heavenly pages out of an edible candybook. We didn't have any crazy themes, color schemes, or mad doctor lab advertisements - but this was still damn good eating and a staple snack food of any kid's lunchbox.

Over the years I invented a ton of different ways to eat the things. It got boring to just shove the sheet in my mouth and attempt not to choke over and over again. Real boring. So, with a ruler and a book on physics, I adapted new ways of getting it from the cellophane to my stomach. My favorite? Wrapping it around my finger and pretending it was my wizard candy claw - I could either suck it's mystical powers, or pretend to shoot candy lightning out of it. Either way I looked stupid, but it killed ten minutes and let's face it, and kid's life was pretty boring sometimes. Other times, I'd use the sheets to make Fruit Roll-Up Origami - the only thing more exciting than making a box turtle out of a fruit roll-up was biting it's head off when the intrigue wore off.

In the world of fruit snacks, there was only one better: Fruit Wrinkles. If you don't remember these, they tasted exactly the same as the Roll-Ups, but came in little packages as tiny raisin-shaped candy rocks. I use to be really proud of myself when I could swallow them without chewing - made me feel like I was old enough for non-liquid medicine. Later they'd become available in fruit shapes, which made them twice as enticing because some of them looked like those cherries you jumped at in Super Mario Brothers 2. Every time I ate 5 of them in succession, I'd look around longingly for a floating heart to give me back some of that lost energy. When it didn't happen, I'd eat 5 more of them as a sort of compensation prize.

The old commercial spot features a bunch of really ugly kids dancing around in a playground. It's pretty uninteresting aside from the scene where a family watches television while eating them, making awful & ominous faces that tell me there was something far more sinister at play when chewing these things. Well, they were made partly from gelatin, and gelatin is made partly from the bones of dead animals. I guess that's ominous, but I was hoping for something more along the lines of a murder plot. Oh well.

Download the Fruit Roll-Ups Commercial By Clicking Here!

#4 - Bonkers! Candy: Of everything we're taking a look at today, I miss Bonkers the most. There was just never anything quite like them, possibly for good reason. Strange, chewy candies that were eighteen times more sweet and sour than you're imagining right now came in these little packs, tucked safely away in the candybar section. There was really no way to tell that they'd pack in that much flavor, but boy, once you popped one in your mouth, giant pieces of fruit literally fell from the sky and hit you on the head to make a symbolic point. Don't believe me? Keep reading...just make sure you've got a roof over you head first.

Bonkers came in a variety of flavors, from grape to chocolate, but they were just so unique in their taste - see, a lot of candies claimed to be grape, but they were really just sugar with a little bit of grape powder and purple dye thrown on top. It's my belief that a grape Bonker was made from 95% alien grape extract, with the remaining 5% going to straight lemon juice. These things were more powerful than those Warheads candies, the ones that prided themselves on being too strong to actually eat. (pretty self-defeated promotion for a food, but whatcha gonna do?)

I was positively heartbroken when they went off the market, a sad commentary on what was important to me at the time. I remember going to a yard sale as a kid at a neighbor's house long after the things were out of style, and the people there were selling packs of Bonkers for a quarter each among all their broken appliances and dirty bedsheets. I knew they had to be over a year old and staler than prime time gameshows, but I couldn't help myself - I ate every piece from each of the ten packs I bought in record time, leaving me in a heaping mass of candy sickness and my body at a percentage of around 80% Bonkers. Ah, the good life.

The ad spot features people eating Bonkers, obviously. But once they taste it, the flavor become so amazingly intense that giant pieces of fruit and/or chocolate fall from the sky and nail them in the groin. Take a look..

And you wonder why kids liked them so much? A commercial where old ladies get nailed in the face with 4' strawberries probably ranks in the top five most effective campaigns ever for items directed at the 7-12 target age group. Also, I'm just realizing now that, with Bonkers, three of the last four candies have the two-color feature. Maybe there's something to that? Maybe we, the buying public, are more likely to spend our money on food that presents us with a brilliant array of color? Well, those three are the failed candies - the only one that isn't two-toned is the only one that still exists. So if any of you have a gravestone out there in need of engraving: RIP - The Two-Tone Candy.

And hey, if you've got two leftover gravestones, make one for the Wooly Mammoth too. Poor slob never got one. PS, keep an eye out during the commercial for the 'Artificially Flavored' tagline in fine print. As if multicolored chewy pieces of chocolate-flavored mud squares were made from only the world's most natural stuff.

Download the Bonkers! Commercial By Clicking Here!

#5 - Marshmallow Rice Krispies: The last one we'll be taking a look at today, thankfully, because all this food talk has made me remember that I've got one more Ellio's pizza left in the freezer with my name on it. I don't know where I'd be without frozen pizza. I mean, I'd still be here, but it wouldn't really feel like home to me without it. Having a frozen pizza in the fridge is the food equivalent of a security blanket. No matter how bad things get, you're only four minutes away from gloppy cheese and a glorious crust that could double as a dish sponge. Christ I'm hungry.

Yeah, so Marshmallow Rice Krispies. I never liked Rice Krispies, for the obvious reason: they didn't have any candy bits. Why bother eating that when you could have purple horseshoes floating around your milk? Apparently many kids felt this way, so Kellogg's started selling the Krispies with little colorful puffy candy. Now you could hear your breakfast snap and crackle and actually like eating it - plus, you wouldn't have to add forty tablespoons of sugar to make it palatable anymore. I don't know why they don't still make this stuff. It's a winning formula if I ever saw one. I guess marketing analysis didn't show that the only people who were really eating Rice Krispies to begin with were older folks who didn't want sugar in their cereal. By this point, us kids were far too jaded on the Krispies that they could've added Snickers bars to the mix and we'd still label it as one of those healthy Crispix-like foods that no one in their right mind would choose. Besides, if a kid did eat Rice Krispies, it's because his mother wouldn't let him have a cereal with all the marshmallows. So it's not like he'd be able to get his hands on this one anyway. The story of this food reads like some great Shakespearean tragedy. Food tries to make itself better for it's people, find out that it was fine to begin with, talks to Yorick's skull, promptly dies of a short shelf life. It's sad, really.

The commercial also features some other failed variations on the original - Cocoa Krispies and Frosted Krispies. While you can still find the cocoa version in some states, Frosted Krispies have gone the way of Urkel-O's. I guess there's only so many different types of Rice Krispies a person can take before they start purposely blacking out their existence. They tried hard and played the risk game for a cereal monopoly, but learned the one tried and true lesson about breakfast: you can make as many different kinds of Rice Krispies as you want - you can add marshmallows, chocolate, peanut butter, crack, brie, whatever - but they still ain't Corn Pops, and I gotta have mah Pops!

Download the Bonkers! Commercial By Clicking Here!

So ends our little trip down bad food's memory lane. I hope you enjoyed reading about it as much as I used enjoy eating it. Candy is a way of life for all of us - we've all got our favorites, we all have our tastes. But no matter what your preferences are, there remains one universal truth about this whole phenomenon that'll stay true till the day we die and long after that: it's always better than real food.

- Matt
AIM: xecharchar

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