Travel back with us to 1984, to a time when a simple question could spark a nationwide meat-craving frenzy.
Thirty years ago this week, Wendy's debuted their now-iconic "Where's the Beef?" commercial, starring Clara Peller as an old lady demanding more meat from her fast-food hamburger. And a classic '80s catchphrase was born.
The ad, originally titled "Fluffy Bun," was the brainchild of top-tier agency Dancer Fitzgerald Sample (also responsible for Toyota's "Oh, What a Feeling!" campaign), and featured three white-haired grannies examining a new burger — with a tiny patty and a huge bun — from an unnamed restaurant, the "Home of the Big Bun."
While the other two women admired the "big, fluffy bun," Peller wasn't satisfied, croaking the immortal query, "Where's the beef?" (Interestingly, Wendy's first tried a version with a bald man uttering the line, but it failed to catch on.) The catchphrase was a sharp jab at competitors Burger King and McDonald's, allowing Wendy's to trumpet the fact that their burgers had more beef than the Whopper or Big Mac.
Hitting the airwaves on Jan. 10, 1984, "Where's the Beef?" was an instant sensation, spawning a series of Peller-starring sequels along with a raft of merchandise, from T-shirts to bumper stickers to Frisbees to a board game. Peller even recorded a "Where's the Beef?" novelty single with Nashville disc jockey Coyote McCloud.
The ad was credited with boosting Wendy's annual revenue by a whopping 31 percent, and made its way into the 1984 presidential campaign: Walter Mondale invoked "Where's the Beef?" to slam rival Gary Hart's lack of substance during the Democratic primary. Mondale went on to lose in a landslide to incumbent Ronald Reagan; the ad's director Joe Sedelmaier said at the time, "If Walter Mondale could have said the line like Clara, he would have been our president."
Even better than the story behind the ad is that of its unlikely star, Clara Peller. A Chicago native, the 4-foot-10-inch Peller worked as a manicurist for 35 years before being "discovered" in a local commercial at the age of 80.
She was 81 when the Wendy's ad debuted and thoroughly enjoyed her overnight celebrity: She appeared on numerous TV talk shows, made a cameo on "Saturday Night Live," and even served as a guest time-keeper for the battle royale at Wrestlemania 2.
Sadly, the relationship between Peller and Wendy's soured when Peller repeated her famous catchphrase in a 1985 ad for Prego spaghetti sauce (and then declared "I found it!"), leading Wendy's to terminate her contract for violating a non-compete clause. Peller responded, "I've made them millions, and they don't appreciate me." (Peller was only paid scale for the initial commercial, but earned tens of thousands more from subsequent Wendy's ads and merchandise royalties.)
Peller passed away in 1987 at the age of 85, and Wendy's struggled until launching a new ad campaign starring founder Dave Thomas in 1989. The chain actually resurrected the "Where's the Beef?" tagline in 2011 to promote their new Hot 'N Juicy Cheeseburgers, answering the question with a definitive "Here's the beef."
And three decades later, "Where's the Beef?" lives on as one of the most memorable TV commercials of all time. Ad Age named it one of the top 10 ad slogans of the 20th century, and it helped build Wendy's from an upstart fast-food joint into the third-largest burger chain in the world. Not bad for three little words from an 81-year-old manicurist.
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I actually had a part-time job at a (Canton, Ohio) Rax Restaurant back in 1987.
Funny, I remember the "atrium/solarium" area on the front of the store was reserved for...
Yup, ...you guessed it - smokers. My, my, my - how times have changed.
Rax Roast Beef is a small regional U.S. fast food restaurant chain specializing in roast beef sandwiches, currently based in Ironton, Ohio. Once a big player in the fast food segment, Rax has extensively scaled down their operations since their peak in the 1980s.
Rax was originally known as JAX Roast Beef, founded by Jack Roschman in 1967, inSpringfield, Ohio. In 1969, Roschman sold the chain to General Foods, who then changed the name of the restaurants to RIX Roast Beef. General Foods ran the chain until 1978, when most of the restaurants closed down. The remaining 10 units were franchised units owned by the Restaurant Administration Corporation (RAC), headed by J. Patrick Ross, a franchisee of multiple restaurant chains including Wendy's, Ponderosa Steak House, and Long John Silver's. RAC purchased the remainder of RIX from General Foods, and returned the JAX name to the restaurants. RAC eventually decided to focus on the roast beef business, and began franchising the chain. The JAX restaurants were renamed Rax to be more suitable for trademarking and franchising, with the first Rax branded franchise restaurant opening in Columbus, Ohio. RAC was renamed Rax Systems Inc., then again to Rax Restaurants Inc. in 1982. By then, Rax had grown to over 221 restaurants in 25 states.
At its peak in the 1980s, the Rax chain had grown to 504 locations in 38 states along with two restaurants in Guatemala. During this time, Rax began diversifying its core roast beef sales by adding baked potatoes and a dinner bar with pasta, Chinese-style food, an "Endless Salad Bar", and a dessert bar. Rax began to transform its restaurants from basic restaurant architecture into designs containing wood elements and solariums, with the intention of becoming the "champagne of fast food". This transformation drove away its core working class customers, blurred their core business, and caused profits to plunge for Rax as others took advantage of Rax's techniques and improved on them, as Wendy's did. Compounding the decline was a management buyout of the company in 1991 and numerous changes that occurred on the company board. The company attempted to convert under performing outlets by forming joint ventures with Miami Subs and Red Burrito as they scaled back many of its stand alone locations to its core markets, particularly in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia. A new advertising campaign was formulated with Deutsch Inc. to create Mr. Delicious in order to attract adult customers. The new advertising campaign backfired causing the exit of the marketing team. This along with compounding loan payments forced the company to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in December 1992.
Burger Chef was an American fast-food restaurant chain founded in 1954 inIndianapolis, Indiana. The chain expanded throughout the United States and, at its peak in 1973, had 1,050 locations. The chain featured several signature items such as the Big Shef and Super Shef hamburgers.
In 1982, the General Foods Corporation, then-owners of the Burger Chef trademark and name, divested itself of the restaurant chain, gradually selling to the owners of Hardee's. The final restaurant to carry the Burger Chef name closed in 1996.
In 1954, Frank and Donald Thomas patented the Flame Broiler in their parent company General Equipment Corporation located on Stadium Drive and started their own restaurant inIndianapolis, Indiana. Another of their trade names from that company was "Sani Serv". In 1957, they opened their first Burger Chef. The first Burger Chef was located at 3401 West 16th street in Indianapolis near Speedway, a location now occupied by a Burger King. Another store, possibly the second, was located on East 38th street across from the Indiana State Fairgrounds and included the main training center. Their first hamburgers sold for 15 cents. In the late 1950s, they created the first "value combo" as a 15¢ hamburger, 15¢ fries, and 15¢ vanilla, chocolate, or strawberry milkshake. It was known as the "Triple Treat." Free Triple Treat coupons were often given as promotional items. Note that the total price was no less than if the items were purchased individually.
I enjoyed this article (originally by Rolling Stone, re-posted by Yahoo) and thought you might like it, too. Andy Greene's interview is below.
Tell me your first reaction to the big news. Pride. For me, it's another tug of the shirt
sleeve to remind me that the American dream is alive and well. I'm living proof
of it. I came here as an immigrant, a legal one – that's a distinction – and
getting the Hollywood Walk of Fame and getting the keys to the cities of God
knows how many cities and the wax museums and the thousands of licensed
products we have and on and on . . . Still, no matter how much much noise we
make about how only the fans matter – and it's true they are the ones that put
us here and without them we are nothing – there is something in the back of our
collective consciousnesses that makes us want to be recognized by our peers.
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame started out as a
wonderful idea and ideal, and it's a pride and privilege. Now, we've had 10
different lineups. It's important to list that the honor is not just ours. It's
Gene, Paul, Ace, Peter, Eric Carr, Mark St. John, Bruce Kulick, Eric Singer,
Vinnie Vincent, Tommy Thayer . . . There's been a lot of guys, and we continue
to tour and fill up stadiums, and it is a testament to the idea of Kiss.
A long time ago, four knuckleheads off the
streets of New York decided to put together the band they never saw onstage. We
were ballsy enough to throw down our own gauntlet. "You wanted the best?
You got the best! The hottest band in the world. Kiss." You're goddamn
Did you start to think you'd never be inducted?.
Yeah. I think it's political. As soon as the fans had their say, I'm told, we
slaughtered everybody else. I think it's a crime that Deep Purple is not in and
Patti Smith is. What the fuck? There are disco artists and all kind of credible
and important kinds of music that have nothing to do with rock & roll. But,
hey, it's not my thing. I think the best thing they did was to open it up to
the fans. There is an American ideal: "By the people, for the people, of
the people." Hey, that's a good idea.
You're definitely coming to the ceremony, right?
Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah. We need to stand up there proudly for the fans.
It's nice to do it in Brooklyn since you guys
started in New York.
Yeah. It's the coolest of the cool.
It's you guys, Nirvana, Peter Gabriel, Hall
& Oates, Linda Ronstadt, Cat Stevens. Are you fans of these people? I respect all musicians who get up onstage.
Whether that qualifies it as rock & roll is another issue. I'm of the
opinion it's about guitars and drums. That's our meat and potatoes. For the
record, no backing tracks, no pre-recorded anything. When you see us live and
it says Kiss, that's it. We're live. When we play TV and there's a backing
track, we'll say so.
People are very curious about what lineup of the
band is going to play that night. Well, Kiss is Tommy Thayer, Eric Singer, Paul
Stanley and Gene Simmons. It's like, if you introduced me to your wife and I
go, "Wait, where are all the other wives?" It's like, "Yeah, I
was married to them and now I'm here." You can argue that point and we'll
figure everything out as time goes on. This one is for the fans. If the fans
didn't care, we wouldn't be here. If it meant nothing to them, we wouldn't be
Bands often play with old members at the Hall of
Fame. Are you open to the idea of playing with Peter Criss and Ace Frehley that
night? Sure, why not?
I've heard you say in the past you never wanted
to play with them again. That was for a tour. But they were equally
important in the formation of the band. When you have kids with your first
wife, you give kudos. The fact you got remarried doesn't delete or minimize the
importance. Hey, "You have gave birth to this thing, Kiss, with Ace,
Peter, Paul and Gene."
But there's been some very public feuding and
bad blood in the past few years. There's never been bad blood. I love them as
people. I just hate drugs and alcohol. I don't care if you are Mötley [Crüe] or
Springsteen. If you don't have the balls to get on the stage straight, it's an
insult to the fans and the band members.
They say they are clean now, though. I have no comment.
They usually end the night with a big all-star
finale where all the inductees do a song together. I've heard it suggested this
time it might be "Rock and Roll All Nite." Are you open to that?
Sure. What other song ends the night?
It would be a riot to watch you sing that song
with Bruce Springsteen. He's great. He doesn't use backing tapes,
either. That's a good thing. What he does is unbelievable. You have to tip your
Do you mind at all that the critics often ripped
on you guys back in the day? No. I'm too rich to care. I'm such a privileged
bastard, are you kidding? I get paid more money than some Third World
countries. What do I have to complain about? The fans love us. We love them.
Not everyone loves Jesus, either. I remember when Rolling Stone called
the first Led Zeppelin album a "limp blimp."
We also said they were a knock-off of the Jeff
Beck Group. Well, you can't say anything bad about about the
Jeff Beck Group. Those first two records were fantastic. And Jimmy Page played
on that stuff as well. I know Beck, Page and those guys. It's interesting how
gracious the really big guys are about new talent. We've always gone out of our
way to make every band we've ever taken out on their first tour feel like
headliners. The list of bands we took out when they meant nothing is pretty
remarkable, just because we liked them as fans: AC/DC, Rush, Bon Jovi, Mötley
Crüe, Cheap Trick, Judas Priest, Iron Maiden. It just goes on and on.
The guys in Rush give you a lot of credit for
bringing them to a big audience. Well, to take a Canadian band on their first tour
in America was like, "Who?" But as soon as I heard "Working
Man" and heard Geddy [Lee] sing. I was like, "What the hell? This is
like a Canadian Led Zeppelin!"
Back to the thing with the critics, it's like
you're asking Godzilla why the people hate him while he's destroying Tokyo.
"Sorry, he's 50 stories tall. He can't hear you."
People are curious to know why you don't get on
VH1 Classic's That Metal Show with Eddie Trunk. Respectfully, I'm not very
Why? [Chuckles] Before there was metal, there
was Kiss. We don't really consider ourselves metal. It's just rock & roll,
and all the hand gestures that everybody does on that show, I invented that.
Oh, and let me add the word "bitch."
So, it's nothing personal against Eddie Trunk or
anything? Oh, I don't care. I wish everybody well.
Everyone should have a happy life and succeed and stuff. Just because we don't
want to do a show doesn't mean anything. I'm not really interested in Jon
Stewart's show, either. That doesn't mean we don't wish him well. It's just not
my cup of tea. I don't want to be a pinata while he's going to throw jokes. But
if he wants to playmano a mano, you gotta take it as well as give
How are you going to dress on Hall of Fame
night? Are you gonna wear the full make-up and the costumes? I was thinking of wearing a polka dot dress . .
. No, we really haven't thought about it.
If they tell you they just want the original
four guys to play, will you be cool with that? As long as they are willing to only bring their
first girlfriend and their first wife . . . There's no rules. I really haven't
thought about it.
To just totally clarify once again, you're
willing to play with Ace and Peter that night?
That could be the last time ever then. When else
could that happen? In January we are celebrating our 40th
anniversary, and boy do I look good! And every time I say, "I'm never
going to do this, I'm never going to do that . . . " For God's sake, Ace
and Peter were in the band three separate times. And they were let go three
separate times. Every time it was about the same thing. How many times are you
going to hear, "No, I'm healthy now. I'm fine." It's like the old,
"I promise I'll pull out."
The only consideration has always been the
military ideal: sound mind, sound body, respect for the fans. They are our
bosses. We buckle our knees to the people who make our lives possible, and
rightfully so. You and me and everyone else, we just work here. Everyone else
that disrespects that maybe shouldn't have the opportunities it provides. The
stage is holy ground. It is electric church. Not everyone belongs there.
So you think it's possible there might be a 40th
anniversary tour that involves Ace and Peter? I don't want to do that. Nah. I've been through
it before. Too many scars and too much, "I promise, I promise, I
promise." It's like the Boy Who Cried Wolf. How many times can you cry the
same thing? After a while, sorry, Charley.
They both wrote books and didn't say very nice
things about you. Did that bother you? I stand by everything they said! [Big laugh]
I'll tell you a wonderful story. Ace, God bless him . . . You know, when he's
straight he's a wonderful guy. He took me to the Beverly Hills Hotel and he
told me a story. He said, "Look, I just want to show you a chapter I wrote
in the book and just check with you and make sure it's OK."
I said, "Look, write whatever you want. I'm
a happy guy." He said, "I just want to check the accuracy of
it." I said, "OK, what is it?" He goes, "Well,
nineteen-seventy-whatever it is. There's a swimming pool and we're all out
there. There are girls and we're lounging around, and I get up on the diving
board in my swimsuit and I've got champagne in my hand and I'm drunk and
I've got a scarf on. You then say to me, 'Ace, get off the diving board. You're
drunk, you're going to drown.' I then say, 'Fuck you. Don't tell me what to
Then he jumps off the diving board and jumps in.
Of course, he starts to drown. He says, "Of course, you dive in because
you used to be a lifeguard. You fish me out, pump the water out of me, save my
life." And at breakfast at the Beverly Hills Hotel he says to me, "I
want to thank you for saving my life. But how accurate was it?"
I say to him, "It was 95 percent accurate.
Yes, there was a diving board. Yes, champagne in hand. Yes, laughing in my
face. Yes, drowning in the pool. Yes, I dove in and rescued someone. But it
wasn't you. It was Peter Criss. You were flat-out unconscious – surprise – on
the side of the pool.
He just shrugged his shoulder. You can catch him
in a lie or a figment of his imagination and he'll just shrug his shoulders and
go, "Oh well, what the fuck?" He's a happy-go-lucky, I'm sorry . . .
When we first got together it was magic. We loved those guys. All for one and
one for all. Look, not all marriages stay together. What can I tell you? Cain
and Abel didn't get along very well, either.