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The Kosher Gourmet by Cathy Pollak:
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David G. Savage:
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Peter Ford: Why China is welcoming both Israel's Netanyahu and Palestinians' Abbas
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April 29, 2013
Poland's new Jewish museum celebrates life, doesn't revisit Holocaust
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April 24, 2013
Jewish World Review
April 25, 2008
/ 20 Nissan 5768
I thought Orville Redenbacher was dead. Not that I really knew for a certainty, but somewhere in the back of my mind I seemed to remember that the guy died. One indicator of his demise is the fact that he hasn't been putting in too many appearances on TV lately. In fact, I think it's been years since he's been in those obnoxious commercials. Of course, maybe he's just been under the weather or something. Or maybe he was bought out by some big food conglomerate and he simply retired to Las Vegas. Nah. Couldn't be. I was pretty sure Orville was dead.
Well, I was wrong. Orville Redenbacher lives! Commercials are currently running which feature good old Orville looking not a whit older than he did over thirty some odd years ago - bowtie and everything. And if you think that the TV spots are the old things he did years ago, they're not. First, there are no disclaimers or dates attached to them. Secondly, Orville isn't selling the old merchandise; the spots feature all the newest products, products that weren't around thirty years ago - or even five years ago. It's all the current Redenbacher line. So the guy is still alive, still selling popcorn.
But why hasn't he aged? I wanted to find out more so I went on the internet and did a bit of investigating. I really wanted to find out Orville's secret formula - not the secret formula for lighter, fluffier popcorn, mind you - the secret formula for never getting any older. Was it vitamins? Botox? Somehow he's found the Fountain of Youth. How does he do it?
According to the official Orville Redenbacher website, he was born on a farm in Brazil, Indiana in 1907 and began growing his own popcorn at twelve years old -evidently becoming totally obsessed with popcorn. Why? Who knows?
Wikipedia adds that Orville graduated from Brazil High School in 1924 and was in the top 5% of his class. He attended Purdue University and graduated with a degree in agronomy, which is the science of soil management and crop production. He spent most of his life in the agriculture industry and made a small fortune in fertilizer, which no doubt helped him later in life as a marketing man.
In 1951 he partnered with another man and got into developing hybrid strains of popcorn. He was off and running in the popcorn business. Orville first appeared on national TV in 1972 on various game and talk shows pushing his product. This before he even began making his own commercials where his famous line became, "Lighter and fluffier than ordinary popping corn!"
He sold his company to Hunt-Wesson Foods in 1976, and from then on the Orville Redenbacher popcorn company seemed to get even lighter and fluffier than their own popcorn, bouncing back and forth between large food companies. In 1983 a company called Esmark purchased Norton Simon, Inc. which owned Hunt-Wesson. A year after that Beatrice Foods acquired Esmark. Beatrice was later taken over by Kohlberg, Kravis and Roberts who began selling off their various businesses. The popcorn business was then sold in 1990 to ConAgra, an enormous agribusiness concern. Whew! Got all that?
And now Orville is still in commercials hawking his wares at the age of 100 years old and looking not a day over 65 or so, right? Wrong! The truth is that Orville Redenbacher is indeed very dead, for more than seven years, no less. On September 19th, 1995 he was found dead in the jacuzzi of his condo. He had had a heart attack and drowned. He was cremated and his ashes were scattered over his popcorn - no, I made that last part up. His ashes were scattered at sea. He was 88 years old.
But who then appears in these new commercials? Well, they've made digital re-creations of Redenbacher. Through the magic of computers they have taken his real image and voice and have brough him back from the dead! It's Orville FRANKENBACHER! As my nephew Adam might say, "Man, that really creeps me out!"
So the next time you see him in one of his folksy, down-home commercials, just know what you're really watching, kids - the eternial walking, talking popcorn zombie who refuses to die! And if that doesn't bring chills down your spine and give you nightmares, then his name isn't Orville Redenbacher! Lighter, fluffier, and creepier than ordinary poping corn spokesmen.
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JWR contributor Greg Crosby, former creative head for Walt Disney publications, has written thousands of comics, hundreds of children's books, dozens of essays, and a letter to his congressman. A freelance writer in Southern California, you may contact him by clicking here.
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