Photo: 1948 Buick Roadmaster hearse for sale on EBay. Bidding starts at $9,102.
Queen of the Dead—dateline August 1, 2011
• Elliott Handler, cofounder of Mattel, died on July 21, age 95. He and Harold Matson (thus the name: Matson, Elliot), founded the company in 1945; after Matson left soon thereafter, Mrs. Handler—Ruth (1916-2002)—joined up and proved to be a whirlwind of creativity and business acumen. Barbie dolls are Mattel’s most famous creation, but among its other memory-joggers are Hot Wheels, Creepy Crawlers, Cabbage Patch Kids, Magic 8 Balls, Polly Pocket, Chatty Cathy, and See ‘n’ Say. Handler is survived by his daughter, Barbara; his son, Ken, died in 1994. (I did some research to see if my sister’s old “growing hair” Tressy doll was from Mattel, but it was from American Character—who also manufactured Mary Makeup, which would be the best drag name.)
• The Godfather of Cryogenics, Robert Ettinger, fell somewhat short of his goal of living forever on July 23 (he was 92). The author of The Prospect of Immortality (1964), he inspired thousands of what we in the journalism community call “idiots” to have their bodies—or just heads—frozen, till their annoyed descendents finally pull the plug in a few years. Ettinger himself was frozen alongside both of his dead wives, which should lead to a few awkward moments in the year 3000 or so.
• June 22 saw the death of cartoonist Simon Bond, 63. Bond was an antiquarian print and painting dealer, a magazine cartoonist, and the author/illustrator of such books as Real Funny, Odd Visions and Bizarre Sights, A Bruise of Bouncers, Holy Unacceptable, and several others—but it’s his 1981 opus 101 Uses for a Dead Cat that was his most lasting accomplishment. Sadly, my dead cats were cremated, and there are only so many hilarious uses for a small box of ashes, but Bond’s suggestions are nonetheless enlightening.
Photo: Dick “Mr. Whipple” Wilson squeezes the Charmin in an undated TV commercial.
• Those of you who enjoy seeing Don Draper brainstorming new ad campaigns on Mad Men may note the passing of John Chervokas (who died on July 23, at 73)—he came up with the immortal “Please don’t squeeze the Charmin!” while at Benton & Bowles in 1964. “What does mom do in the supermarket? She squeezes the melons,” he later reminisced. “And the tomatoes. And the bread. To see if they’re soft . . .Why not use the same test for Charmin?” I was a copywriter in a NY ad agency in the 1980s, and one of our clients made bathroom stall partitions. For a trade-magazine ad, I came up with the headline, “We separate the men from the boys!” My boss agreed that it was hilarious, and no, he couldn’t possibly show it to the client. Which is one reason I am no longer in the ad game. (By the way? In all my years in NY advertising, I never once heard the expression “Mad Men,” I am pretty sure Matthew Weimer just made that up.)