Tag Archives: jail

The Horrors of the McDonald’s Playground: A Walk Down Memory Lane

By Andrew Blumetti

As if writing about Skippy from Family Ties and TGIF hasn’t dated me much so far, I’m certain the following will surely peg me as an ancient McNugget lovin’ dinosaur, cobwebs intact.

(insert semi-horrible Andy Rooney impression here… but without the messy desk)

With the seemingly never-ending onslaught of new-fangled gizmos and gadgets readily available today, every grade-school scamp is virtually a walking Best Buy store with a backpack.  If an Apple a day keeps the doctor away, these tweens will live to be nearly a day short of one-hundred.

You have your fancy I-this and your spiffy I-that.  Geez cheese Louise, they’re so tethered to their modern electronics, the only thing that you don’t see follow the “I” is “played outside after school with my friends“.

(end impression here.)

Now, I may only be a child of the 80’s—  a simpler time of a feathery-haired Tony Danza, infinite cans of Aqua Net, and the gravity-defying locks of A Flock of Seagulls, but rest assured, it’s a cold, cold realization that smacks you square in the jaw when even my generation is starting to sound curmudgeonly.

Even in said decade, growing up in the New Jersey suburbs, there was a wealth of fun activities to occupy a young boy’s time on a sunny summer afternoon–  endless games of stickball in the park, weaving in and out of local traffic on your bike, impressing the schoolgirls with the newest skateboarding tricks (or more specifically, “falling off a skateboard”), or perhaps a refreshing dip in a friend’s heavily-chlorined pool was the ideal way to spend your time.

Amongst all that classic-American fun in the sun, certain days really stood out from the others.  Most specifically, being told that an afternoon trip to McDonald’s was being planned, simple as it sounds, now that was a reason to celebrate.

Sure, the sizzling golden fries were soaked in pure saturated happiness, and the Happy Meal box was filled with LEGO sets that were practically as good as gone by the time we got to the table, but going to Mickey-D’s included one other added attraction, one that wasn’t deep fried or dunked in honey mustard…

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An innocent land of child-like whimsy and wonder… OR IS IT????

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Sadly, most current McDonald’s locations don’t feature these outlandish relics anymore–  A 4,000 square foot outdoor play-area, not much different than any standard cookie-cutter park playground, but decked-out in classic McDonald’s decor, all topped off with all the behavioral calmness of Lord of the Flies (or Fries?) on speed.

It was a barbarous marriage of the trippy universe of Willy Wonka and the happy-go-lucky freak show that was the advertising campaign of the Golden Arches…   Metal slides, swings, and spinning rides that would get hotter than John Travolta’s spoon in Pulp Fiction on a summer day.  A fantasy playland, covered in french fry smudge marks and more-than-occasional bratty kids in Bum Equipment t-shirts hogging every ride in sight.  This madness was such a blast, it’d require multiple requests from exhausted parents to finally drag their surly kids to finally leave for home.

Fast forward to 2013, and finding a classic McDonald’s outdoor playground is quite the challenging task.   Try as I might, I just can’t place my finger on the reason though…

Perhaps they became too costly to maintain?  The cancellation of the McDonaldland promotion?  Maybe McDonald’s brass considered any kind of exercise offensive?

….or perhaps the real reason McDonaldland Playgrounds ultimately went the way of the dodo is because sunshine-y nostalgic hindsight is clouding our vision of how Rob Zombie-ish that freaky place really was.

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CHAPTER I:  THE PURPLE PEOPLE EATER

Your kids were better off hanging out in real bars instead.

Remember Grimace?

A giant characterless purple blob that pre-dated Barney the Dinosaur.  Yes, he literally pre-dated a freakin’ dinosaur.

The aptly-named Grimace was initially introduced as a nemesis to main clown mascot, Ronald McDonald.  Fast food head-hanchos realized that’s just the most incredibly stupid thing, and went with the slightly less stupid story that he has no story.  Luckily his character was so crappy, no one seemed to care… but much like Freddy Krueger, he would eventually have his revenge… ON YOUR CHILDREN.

In this ominous Buffalo Bill-esque prison, Grimace forced many innocent kiddies to put the lotion in the basket.  How this thing is better than a real jail is beyond me.

“Thanks for eating our cheeseburgers, kids.  Now get inside this weird purple thing’s torso.”

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CHAPTER II:  JAILHOUSE CROCK

No amount of bathtubs could make you feel clean after this.

Apparently, the McDonald’s brain-trust figured nothing struck a chord with kids like jails, cause here was another one–  “Officer Big Mac”, a big giant novelty cheeseburger decked out in a nifty constable uniform who would one day be destined to become a torture pit for youths.

His main job was to pursue the Hamburglar, a ground beef-thief who decided it was wise to wear his prison stripes outside of prison and pilfer your cholesterol away from you.

After looking at this ominous death trap, one wouldn’t have to scratch their head too long to wonder why Officer Big Mac isn’t flashing his once-famous buns around anymore.  Speaking as someone who isn’t crazy about heights or tight, enclosed spaces (the dirty, slippery, kid-crowded ladder inside this godforsaken thing was nothing short of a living nightmare straight out of Jacob’s Ladder), I avoided this hepatitis-covered abyss the way Neil Patrick Harris avoids women.

Jokes on you, smiling Caucasian children— this time the burger eats you!

 

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CHAPTER III: DAYLIGHT ROBBERY

At least Calista Flockhart found work somewhere.

Rumor has it there’s a deleted scene in the special edition of Saw IV that features this pupil-less Hamburglar’s rusted swings of death, but the MPAA deemed it was too disturbing to achieve an R-rating.

He’s got a Jack Skellington-ish suit, a Jack Skellington-ish body, and contains just the right amount of uneasy to make Tim Burton smile, but don’t be fooled, this boney burger boob simply ain’t any fun.  Just make sure to pour out your Dr. Pepper on the sidewalk as a tribute to all the fallen suburban homies who tragically faceplanted while getting off of this wretched thing.

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CHAPTER IV:  SOMETHING’S FISHY…

For hippies, this was known as the “Fillet ‘O Phish”.

This underwater treasure was the thing you were forced to play on when everything more fun was being occupied.  Yes, when standing inside the Grimace jail was too exciting, this became the last resort of the desperate fast food playgrounder.

Being a fish is a wild ride.  It’s freedom personified… something we as humans will never be able to fully appreciate or relate to.  You spend your entire life in the magnificent deep blue sea, travel in schools, and gracefully glide your vibrant scaly body amongst the endless coral, the flowing greenery, and the vivid rainbows that compose your fellow sea-brethren–  it’s stunning peace and Studio-54-ish chaos all in one felt aquatic swoop. 

Then one random day, you spy a tasty worm just ripe for the picking…  the next thing you know, there’s a hook in your stupid cheek, and you end up a processed square patty with a slice of room-temperature kinda-cheese on you, stuck on a bun at McDonald’s to be sold in a pair for three bucks.

True, it’s not necessarily the most dignified fate, but man, imagine being the ride based on that sandwich?

Fish, burger… heck, they all look the same in McDonaldland.

Meet the “Filet-o-Fish” ride, a humdrum bouncy piece of junk that didn’t even bounce properly.

Look familiar?  You may remember this weirdo as the chestbuster that burst out of Ripley’s stomach while your were nodding off at the end of Alien 3. 

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CHAPTER V:  HOW BIZARRRRRRRRRRRE

Don’t laugh. The Burger King’s corpse is buried under this thing.

No list of forgotten McDonald’s mascots would be complete without nefarious swashbuckler, Captain Crook, the one Mc-imbecile who actually wanted to ride the bouncy fish seat.

A two-bit pirate with a soft spot for both thievery and seafood, this seafaring counterpart to the Hamburglar was yet another immoral advertising idea who wanted to snag your salty food while your back was turned.  That’s so absurd, even the Oakland Raiders mascot is pointing and laughing,

Of course, since the McDonaldland Playground was missing a slide, they kindly threw Crook a bone.  If avoiding the child Mcvomit at the bottom wasn’t taxing enough, battling the derelicts walking up the slide the wrong way was nothing short of the final battle in 300. 

Look at his face.  That tells you everything you need to know about this thing.  Raise your hand if you’d have rather walked the plank into a sea of blood-thirsty sharks instead.

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CHAPTER VI:  “I BELIEVE I CAN FRY”

This was known as “The ride you sat on while you waited for some greasy porker to get off the swings.”

There’s a point when it’s painfully clear you’re just flat out of original ideas.

When Steve Urkel began endlessly cloning himself, we knew Family Matters was ready to mercifully be put down, or when Home Alone 3 hit theaters with an entire new cast, the planet shifted off axis as a nation simultaneously rolled their eyes at the offensive shark-jumping.

…and on that dubious note, I present to you, The Fry Guys.

Originally named “The Goblins” (cause they’re “gobblin’ up” your fries- hey, good one!), these are basically cheerleader pom-poms with volleyball-sized eyes that stare straight into your soul.  So, basically all of the aspects of cheerleading and volleyball that don’t involve the attractive women.

Yes, this is starting to sound like a quite obvious pattern.  Between the Hamburglar, Crook, and these walking Koosh balls, McDonald’s figured the most effective marketing method was to make you believe your recently-purchased food for would be stolen away from you by moronic mascots.  Diagnosis:  Mc-agita.

To McDonald’s credit, they created a playground ride that aptly matched the excitement of The Fry Guys.

Blumes noteNo hands, yet they purchased shoes with laces instead of Velcro.  Poor shopping choice, Fry Guys.

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CHAPTER VII:  SEE, I’M NOT A MONSTER, I’M JUST AHEAD OF THE CURVE

WHITEST. GUY. EVER.

RONALD McDONALD’S CONFESSION LETTER:

To Whom It May Concern,

I, Ronald McDonald, or “Ron” as I wish to be called, hereby admit to the number of charges of being a colossal creep, even by clown standards. 

First off, I am not even Scottish, it just rhymes with “Ronald”.  Secondly, this is not my natural hair color, I have been hoping to score the part of Little Orphan Annie in an off-Broadway theatrical run of Annie. 

Most importantly, I apologize for my maniacal thousand-yard stare, constant serial killer smile, and the fact you’ll see me in your sleep the way you heard creaks and squeaks for weeks following a viewing of Paranormal Activity.  When the borderline psychotic Burger King king was still the second-most terrifying fast-food corporate spokesman, I know I did something wrong.

Oh yeah, I also killed Waldo and stole his shirt.  He’s buried and decaying under the Hamburglar swing. 

See you in your nightmares,

Ronald McDonald

P.S.–  I also peed in the all the McFlurry machines in Michigan. 
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mcdonalds dreams

Hey kid-  If this is true, your dreams stink. 

 

The preceding is a work of parody, and I do not own any of the photos used.  Except for the Fry Guy ones… I’m making a t-shirt out of that bad boy.  

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Filed under Advertising, Animation, Comedy, Food, Humor, Pop Culture, Retro, Television

Vigo From Ghostbusters II Died Ten Years Ago! (…and Other Things You Didn’t Know About Him)

By Andrew Blumetti

“Vigy, Vigy, Vigy, you have been a bad monkey!”

Dr. Peter Venkman

Amen brotha Billy… in fact you don’t even know the half of it.

Vigo the Carpathian, main antagonist in 1989’s summer-comedy spooktacular sequel, Ghostbusters II, was a 17th Century Moldavian genocidal tyrant, so horridly sadistic and blood-curdlingly malevolent, he earned a shopping list of not-so jolly nicknames, including but not limited to:  “Vigo the Cruel”, “Vigo the Torturer”, Vigo the Despised” and “Vigo the Butch Unholy”.

That concentrated evil is all just Hollywood magic of course.  When director Ivan Reitman yelled “Cut!”, the loathsome, murderous former-painting Vigo took off his mustard-y armor plated threads and was nothing more than an ordinary 20th Century human– German-born actor, Wilhelm von Homburg.

Wilhelm von Homburg?

True, a name that certainly doesn’t organically ring that familiar bell the way Tom Hanks or Brad Pitt does upon first listen.  While Fabio  Tony Little-lookalike, Vigo, was a celebrated villain to millions of movie fans, poor ‘ol Wilhelm was far from the definition of household of names, especially here in the United States.

Don’t mistake that last statement for a boring life though.  On the contrary in fact.  In spite of his unfamiliar foreign moniker and assumed one claim-to-fame, blondielocks lived quite an enthralling life to say the least.

So, kick back, unplug that dancing toaster, hop in the Statue of Liberty’s crown and let’s take a walk down memory lane.  When all is said and done, you’ll be rather surprised to learn of the roller coaster-ride of the life of the man who played the painting who tried to steal the baby to come back and kill the men who captured ghosts for a high fee.

“Suck in the guts guys, we’re on some dumb blog.”

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CLEAN SWEEP!

“Mop up all that pink slime or we’re calling Immigration on you. NOW.”

Not one to be pushed around in the film, but during the filming of Ghostbusters II, the Vigmeister lost a bet on the Cleveland Browns and had to clean up after those sloppy Scoleri Brothers.  No easy task- those paranormal fatties dropped Devil Dog crumbs EVERYWHERE.  We’d all like to think perhaps the whole cast pitched in to help.  Somewhere there has to be a photo of Rick Moranis accidentally dropping his glasses into the men’s room urinal while changing the cakes.

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“LET’S WRASSLE!”

Bust out them singlets!

In the 1950’s, he wrestled in the United States with his father under his birth name, Norbert Grupe.

Due to people incorrectly pronouncing his last name, “Groupie”, he changed his name to the much more roll-off-the-tongue, “Wilhelm von Homburg”.  A few years later, he’d switch over to a different kind of ring, as boxing came calling his “impossible-to-pronounce-without-sounding-like-you’re-in-the-SS” name.

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PUT UP YOUR DUKES!

“I’ll knock out Annie Potts and steal her French-bread pizza any day of the week.”

From 1962 to 1970, Homburg found a career as a successful boxer, nicknamed “Prinz”, a grand stage-name chosen in order to create a sense of royalty surrounding him.

Unofficial nicknames given to the pugilist were “The Boxing Beatle” thanks to his moppy mane, and the slightly less popular, “The German Answer to Muhammad Ali” thanks to the obvious resemblance.

He ended his career with a record of 29 wins, 11 losses, and 6 draws.  But to be fair, half of those victories came against Slimer.

In 2002, a documentary about Homburg’s life, entitled The Boxing Prince, was released.  This was later renamed to The Artist Formerly Known as the Boxing Prince… then eventually just a symbol.

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JUST YOUR AVERAGE AWKWARD GERMAN TV INTERVIEW

The day after a lost boxing match against rival Oscar Bonavena in 1969, Homburg appeared for a television interview on a German talk show.  He sat silent and smirking for the entire 10 minutes as the interviewer tossed snarky comments about Homburg’s boxing loss and his flashy lifestyle his way.

It still had twice as many viewers as any episode of Joey though.

To be fair, he’s still the second-most popular “Matt” from friends though.

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YEE-HAW!

Vigo’s years in the Bloods were spent constantly throwing the wrong hand symbol.

Despite his most prominent role as the adversary in Ghostbusters II, Homburg also had a minor acting career, appearing in hit movies starring Carl Winslow, such as Die Hard, and non-hit movies without Carl Winslow, such as Diggstown, and John Carpenter’s 1994 horror film, In the Mouth of Madness.

“Go ahead, call me Cee-Lo Green ONE MORE TIME.”

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VIGO’S ACTION FIGURE?  TERRIFYING.

Nice mullet.”- Skeletor

To properly showcase Vigo’s mighty shoulder pads, a Janet Jackson “Rhythm Nation” doll was just painted over to achieve the look.

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VIGO’S “TO CATCH A PREDATOR-ISH” VOICE?  DUBBED.

“Dan Aykroyd said I couldn’t borrow his hair straightener.”

Bill Murray first dipped his gut-busting toe into the world of more dramatic roles in Wes Anderson’s 1998 charming classic, Rushmore.  Just five short years later, his brilliant performance as Bob Harris, an aging actor trying to find himself in Tokyo in 2003’s Lost in Translation made him a frontrunner for the first Academy Award of his career.

One textbook self-righteous Sean Penn acceptance speech later, and Murray’s trophy night never came to be.

Fret not specter-catching fans– While we can’t say Ghostbusters II included an Oscar-winning actor, at least we can say Bill Murray has good company with another Academy Award nominee in the film.

Max von Sydow, a Swedish actor, best known for playing Father Lankester Merrin in the horror landmark, The Exorcist, and appeared in Hannah and Her Sisters, The Diary of Anne Frank, and most recently, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, provided the few voiced lines of Vigo the Carpathian in the film.

“For relaxing times, make it Vigo time.”

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VIGO THE CONVICT

It wasn’t all fun times in the ring and bro-down pow-wows with Dan Aykroyd for Homburg though.

The persistent paparazzi hounded him, following the actor’s descent into the darker corners of his life.  Homburg’s life became filled with drugs, drug dealing, pimping and extortion, even spending a chunk of time 1%’ing it up with a Hell’s Angels chapter.

After many run-ins with Johnny Law, he spent five years in jail for charges on the previously mentioned bevy of charges.  Which was a major pleabargin from his initial sentence of being sprayed endlessly with gooey pink slime.

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ADIOS ‘OL VIGY…

Unfortunately, after a troubled and turbulent life, Homburg passed away almost a decade ago, to the day, on March 10, 2004 from complications from cancer.  And with him, we said raise our proton packs, give an ‘ol 21 “not crossing the streams” salute and say goodbye to the second-greatest Ghostbusters villain to grace the silver screen.

Wait, let’s make sure of this…

1. Stay Puft Marshmallow Man

2. Vigo

3. Walter Peck

4. Zuul

5. the old lady ghost in the library

6. Jack Hardemeyer, the mayor’s assistant

7. Female Gozar (who actually should count as Stay Puft as well…)

Okay, silver medal sounds good enough.

“I’ve worked with better, but not many.”

Dr. Peter Venkman

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