Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Kazoos in the News

The Kazoo Museum just can't stay out of the papers. A few months back a writer from Beaufort Lifestyle contacted me and now there's a great piece about the kazoo factory and museum in their latest issue.

You can read the whole issue on their site, but here's the part about the museum:

It's almost inspirational - isn't it? Are you planning your trip yet?

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Welcome Home, From Fred Meyer

Well, it finally happened. Last week I brought the quest for my favorite Fred Meyer commercial to the internet and this week I got an answer. For those of you not familiar with my quest, you can read my previous post here. Last night I got an email from Norm Myhr, the retiring marketing director of Fred Meyer. Not only was he happy to help, he's the one who came up with the ad! Norm recalls how he first came up with the idea:

I happened to hear Tom Chapin sing this song on "Prairie Home Companion." Very few tunes cut through to me the way this one did. The essence and feeling of the song struck me as perfect song for the holidays, something we all long for in our hearts, no matter how far we wander.

As I recall the creative team at FM did not like it. "Too corny." Program Directors at some stations didn't like it, "Too Country and Western, our listeners are sophisticated urban professionals." Despite the critiques, the Customer seemed to like it, and remember it.

In those days chasing down music was no easy feat. We finally found Tom Chapin's agent, and he graciously agreed to license the tune.

I never realized that the jingle is actually a modified, rewritten, and re-recorded version of Tom Chapin's So Nice to Come Home. Norm also recalled a few things about filming it:
The commercial was shot at a home in Lake Oswego and the cast included almost all Fred Meyer employees. A bit of trivia was that the grandmother was the former "Safeway" spokeslady, Mary Marsh, and the Grandfather was Bob Anderson, long time host of "The Scandinavian Hour" a 50 year radio program in Portland.

I was so giddy when I got this email. I called up a bunch of my childhood friends so I could play it for them over the phone. And they were just as excited as I was. This commercial truly is an Oregon holiday classic. I haven't seen the video for the ad yet, but I'm pretty thrilled just to have the music. Tom Chapin still holds the copyright for the song so it's not really mine to share, but I can't post empty-handed so here's a memorable snippet that I hopefully won't get in trouble for. And I just sent him an email to check if he minded me posting all of it. If you do want to hear the rest of the song shoot me an email.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Sometimes the internet talks about me

Last week I blogged about my attempts to find my favorite Fred Meyer commercial and yesterday I did a quick search to see whether the ad had surfaced somewhere. It hadn't, but I did find this link. I stumble upon sites like this every once in a while. It seems like there must be some sort of automated program that finds relevant information related to a topic and pastes it together on a page. This page had accumulated a bunch of information related to the holidays and Fred Meyer. It had more than a few typos and grammatical errors:

This company was founded in 1922 in Poland. Fred Meyer has rather ordinary assortment... Also you can visit jewelry section, clothes store, shoes store.

And it mentioned me too:

Fred Meyer is planning to launch new advertisement. They want to support holiday spirit. Famous anchorperson Boaz Frankel (his reality show will soon have a premier) will be the main person in advertisement. During the video spectators will feel winter holiday atmosphere when whole family is together. Boaz Frankel will sing a song about holidays: "Home again for the holidays. My favorite time of year. Yes, it's so nice to come home." And a new advertisement slogan will be: "Welcome home, from Fred Meyer."

Well, I'm not really sure what to make of all this. I do appreciate them mentioning the upcoming premiere of the Un-Road Trip and calling me a "famous anchorperson." I'm also humbled by their recommendation of me as Fred Meyer's newest singing spokesperson. This information may not be accurate now, but I sure hope it all comes true.

Fred Meyer - are you reading this? Apparently, the internet is trying to tell you something.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

That Time I Met Zooey Deschanel

I was sorting through the contents of an old hard drive and stumbled upon this short clip which I had almost forgotten about. It seemed seasonally appropriate and mildly embarrassing so I thought I'd share it. Back in the day when I had my own late night talk show on NYU-TV I often got invited to press junkets. Basically, I'd sit around a hotel full of journalists for an afternoon waiting for my five minute interview slot with an actor or director. The press junket for Elf was one of the first junkets I ever attended and I think I was especially bright-eyed and bushy-tailed during those days. I also had a huge crush on Zooey Deschanel at the time. In fact, I had gone to J. Crew with a friend a few days before where I paid too much for the sweater/shirt ensemble that I'm wearing in this video. I think it was worth it though. As soon as I walked in that room with Zooey she complimented the sweater. And then the interview happened - an excerpt of which you'll see below:

There are a few things that strike me about this interview:

1) I say "sweet" a lot. I guess I still do.

2) I am so completely enamored with Zooey that I don't seem to mind (or possibly notice) that she's mocking me. I think I was just so happy that she knew my name (and said it twice!)

3) I think my naivety won her over by the end though. Doesn't her final glance make it seem like I've won her over? Or maybe she's just resigned to spending a few more minutes with me?

Zooey recently showed up on the twitter scene and on tumblr too. So maybe she'll see this and have some sort of response?

Zooey: Are you there? Do you remember this exchange from seven years ago? Were you won over by my naivety? Can we film another interview this year and then do one every seven years from here on out?

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Fred Meyer: Where's the Holiday Spirit?

In a time where most of the Oregonians I meet were born a long way from Oregon I always appreciate meeting other native Portlanders. For one reason, really. So we can reminisce about local TV commercials from the 80s and 90s. When I meet another native PDXer I can finally bring up topics like Tom Peterson (and Gloria too).

We can discuss the range of Scott "if you don't come see me today" Thomason commercials and his untimely financial demise.

And often times you remember the commercial better than the business itself. I don't think I ever stepped into a Kienows or Organ Grinder, but I remember watching the ads. And what ever happened to that Izzy's Pizza jingle?

And then there's the trump card. The classic TV commercial I always bring up. It must have aired around 15 years ago because I remember singing it with my middle school friends. Fred Meyer's "Home for the Holidays" commercial featured a catchy song and a collection of heartwarming shots: folks driving in the snow, bringing wrapped gifts into a house, family gathering around the tree. I think there were a few verses in an extended version of the commercial, but the cheery refrain - as I recall it - went:

Home again for the holidays
My favorite time of year
Yes, it's so nice to come home

And then a folksy-sounding announcer added, "Welcome home, from Fred Meyer."

As cheesy as it sounds, this commercial will always hold a special place in my heart and that tune will forever be implanted in my mind. So about four years ago I started my quest to track down this commercial. Somehow it hadn't (and still hasn't) surfaced on YouTube so I sent an email to Fred Meyer customer service:
I really miss your old holiday commercials with the "Home again for the holidays" jingle? Any chance of bringing them back or at least of putting them online? I hope so.

A week later, Ann from the Marketing Dept wrote back:
Thank you for your nice comments about our Home for the Holidays commercials from years past. These are my most favorite commercials ever used by our company, and I'm with you! Hoping we use them again, or something similar. I loved the sentiment of the spots.

Have a good day, and thanks for sharing.

Fred Meyer Stores
Sales Promotion & Marketing
At least I found someone who shared my affection for the commercial and I was hopeful that it would surface eventually. But here we are, four years later, and there's still no sign of the ad. So in early November I sent another email asking if there was any way I could get a DVD or even just stop by and watch it at their offices. It took about a month to get a response this time:
Thank you for your interest in our “Home for the Holidays” television spot. Unfortunately, it’s unavailable for viewing. We do appreciate you taking the time to tell us that you and your friends remember that spot—I do too!

Again, thank you and sorry for the delayed response time.

VP of Marketing, Fred Meyer
Another brick wall. I emailed Ann-Marie back:
Thanks for getting back to me. I'm so bummed to hear that it's unavailable for viewing! Have you considered putting up a "retro commercial" page on your website or on youtube? I think it could prove to be quite popular locally and get some real traction on twitter/facebook/etc.

I hope you'll consider it.

I'm giving them free marketing advice! This ought to encourage them to take some action - right? Perhaps, but I'm not sure what the next step is. Hopefully by now you remember this commercial too or maybe you're so intrigued that you want to see it? If that's the case then you should send a comment to Fred Meyer customer service! Click here if you want to do that. Or maybe some of you have old VHS recordings that might have the commercial on it? Or maybe you know someone who works at Fred Meyer and can sneak a copy out of the basement?

I'm not going to say that I won't go to Fred Meyer till I see that ad, but I'll be somewhat grumpier every time I do go to Fred Meyer. So who's with me? Let's start a revolution!

Monday, December 13, 2010

I'm a Google Street View Celebrity

I've been waiting for this moment for over a year. Actually, I think it may have been closer to two years... Okay - I just checked my twitter and I can tell you definitively that it all started on April 7th, 2009. That's when I was walking through Pioneer Courthouse Square in Portland, OR and I spotted this:
It's the Google-Maps-Mobile! I'd heard stories and seen photos of these camera-equipped cars that drive down every street in a city. The cameras capture 360 degree views along the way that are then available in the "street view" setting on Google Maps. And there were two exciting things about this:

1) I got to see the Google car that takes the pictures! Cool!

2) I will be immortalized in a Google Street View!

And then came the hard part - waiting. I kept checking the Pioneer Square street view every month, but it would always load the same outdated photo. I was starting to lose hope. But a little bit ago I went online and checked once again.
I realize that the casual Google Maps visitor might not notice anything special. No one's going to be recognizing me on the street for this distinguished honor. But you see that guy with a bright green jacket and jeans in the middle of the square walking straight towards the camera? That's me! Let's zoom in a bit.
Yep, that's me. A little blurry maybe, but people have said that I look a little out of focus anyway. And if that's not enough for ya, the car snapped another shot as I was walking away. Check out this great backpack shot:
Nearly two years of waiting has finally paid off, and it feels pretty awesome. Feel free to navigate around the square yourself and try to find other friends too. This is better than Waldo!

View Larger Map
And to make things even better I got immortalized in the same shot as KGW's Studio on the Square. I'm definitely available to come on the show again and discuss our joint newly found fame! Or I'd be happy to autograph glossy 8x11" glossy Street Views print-outs to anyone interested. You know where to reach me.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Back in Unincorporated South Carolina

I spent most of this week at Halogen Headquarters. After writing all the scripts for the Un-Road Trip series over the last few months it was time stop editing and record the final versions of my narration.
I spent about a day and a half in this recording booth. But I wasn't alone. Well, I was in the booth - it's pretty small. But on the other side of the glass I was joined by two other folks. Todd's producing the show for Halogen and he was giving me notes on my readings and telling me to slow down or telling me when my ad-libs were too inappropriate. Here's Todd in action:
And manning the sound board was Anthony Short.
And this isn't Anthony's first time working with the Un-Road Trip - he also wrote the theme song for the show (which I wish I could share with you, but I don't even have a copy of it yet).

It was strange to relive the whole trip again - talking through every step of the way and trying to reflect my moods and thoughts from nearly two years ago in my narration. Sometimes I found myself closing my eyes so I could picture the locations, people, and vehicles I was describing. And then I'd open them again because I hadn't memorized the script. But it was a blast and I think we came up with some really funny lines. At least Anthony and Todd were laughing.

I always thought I talk a lot in my normal life, but I've never talked as much as I did in my two days in the recording booth. My throat was surprisingly sore after so many hours of reading narration. I'm still a little hoarse even a few days later. Not to be confused with a little horse:

I also spent a day at the Halogen offices meeting with some folks about marketing plans, future collaborations, and I also got to hang out with Cliff who's doing a lot of the editing for the show:
Cliff edits the show
In this photo he's working on a few bits from the last episode.

And a few other things. Spending time in a recording booth turns everyone into a diva:
And while wandering around the studios I found this:
I found the Ark of the Covenant!
It's the Ark of the Covenant! And I always thought it was in some government warehouse. Don't worry - I didn't open it. They probably wouldn't let me do a season two of the Un-Road Trip if I had a weird melted face.