You might have seen the recent news reports that Kraft Foods would rename their global snack business to Mondelez. The name Mondelez is a mashup of the words world and delicious in Latin. It is a curious decision considering how famous a brand name Kraft has been over many years but the parent company wanted to develop a fresh global identity for their snack business.
The controversy surrounding what to do about their name reminded us of a classic Bob Clampett gag planned for the Beany and Cecil cartoon Beanyland. When Dishonest John began to mine the moon for the green cheese he planned to package it as KRAFTY Cheese as part of his ultimate dream to create DISMAL LAND. Of course the censors at ABC were not on board with that joke and sent instructions that Krafty should be deleted along with many other politically incorrect gags in the cartoon. However, we are happy to inform you that KRAFTY made it into the final cut of Beanyland. There is a scene where D.J. packages the green cheese and there are a stack of slabs of green cheese in individual wrappers where the word KRAFTY is clearly visible. (See accompanying picture).
These same censors were so clueless that one of their notes warned that Walt Disney could not be caricatured in the cartoon. When Bob Clampett asked where Walt Disney appeared he was told that it was the guy with the mustache and hook nose. Clampett had to explain that was HIS villain Dishonest John. In fairness to the censors there was quite a bit of spot on satirical humor directed at the Magic Kingdom and also towards the green cheese represented by KRAFTY too.
PBS American Masters broadcast of the documentary Carson: King of Late Night recounts the rich comedic life of Johnny Carson. This long overdue tribute reminds us of a time around 1955 when two couples, Johnny Carson and his wife Jody, and Bob Clampett and his wife Sody often partied together and were even good enough friends to travel on the weekends to Palm Springs together. This was either around the time Carson did Carson Cellar on KNXT in Los Angeles, the CBS affiliate, or the short lived Johnny Carson Show also on CBS. We even have some color home movies of a shirtless, chain smoking Carson sitting in a lounge chair by the pool joking with a couple of unidentified folks. After a bit of mugging for the camera, Carson finally gives the cameraman the evil eye.
We do not know what bonded Carson and Clampett together; a modicum of television success at that point in their careers, the fact that they both took magic serious as kids, their off the wall sense of humor or maybe all of the above. The Carson docu included some color home movies of Carson performing magic card tricks. On the Volume 1 Beany and Cecil DVD we included black and white home movies from around 1926 of Bob Clampett performing his own sleight of hand tricks.
The story as we heard it was that Carson and Clampett repeatedly pulled pranks on each other which escalated until Clampett finally filled the Carson hotel bathtub in Palm Springs with Jello. Only problem unbeknownst to Clampett was that Carson had just got word from his primary sponsor (JELLO) that they were dropping him. Carson was furious over such an egregious insult and never talked with Clampett again.
Around 20 years later Clampett had appeared as the onscreen host in the film Bugs Bunny Superstar. A particularly energetic Public Relations guy got a meeting with Paul Bloch, the talent coordinator at the Tonight Show offices over at NBC in Burbank. Bloch was very enthusiastic about having the creator of Tweety on the Tonight Show, but a day or two later the call came back that the appearance got the thumbs down from Johnny. After seeing some of the sad reveals in the documentary like the coldness Johnny Carson showed to his three sons, infidelity issues, failed marriages, drinking problems, and the long standing grudges he held against some of his business associates, one thinks Bob Clampett would have been able to look back fondly on his Johnny Carson Jello prank as a comic badge of honor.
For all the happy times you brought us, RIP Johnny Carson and RIP Bob Clampett who died this month on May 2, 1984.