Commentary

EDITOR’S CORNER

Bad ideas can be expensive, downright ‘cheesy’


Mike Brown Mike Brown Given its track record— whenever something is successful, do it to death— you’d expect Hollywood to have dumb ideas.

But planning a “sequel” to the 1946 classic film “It’s a Wonderful Life” had to be dumb even for Tinseltown.

One was actually planned, apparently for no other reason than that 73-year- old Karolyn Grimes, who played one of Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed’s kids in the original, is still around and would act in it.

That’s pretty typical with Hollywood and sequels. Take something that was good and ride that horse until everyone is sick of it.

(My personal unfavorite was “Rocky XXVIII” in which, as I recall, Sylvester Stallone’s 93-year- old character Rocky Balboa organized a wheelchair demolition derby in his nursing home.) Fortunately, Paramount, which owns the rights to “Original Life” stepped in and said it would fight efforts to film a sequel to one of the most popular films ever made.


Art by Ray Trevino, a sophomore at Rockdale High School. Art by Ray Trevino, a sophomore at Rockdale High School. Not that Hollywood has a monopoly on bad ideas. They resonate throughout American history. Just, FYI, all of these examples are true:

• In 1835 a New York dairy farmer named Thomas Meacham was an ardent admirer of President Andrew Jackson. He used milk from 150 cows, made a 1,400-pound, 4-foot-diameter cheddar cheese and sent it to the White House. Where it was kept for two years (!), then served at a farewell reception for Jackson on Feb. 22, 1837.

Unfortunately the, by then overripe, cheese could be smelled all over the nation’s capitol. It ended up staining carpets, ground into the parquet floor, and smeared into walls and drapes.

Many guests, including President elect Martin Van Buren, left with cheese crumbs in their pockets, hair and clothes.

It was well into the Van Buren administration before the smell of cheese was totally gone from the White House.

• In 1995, city government in Toledo, Ohio, was receiving many noise complaints about a new express airport. Mayor Carty Finkbeiner—yes, that was his name—actually proposed houses in the airport area only be rented to deaf people.

Yes, he was serious. The mayor was savaged, justifiably, by hearing impaired advocates and apologized for his dumb idea in a tearful press conference.

• In 1985, Coca Cola, reacting to a century-old legacy of selling the most successful soft drink in history, decided to change it.

“ The New Coke,” a sweeter version of the original, hit the shelves and became the most disastrous marketing campaign in advertising history.

In this pre-Internet era, Coke got 40,000 irate letters, hundreds of thousands of phone calls and sales plummeted. Coke quickly brought back the old formula as “Classic Coke,” then fizzed out the new brew as quickly as possible.

(The Reporter ran an “on the street” interview of about 50 persons and found exactly one who liked the new Coke. He was a Pepsi delivery man. “It’s increased our sales dramatically,” he said.)

• Remember the laserdisc? After video tapes it was going to be the next big thing in home entertainment. It did deliver superior picture and sound. But discs were expensive and were not recordable/rewritable.

“I’ve just hooked up my $500 system and watched my $25 disc,” one customer wrote. “Now, what do I do. Watch it again?”

• Several years later Circuit City sunk almost everything into a pre-DVD called a DIVX.

You bought it, but the thing lasted only 48 hours, then you had to pay if you wanted to watch it any more. Also it was the modem days and it tied up your phone line to use.

Circuit City went out of business. mike@rockdalereporter.com


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