Is his body even cold yet?
May 22, 2002 4:27 AM   Subscribe

Is his body even cold yet? "Wendy's will honor its late founder, Dave Thomas, by adding a reference to him in commercials next month and putting posters of him in restaurants." It seems the turnaround from colorful founder to straight-out corporate icon has been shortened to five months. I just wonder if the animated Dave will have Randy Quaid's voice.
posted by owillis (24 comments total)
He said Wendy's has no plans to use Thomas' image or voice in the new commercials.

Mr. Calhoon said that Wendy's has decided that while it may be "O.K. to refer to Dave now, we will not show him, or make him into a cartoon figure.

You know something we don't, owillis? The links suggest that the animated Col. Sanders has been filed under "don't ever do that".
posted by mcwetboy at 4:40 AM on May 22, 2002

According to this, he was a bastard (literally, back when such things were shameful), a high school drop out (too busy making sandwiches in restaurants), and one "interesting motherfucker" who was responsible for Kentucky Fried Chicken's best gimmicks (bucket, "Finger Lickin' Good", colonel as icon) before he took his KFC profits and started Wendy's (named after a voracious hooker he used to live with).
posted by pracowity at 4:45 AM on May 22, 2002

named after a voracious hooker he used to live with

I thought Wendy's was named after one of his kids? I was kind of hoping to find information on her...
posted by geoff. at 4:59 AM on May 22, 2002

Wendy is/was one of his kids. A family friend used to work in the home office. Apparently, Wendy's an assache.
posted by yerfatma at 5:11 AM on May 22, 2002

> I thought Wendy's was named after one of his kids?

Well, you thought wrong, my friend. Of course, the corporate history has been scrubbed and Wendy is now living on a very small island in the Aleutians, but there are still a few old men down on Main Street who, for a bottle of Night Train, will tell you stories about Square-Jawed Wendy's endless appetite for hamburgers.
posted by pracowity at 5:17 AM on May 22, 2002

...will honor its late founder, Dave Thomas, by adding a reference to him in commercials next month and putting posters of him in restaurants

What an honor. Wait - isn't this exactly what they did when he was alive?
posted by luser at 5:23 AM on May 22, 2002

I'd rather have an animated anything pitch food in place of Jason Alexander(KFC). Why is little chunky man telling me to buy chicken popper thingers, anyway?
posted by allpaws at 5:58 AM on May 22, 2002

For my part, the most striking thing about Dave's passing was the almost instantaneous disappearance of any kind of special burger. The last several weeks they've been pushing their new salads, of course, but that just reminds one that they very publicly removed their salad bars several years ago -- and guess what? The ads say "We've raised the bar on salad." Um, maybe your customers have longer memories than your media department.

I'll honestly tell you that while I liked Dave in his ads well enough, it was the new sandwich tastes every 6-8 weeks that kept me coming back. Maybe it was a Dave thing and the Excel jockeys in charge now don't think it was carrying its weight.
posted by dhartung at 6:10 AM on May 22, 2002

Wendy's created the down-home and wholesome fast-food corporate image, it was their schtick. It's quite pervasive even in Wendy's decor. They must have felt that that was what was missing in fast food in those days. Yet, somehow I don't get the impression that Dave would have minded pitching hamburgers in bondage gear if it increased the value of Wendy's shares. But, when they started sticking him in commercials, the trend was down-home straight talking icons (like the motel 6 routine).

Business is business, and sentiment is for fools on Wall Street/Madison Ave. It is better to preserve one's memory on granite in a cemetary. On TV... sell hamburgers. That's the whole point. I think that Dave's actions in life carefully illustrate that desire.

So, what's a company supposed to do when their best pitchman dies? Wait for the public to forget about it, then bring him back to life as an icon. It's their best shot at maintaining revenues.
posted by Dean_Paxton at 6:13 AM on May 22, 2002

People still eat fast food?
posted by rushmc at 6:19 AM on May 22, 2002

Not me, RushMC. I can't eat fast food anymore. The stuff literally makes me ill when I try. Though I do miss Wendy burgers, I feel much healthier when I avoid them. They taste good going down but then they hit my digestive tract and I wish I were dead. I used to live on fast food, but now I'm just not interested in meeting Dave Thomas in the afterlife. I'm too addicted to being alive to eat poison like that.
posted by ZachsMind at 7:03 AM on May 22, 2002

I work for a nonprofit that runs a program for which Dave was the spokesperson when he died. He was a really nice, down-to-earth guy--just like in those commercials. Since his death, his family has been VERY reluctant to allow his image or name to promote anything he was involved in, including the restaurants.

Dave's likeness and personality has been so closely linked to the Wendy's identity, it's stranger for him NOT to be in any ads, I think. The transition from "colorful founder to straight-out corporate icon" happened a long time ago and was 100 percent OK with Dave. I think that this would be too, and if his family's fine with it I see no problem.
posted by sj at 7:14 AM on May 22, 2002

Will burgers conquer the world?
posted by rushmc at 7:17 AM on May 22, 2002

Wendy is now living on a very small island in the Aleutians, but there are still a few old men down on Main Street who, for a bottle of Night Train, will tell you stories about Square-Jawed Wendy's endless appetite for hamburgers

I'm wiping coffee from the inside of my nose. Thanks for the Guh-fucking-FAW.

Now: tell us, who was this mysterious BIGGIE?
posted by groundhog at 7:35 AM on May 22, 2002

Info and pic of young Melinda Lou (Wendy) here. She's wearing the striped blue dress and has the red pigtails, just like the Wendy image we all know and love. I've seen that image on many a chocolate Frosty.

According to CNN, the day that the Dave Thomas tie-in was announced. Wendy's stock dropped 24 cents.
posted by iconomy at 7:56 AM on May 22, 2002

When I was a kid, I was fixated on the concept that a fast food restaurant was named for one of my own kind. If Wendy's needs a new icon, they should bring back that freakish red-haired child who looks like Ronald McDonald's fun baby.
posted by rcade at 8:04 AM on May 22, 2002

On a somewhat related tangent, I find it creepy to still see Robert Urich pitching electric toothbrushes on TV.
posted by piskycritter at 8:08 AM on May 22, 2002

I grew up in Columbus, OH where Wendy’s has their corporation headquarters [Dublin]. I went home around the time of Dave’s death…the city was abuzz with the news and everyone was bummed. I mean everyone. I was on the street and people farking came up to me and started talking about him. I haven’t ever seen that happen in an Edge City like Columbus [for those who haven’t been to Columbus yet…think suburbs and a small little downtown]. I admit I was a little sad; I met Dave a few times before. I had a girlfriend who’s father owned 3 Wendy’s and the Corporation had many different gatherings, you know to boost spirit, and so I would come along for the free drinks and food. I was introduced to Dave and he was the kindest CEO I had ever met. I mean, who cannot not like Dave? He is like everyone’s Grandfather. And as stated above, I think the whole Wendy’s theme was centered on this very midwestern, down-home living. And yes owillis, colorful founder to straight-out corporate icon already happened, but in a very, Midwestern way.
posted by plemeljr at 8:22 AM on May 22, 2002

I stopped eating at Wendy's when the ads featuring Dave started airing. The "gosh darn it, can you believe those silly foreigners/gourmets/healthy eaters" message irritatated me to no end. I never met the guy and as far as I know he was a great father and friend, but I'm glad I don't have to look at his smug fat face anymore. It seems to me that an animated version of him will be eerily appropriate in its goofy simplicity.
posted by bingo at 8:37 AM on May 22, 2002

What I like about Wendy's is how they're not all about brainwashing kids.

Also, the burgers. That irregular, chunky pattie...those fresh, crunchy vegetables...the ketchup cups -- oh! the ketchup cups.... Mmmm. Lunchtime.
posted by luser at 8:38 AM on May 22, 2002

Dave Thomas was a generous soul and a smart businessman. I say this because he was intelligent enough to back off the business side of Wendy's after almost running it into the ground to focus on marketing which WAS his forte. He came up with the "Where's the beef" ad campaign and started featuring himself in the commercials which were also wildly successful (bingo's comment notwithstanding *wink*).

He gave copious amounts of money to colleges and charities and was an amazing lecturer (I had the priviledge of hearing him speak at Duke).

Putting him in Wendy's commercials is a grand idea as long as his family okays it, imho...
posted by gloege at 10:07 AM on May 22, 2002

But their hamburgers are square. Efficiency be damned, that's so wrong!

Oh, and luser, i never use ketchup cups anywhere. i just dump a bunch on my tray (if there's a paper placemat) or sandwich wrapper if there's not.
posted by Ufez Jones at 10:14 AM on May 22, 2002

Two thoughts here:

They're still *running* the Cybersonic spots? Hell, Sola Vita yanked theirs, and they've been using him for 2 years or more now...

And secondly, it's probably worthy of note that they didn't "publicly yank" their salad bars... some restaurants still have them. South Pasadena, FL, had one until about a year ago, and Brandon still does (or did 3 months back when I was there last. I think there's one still set up in Tampa, too, on North Armenia.

So it wasn't a corporate wide edict to pull them; more likely the retraction of a coporate wide edict to *have* them. I liked them too...
posted by baylink at 1:13 PM on May 22, 2002

Is his body even cold yet?

owillis, you're thinking about Walt Disney, not Dave Thomas.
posted by LeLiLo at 8:32 PM on May 22, 2002

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