Saturday 9: Purple People Eater (1958)
When actor Sheb Wooley brought this song to MGM Records, they initially
rejected it, saying it just wasn't the kind of thing they wanted to be
associated with. Then executives discovered how popular the audition
recording was with the 20-somethings in the office. MGM released it
after all and it became a #1 hit. Tell us about a time you were glad you
changed your mind about something. Dollar Tree. It looks so blah that I never felt like going in. But it just so happens to be near the new pharmacy I use, so I gave it a shot. Oh my! Great for office supplies! On good days I found my favorite brand of toothpaste, too, for just $1! The people who work there are pleasant, which is a big plus.
This song has been so enduringly popular that in the 1970s, the
Minnesota Vikings defensive line referred to themselves as the Purple
People Eaters. What football team do you root for? I root against the Packers. OK, I don't really care about football one way or the other, but I clearly remember my father being desolate whenever the Bears lost or the Packers won (and in those days, they lost to the Packers every time they played). So, out of perhaps misplaced loyalty, I root against the Packers.
The song was initially inspired by Sputnik, the satellite launched by
the Soviet Union in 1958. In the 21st century, do you think space
exploration is a worthwhile public investment? Or would you prefer
governments spend that money here on earth? I suppose I'd rather see the money spent here, but I also don't accept that it's an either/or proposition. I believe we can do both.
The Purple People Eater is a visitor from another planet. When you
imagine creatures from outer space, are they frightening or friendly? I don't think about this very often, but when do, they are friendly.
This record was the biggest hit Sheb Wooley ever had. He was better
known as an actor, costarring with Clint Eastwood on the 1950s TV show, Rawhide. What's your favorite Clint Eastwood movie? I generally loathe Clint Eastwood. His cop movies and westerns are too ugly, angry and violent. So I was surprised by how much I adored Million Dollar Baby, which he also directed. I found it moving and memorable. "Mo cuishle."
Sheb and Clint remained buddies and appeared together decades later in The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976). Tell us about one of your longest-lasting friendships. I
don't think I've ever told the story of how I met my dear friend Henry.
It was 1992. We started working at the same agency on the same account
at the same time. Both Henry and I, and the agency, had recently fallen
on some hard times and were fighting our way back. The company I'd
worked for had gone under. Henry had just lost his teaching job at a
very prestigious Big 10 school (yes, that one!). The agency had
lost several big accounts in a short period of time and had finally won
one -- and hired us to work on it. There was a wonderful feeling of building something new, of fresh starts when we first met.
can have a bit of an edge. Collaboration is not always his strong suit.
Plus, it was his first job in advertising. He was preternaturally good
on the Mac when desktop publishing was new and he handled his assignments well.
It's just he had a hard time grasping exactly how low he was on the food
chain. His job was to simply take the copywriter's words and flow them
into a template.
had suggestions for improving the copy. For streamlining the production
process. For making everything better. People didn't understand him. They
thought he was elite, showing them up or making a power grab. He was
just trying to help.
some reason, he took an immediate liking to me. Even though I wasn't
his supervisor, he decided I was. I became something of a "Henry
whisperer," and since I could handle him -- which I did effortlessly,
because he liked and trusted me -- my bosses gave me credit for
tremendous people skills I don't actually possess.
That's the thing about Henry: he always, ALWAYS sees the best in me. He thinks I'm one of the kindest, wisest women he's ever met. Therefore, when he's around, I try to kinder and wiser. He loves me, and I will never take that for granted.
In 1958, when this song was popular, hula hoops were a national craze.
Did you ever play with a hula hoop? If yes, were you good at it? The neighbor kids had two hula hoops (yellow and orange) and we played with them all the time, but not as hula hoops. We had relays where we competed as we rolled them (which we weren't good at, so this took a very long time) or we pretended to be horses/jockeys in harness races.
Also in 1958, Arnold Palmer won his first Masters Golf Tournament. When did you most recently play golf? I don't think I've ever golfed. Oh, I've miniature golfed, but I've never tried to hit the ball for distance.
Random question: Do you believe women gossip more than men? I suspect men and women are equal in this area. I think they just gossip differently. I don't know that conjecture about LeBron James is really any different than conjecture about Britney Spears, or that speculating about a coworker's salary is any more high-minded than speculating about how much a neighbor spent to get that luscious green lawn.