A Little Dab’ll Do Ya! by
50
(77 Stories)

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First, to set the scene: My dad and I are sitting on the couch on a Friday night (a Friday night that we don’t go to the synagogue for Shabbat services), and it’s time for the Gillette Cavalcade of Sports’ Friday Night Fights on TV. My dad, first in his family to go to college and get his doctorate, lived a life immersed in theater and surrounded by actors. Did two guys in shiny trunks slugging it out in in the ring in front of a noisy crowd at Madison Square Garden represent just another kind of theater to him? I don’t know the answer, but he watched the fights religiously, unless he was doing his other usual Friday night activity–also religiously, but in a different way. He may have studied the sweet science at some point, or at least he knew enough about it to call out the punches and “oof” appreciatively when a right cross or a left hook landed especially hard. Did he know the Marquess of Queensbury rules? I don’t know. Maybe he just liked watching these fights the same way he liked watching baseball. It’s a thing you can appreciate for what it is without ever having done it.

Since the biggest share of the Friday Night Fights audience was likely male, the commercials were about things for men: Brylcreem, Gillette razors, and Hamm’s (the beer refreshing). The Hamm’s commercial featured a steady tom-tom beat (DUM da da da, DUM da da da) that was the background for the jingle that began, “From the land of sky blue wa-a-ters…” One night as we sat at the dinner table, my sister and I started doing the back beat and my dad sang the jingle. We thought it was hilarious. My mom: not so much.

I think my favorite part of the Brylcreem commercial was when the male and female animated dolls appeared. I loved her long pony tail! (I cannot imagine what the real man’s hair felt like when it was completely slicked down with grease! Who would want to run their fingers through that hair?) Was he also an Aqua Velva man, or did he use Old Spice like my dad? Little girls didn’t really understand why people used some of these products if the end result meant getting your hair messed up or worse!

My other favorite commercials were for Gillette razors. There was a parrot involved, which always adds to the entertainment level. The theme song  (“To Look Sharp”)  was stirring, as demonstrated here by no less than the Boston Pops Orchestra.

Looking at some of these old commercials, it’s interesting how LONG they were. We’re so accustomed to pop-up ads and quick, to-the-point messaging, some of these old ones seem endless! But even so, many of them were entertaining and went beyond just plugging a product. I do remember singing along with Dinah Shore when she sang “See the USA in a Chevrolet!”–especially after my parents bought our 1958 fire engine red Chevy station wagon, which we proceeded to drive cross country from Detroit to the Bay Area, which is a story for another time.

 

And to wrap this up with another boxing reference, complete with Farfel the dog, I leave you with Nestle’s Quick. N-E-S-T-L-E-S…Nestle’s makes the very best….chocolate!



Characterizations: funny, moving, well written

Comments

  1. John Shutkin says:

    I so resonated to your choice of jingles, Risa — thanks for the memories. Though I’m not sure if that;s because I’m a guy or not. But I loved the idea of you and your erudite dad watching the Friday Night Fights.

    In fact, I used to watch the beginning of the Fights myself, but only to hear the introduction, which was a serious male voice intoning: “The Gilette Cavalcade of Sports is on the air,” and then the Gilette jingle (“To look sharp….”) began playing. It’s allure to me was not the Fights themselves or even the jingle. Rather, it was because this was the quasi-ceremonial way that all World Seres games also began; along with the Fights, the Series was part of Gillette’s “Cavalcade” — indeed, maybe the only other part. So just listening to this opening reminded me of my most beloved baseball games and the thrill of watching them.

    In short, you struck a perfect childhood chord for me!

    • Risa Nye says:

      Thank you so much,John! Yes, I also remember the fanfare at the beginning of the fights. And Madison Square Garden had such a mythical quality to this California girl. I think my dad was pleased to have one or both of his daughters sitting with him while he watched the drama unfold in the ring!

  2. Betsy Pfau says:

    Wonderful, Risa. I love your use of the term “sweet science”. I, personally, never watched boxing, but I’m told that my in-laws did (long before I came into the family and we’ve been married almost 47 years), so I heard a lot about those Friday night fights. Gillette was a client when I first got into sales. I remain friendly with that client. He was very kind to me and would slip me new products (the Venus razor for one) or bubble gum flavored tooth paste (after they bought Oral B), if I couldn’t find any on the shelves for my younger, very sensitive child. She claims the mint left a burning sensation in her mouth and it is difficult to find non-minty tooth paste. This was long before Tom’s of Maine. So your commercials brought back lots of memories for me. And Dinah Shore singing “See the USA in your Chevrolet”…well, I’m from Detroit so that was like mother’s milk to me!

    • Risa Nye says:

      Thanks, Betsy! That ’58 Chevy I mentioned was purchased in Detroit, which is where my mother and her family lived when she was growing up. Wasn’t Dinah an excellent spokesperson for Chevrolet?

  3. Laurie Levy says:

    Risa, I remember every one of those commercials. Those jingles popped into my head the minute who mentioned them. What a fun story!

    • Risa Nye says:

      Thanks, Laurie! This was a fun one to research and write about. The fact that we all know and remember these jingles and commercials reminded me of the common experience of watching the same shows with our age group. Hard to find that kind of common ground these days with 1000 channels and streaming options!

  4. Brava Risa!
    Wonderful, funny, and great clips included Risa, but also a poignant portrait of your warm family singing those old jingles together as you watched the fights!

  5. These are all great and very evocative! You really stimulated my own reflections. I don’t recall ever tasting Hamm’s beer but I have always sung yet another of their commercial jingles: A beer is a beer is a beer is a beer–until you’ve tasted Hamm’s! They must have had a really good advert team.
    My dad was a poet as well as a lawyer and he too was really into boxing. He had actually coached it during the Army–without stepping into the ring himself. I think it was much more the language/currency of the era for nearly all males.
    Good insight about the length and our relative attention span for these longer indulgences before getting back to “the show.” I am sitting here really enjoying the Boston Pops version all instrumental. Quite a revelation.

  6. Great job, Risa, of bringing back a few of my faves, especially Hamm’s…mmmm, Hamm’s, my dad’s preferred beer. As a kid, I LOVED that ad (your photo prompted me to Google it and play it) …the beat, the song, the entire production. And Brylcreem…because my big brother used it and I looked up to him, I wanted to look just like that animated girl with the ponytail. “Excitingly clean, disturbingly healthy!” Such a sublime, subtle touch of sexual innuendo! that of course went right over my little head. (Or did it?)

  7. Marian says:

    All great memories, Risa. Even though no one in our family watched the fights, I do remember all those commercials. And you’re right, we no longer have the attention spans to listen to one-minute commercials, let alone those three-minute orchestrations. They will be missed.

  8. Suzy says:

    I love that your father alternated between two different types of religious experience on Friday nights: shabbat services and Friday Night Fights. And it sounds like you shared them both with him.
    I do remember all those jingles, and started singing each one in my head as you mentioned it. The only one I hadn’t already thought of when I was writing my own story (which I hope you’ll read) was Gillette’s “Look sharp” jingle. We used it to make a camp color war song – “Look sharp, be a blue team girl.” Funny what memories are triggered by these stories!

  9. Dave Ventre says:

    I have a faint memory of watching the Friday Night Fights with my dad. He was for a while a semi-pro light-heavyweight boxer, and tried to get me interested in the sport; the coach at our local PAL had been his old coach. Turns out I had a strong disinterest in getting punched in the face. But I remember the theme song very well.

    Thanks for the memories!

  10. Khati Hendry says:

    Hamm’s beer reminded me of the line from “I’m going to hire a wino to decorate our home, so you’ll feel more at ease here and you won’t need to roam”–wait for it–“We’ll have Monday night football on TV along the wall; when the Hamm’s bear says it’s closing time, you won’t have far to crawl.” Worth a google if you don’t know the song. Thanks for the smile.

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