Anyhow, it reminded me of how gracious she was back in the 90s when I asked her if I could interview her for a zine (not an ezine – this was before ezines) I was publishing called Velocity NYC.
Not only did she spend time with me, some random clown who had a couple hundred subscribers, but she hooked me up with a few cases of Snapple and a bunch of gear.
Now that was some cool, grassroots hanging with the customers kind of action – not this artificial Twitter customer support that everybody is so amazed by these days.
Anyhow, here is the interview from back then.
Back in December 1995, Wendy, the Snapple Lady, sat down for a chat in the Velocity NYC offices. In this exclusive interview, shortly after Quaker bought out Snapple, Wendy riffs and rants about Howard Stern, Quaker Oats, and the Puerto Rican Day Parade.
Wendy on . . .
. . . Jay Leno and the Tonight Show
It was really wild when Quaker Oats announced that I was no longer doing commercials. That had been broadcast through Long Island Newsday and CNN, and Leno had been watching CNN. He saw the blitz and assumed that I got fired. I am an employee of the company, and I would like to work for them as long as they will have me work for them.
And what happened was that Leno went on tv about “the Snapple Lady” being fired. The next thing I knew, Letterman picked it up, and it was on Inside Edition, Day and Date, and the Today Show. And so I sat for a week, watching my obituary on television.
That was a little bit harmful, because so many people thought I got fired. I couldn’t even walk through the city without people saying to me, “Hey, how come they fired you?” I felt bad about that.
. . . public backlash to Quaker Oats
I sat in my bed for the week that Quaker Oats had addressed the public and said that I was no longer in the commercials and I watched people really being upset about it. I heard that on a lot of the radio programs, people were calling in, and people were upset.
People change campaigns all of the time. How lucky am I that there is an outcry like there is at the moment. I don’t believe that ever happened in advertising before.
It was crazy. My fans were upset. I couldn’t answer their questions. People were calling Quaker Oats, people were calling Snapple, people were upset. I have an electronic billboard in Chicago. Somebody put me on there . . . “Save the Snapple Lady.” That’s up in Chicago and that’s not coming down, because they’re big, big fans.
The support that I’ve had is just incredible and extraordinary, and if I could go out there an hug every single person that has made a difference in my life, I would.
Now, I’m getting the word out. I do work for the company (Quaker Oats). I do have a contract to complete and a term of one more year to complete it, and I’m definitely going to live up to that agreement.
. . . O.J.
I don’t think my opinion really makes a difference, but come on!! You want to know something . . . if my blood was at the scene, I would have been arrested and prosecuted. I’d be sitting in jail right now. And also the gloves! I’m sorry, but until he proves to me that he’s really looking for somebody . . .
You know, I could imagine, I could see maybe if there was another suspect that they had . . . but there’s nothing, nothing. He’s guilty!
When NBC was going to put him on tv, I think it was pulled because probably the sponsors went ballistic, because they buy air time way in advance. Can you imagine Proctor & Gamble airing dishwashing liquid commercials during the O.J. appearance on Dateline. Their fans (of the dishwashing liquid) would go crazy if they were sponsoring something like that. The station would lose too much money.
Lets keep our fingers crossed that this man is banished to another country.
. . . answering fan letters
I just came back from Las Vegas. A young girl had written to me about her mother. She just loves Snapple, but she can’t get out of the house often to buy it as much as she would like, because her job is day care. She’s always with these kids.
So what happened was, one of my distributors and one of my PR people that I work with got a proclamation from the governor, Bob Miller, to make it “Sarah Bessie Snapple Day.”
What we did was we surprised the daughter and the mother, and we brought in a refrigerator and a years supply of Snapple. We gave it to them and to the kids.
. . . Howard Stern
Howard Stern had been with us for many, many years. We were with him from even before he got thrown off of WNBC. We were with Howard for years and years and years, and Howard started to get really, really huge and he was always very, very devoted to us. Very loyal to us. You know, I think that’s how a lot of people found Snapple.
Then, Quaker Oats bought the company about a year ago, and I guess that in their vision of what was to come, they just didn’t think that Howard (Stern) belonged there.
They didn’t think that Rush Limbaugh belonged there, because Rush advertised for us, also. And I don’t believe that they think that I should be there for them, either. So, all three of us have stopped advertising.
(With the departure of Howard) I feel badly about it on a personal level that this happened. I was really upset about it, only because I’ve had a personal relationship with them for years. I was upset on a personal level, but as a business decision, it’s their (Quaker Oats) company and they’re allowed to do what they want to do.
I think there were a certain section of fans that were upset about it. I believe he was on the radio yesterday giving a shot to Snapple. I believe he was going to do a boycott at one point. He was talking big about that, but I had spoken to his people over there and it really wouldn’t be fair for him to do that.
He’s a smart business man and I don’t think it’s appropriate to take shots at advertisers, because it would hurt potential ones coming in there.
Unfortunately, it just didn’t work out between Quaker Oats and Howard Stern, and I just feel terrible about it. On a personal level, I’m still in touch with everybody over there that I was ever in touch with. I still have a wonderful relationship with them. It’s just sad that it came to this.
. . . knee surgery
I was supposed to get a knee operation recently, but I had my pre-operation talk with the anesthetist and he scared the crap out of me. So, I refused to get that knee operation. You know, because I’d hurt my knee falling off of a float at the Puerto Rican Day Parade. I got a little overly zealous.
. . . the fans
More important to me than the contract and agreements is that I get to meet the greatest fans. It’s been an amazing opportunity for me to meet the most extraordinary people that I’ve ever met in my entire life. It has been such a thrill and such a gift to have ever had this opportunity that I could never say a nasty thing about it.
I may not have necessarily handled things, on a personal level, the way that Quaker Oats has chosen to, but it’s been an extraordinary opportunity for me. To grow and to evolve into who I am, and what I’ve been able to accomplish in the last three years.
. . . movies
I’m an animal for movies. I can sit all day with a large bucket of popcorn, extra butter and not move. Recently, I’ve seen Casino, which I loved. I thought it was great. Get Shorty – that was a good one, but I thought it was a little slow, though. You know, I was a little bit upset about it, because I was really expecting a great, great movie. I loved the end. Loved the end!
I saw Goldeneye. I thought it was good. But do you want to know something . . . I liked Die Hard better. At least Die Hard has more comedy. It was a little bit too much. It reminded me of the Terminator, it’s like too much already.
Too much wasting of Hollywood money, and I think they do that because the story lines are so weak sometimes that they just have to make up for it in the visuals. That, to me, is just not solid film-making.
. . . shooting commercials
This has been a learning skew for me. When I went to Syracuse, I was a sociology / film major. I wanted to be behind the camera, not in front of the camera. It’s been a tremendous learning curve.
But what I realized when I started to study and do it is that making movies is like watching grass grow. It’s probably the singular most boring thing to do. What I have found now is that I like tv better.
Thank god, in some of my commercials, I’ve done it in three takes sometimes. In the first year, it took me like two days to do fifteen of them, because they (the film crew) go on the road and film all of the people. The next year it took me two days, also. Then this year, it took me one full day.
Every year they’ve edited down about twelve of them, so I would say I’ve done 36 commercials. A lot of people didn’t see some of them and they were hilarious. We had some beauties out there.
. . . football
I love sports. Spectator sports let me get my craziness out sometimes. I’m a big Jets fan. I try to see as many games as I can, but I travel more often than not through October and this year was an extraordinary year for me, so I had to travel a little bit longer. I gave my season tickets away this year.
The two games that I have gone to this year were the Dallas/San Francisco game and the San Francisco/Buffalo game. So I guess I’ve seen San Francisco more than any other team this year.
. . . her favorite Snapple commercials
I always loved “the lie-detector test,” because I thought that guy was classic, Dirk McGuyver. And I thought that the guy that was giving him the lie-detector test was incredible. He reminded me of Herbert Hoover, sort of, just his facial expression. He was hilarious. I loved that one.
Last year, I loved the Kevin one, where he was asking Dawn out on a date. I thought it was hilarious. Most of the younger people loved that one, because everybody wanted to know what happened with Dawn and Kevin, as I was traveling around.
I also liked, “Is there a Mr. Snapple?” That was like, “No Elizabeth, but we found the Cherries, and the Lemon family, and the Peaches from Illinois. We traveled the country and we found all of these names of fruit, and I just loved that one also.
This year, I loved the one where the kid that got the vending machine. As a matter of fact, I just saw him in Washington and I just gave him another supply. I also loved “the man in uniform” one with the police-man from the first year.
But this year got different, also. With our commercials, we used to really go wild with them and this year it became different a little bit. They were funny, but towards the end of my tenure as “the Snapple Lady” on the commercials, they started to take some of the humor out. I could feel that.
So the bottom line is, regarding commercials, I’m delighted to have gone out in a bang of glory. There were so many great ones, it’s like the end of an era . . . an excellent era.
. . . the future
I think my opportunities lie in events, in showing up. I’ll continue to answer letters that are sent to me. I do have a wonderful relationship with a ton of consumers around the country. I had three years of meeting people and taking them to dinner.
Oftentimes, I’ll get tons of letters from a certain area and that will predicate me actually going. There have been times when my assistant Tracy will organize dinners for me around the country, and I’ll have like seventy-five people to dinner, so I can answer them in person. I love to do that.
You want to know something . . . who the hell knows what the future is going to bring? I believe, from the bottom of my heart, that this is just the beginning for me.
Thanks again, Wendy. Maybe I’ll go buy that egg contraption now.