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Posted at 10:43 AM ET, 03/21/2007

Nostalgia Redux: Evil Grimace

By Liz Kelly

Grimace. (Photo courtesy Wikipedia)

Celebrities come in all shapes and sizes and recently, courtesy of a "Lost" episode, I was reminded of a lumpy, purplish celebrity who occupied a revered spot in my childhood pantheon of stars. No, I'm not talking about Barney or Liberace. The lump to which I refer is none other than Grimace -- McDonalds's lovable, dimwitted, milkshake-addicted pudge seen in all his goofy glory at right.

Back in the 1970s, Grimace was part of an incredibly successful marketing gang comprised of french fry addicts, a thief, a grown man wearing makeup and a guy with elephant-sandwich-itis of the head.

When I was being indoctrinated into the McDonald's lifestyle, Grimace was a happy fool who seemed familiar in that he had the physique of my beanbag chair and a vocabulary instantly understandable to children the world over; that is to say that he mainly communicated using various permutations of "Duh." For those born a little later than the hey-day of the McDonaldland posse, think of Grimace as a kind of pre-"Sponge Bob" Patrick. Grimace became a routine part of my life. Not only because of regular trips to Mickey D's, but thanks to collectible glasses, Grimace was along for the ride when I drank my milk at home, too.

So, when "Lost's" Sawyer (Josh Holloway) recently called fellow castaway Hurley (Jorge Garcia) "Grimace," I was transported back to a kinder, gentler time in my life. A time when grease-saturated mass-produced burgers and fries were passed off as good eating and massive gas-guzzling American cars were king. I'm, uh, of course talking about the 1970s, so I Googled my way around the Web to load up on Grimace minutiae and soak up a little nostalgia.

I found out that Grimace is somehow meant to represent the milkshake and that in Brazil he is actually known as "Mr. Shaky." But it was while reading Wikipedia's Grimace entry that I first learned the awful truth about the character:

"In the first cycle of McDonaldland commercials beginning in 1971, Grimace was the 'Evil Grimace,' with two pairs of arms with which to steal milkshakes. After that first campaign, the character was revised to be one of the "good guys", and his number of arms was reduced to two."

Evidence soon surfaced supporting allegations about Grimace's depraved past: Exhibit 1 | Exhibit 2.

Questions abound: Is Grimace, who still looks to be hitting the milkshakes pretty hard, truly reformed? Should he be trusted with children? Will this prevent him from running for office? Or, as I suspect, was he framed by Ronald McDonald?

I continue to dig.

Celebritology field agent Mr. Liz contributed to this report.

By Liz Kelly  | March 21, 2007; 10:43 AM ET
Categories:  Pop Culture  
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(Think you left a formatting tag open.)

Anyway, it's not like Grimace will ever have a chance to win an election. Mayor McCheese clearly puts Barry to shame in the "impossible to get rid of" category.

Posted by: Psst, Liz! | March 21, 2007 10:51 AM | Report abuse

Grimace is actually an octopus and he was friends with Captain Crook, both were nautical characters- That's why he was portrayed having 8 arms in early commercials.

Posted by: Don Smith | March 21, 2007 10:53 AM | Report abuse

Interesting item today- there was a whole "rogue's gallery" of villains trying to ruin Ronald's enjoyment of McGoodness. Big Mac seems to have been a singularly incapable officer of the law (and it's been, what, 30 years since he was part of the McDonalds' ad universe?); Mayor McCheese has only shown up sporadically; the Fry Guys show up once in awhile... but the Hamburglar (now apparently reformed from his original rat-faced incarnation into a mischievous sort rather than a criminal) and Grimace are the last of Ronald's enemies-- now all happily befriended and munching McFood together.

Ah childhood.

Posted by: DB | March 21, 2007 11:04 AM | Report abuse

Is that Jodie Foster in Exhibit 2?

Posted by: DD | March 21, 2007 11:05 AM | Report abuse

Great old description of McDonalds Characters:

Posted by: Chris | March 21, 2007 11:32 AM | Report abuse

I loved my Grimace stuffed doll so much as a child that he eventually disintegrated. I miss that purple lump terribly. Patrick ain't got nothin' on Grimace.

Posted by: Julie | March 21, 2007 11:37 AM | Report abuse

This is by far your most entertaining post to date. Keep the wackiness coming, please!

Posted by: Sara | March 21, 2007 11:47 AM | Report abuse

Yes DD that is Jodie Foster in Exhibit 2.

Posted by: Bored @ work | March 21, 2007 11:50 AM | Report abuse

This made my day. Poor, sweet, dumbo Grimace.

I am undertaking a similar exercise with Underdog as the subject.

Posted by: Tbert | March 21, 2007 12:01 PM | Report abuse

I always thought Ronald McDonald was a little shady. He came to the neighborhood McDonald's one weekend when I was a kid for a meet and greet. Well, he passed out balloons and coupons; then he had the nerve to ask my mom for a date. I was horrified and hated him for since.

Posted by: Slow Day | March 21, 2007 12:04 PM | Report abuse

My kids' generation was left with the puzzle of trying to figure out what was going on on their Happy Meal bags and boxes without TV ads to explain the characters.
Happily, my daughter was scared straight by a Happy Meal bag that featured a chicken leading several nuggets into a pond. For a 5-year-old, it was like a peek into Auschwitz. For me, it was a wake-up call. Per her orders, we don't go to McDonalds anymore.

Posted by: Other Liz | March 21, 2007 12:05 PM | Report abuse

Whenever I see Grimace now I think of the episode of Family Guy where Lois walks into the bedroom dressed in a Grimace costume and tries to get Peter in the mood for some fun with Grimace role playing. Unfortunately, Peter isn't in the mood but she continues to try by saying she is going to steal all his hamburgers to which Peter replies that Grimace doesn't steal hamburgers and she ruined everything... Love it

Posted by: Rob | March 21, 2007 12:39 PM | Report abuse

Have you ever seen the "Bert is Evil" website about the Sesame Street character? I'm not sure if that's even still around, but it was pretty funny. Someone superimposed Bert on photos to make it look like he was flying with Hitler, laying naked with Pamela Anderson and other nefarious acts. Google it.

Posted by: Not Liz | March 21, 2007 12:52 PM | Report abuse

Oh my god, that was great. I love the part where Grimace wants his bathing suit for the beauty contest - can you imagine that flying today?

All I know is one of the pubs in my Western Wisconsin town has some of those hamburgers with eyes hanging from their ceiling. I'm plotting on how to get them down without anyone noticing....

Posted by: Chasmosaur | March 21, 2007 12:53 PM | Report abuse

It is x-entertainment in the link above with a dash between x and entertainment. Stupid WP formatting...
Here's the text from the page:

McDonald's Paves The Way For Future Psychopaths...
Matt - 04/22/00

You know, I thought the point of programs and media aimed towards little kids was to help mold them into sane, normal, good-willed members of society. Not raving lunatics. McDonalds feels differently. They hope to warp our nation's youth with visions of the most ridiculous, evil sons'a'b****es you've ever seen. Understanding the characters of McDonalds fame was a nigh-impossibility. They were too f*ing odd.

Take Ronald McDonald, for example. The leader. The big cheese. Now, my parents used to yell at me while I was in high school cuz I dressed a little freaky. With a role model like that, how can I be blamed? Ronald was free to roam about society in a f*ing clown suit. My parents would buy me happy meals and Ronald McDonald pillow cases. I thought I was doing the right thing. Ronald is teaching the children of this nation to dress like clowns. Kids aren't dyeing their hair pillarbox red and wearing giant red boots because of Marlyn Manson, folks. It's all this f*ing clown's fault.

Moving down the ladder, we have Birdie. Now, explain this one to me. Look at her f*ing eyes! I've seen less dilation at a squat house. Birdie's obviously hooked on drugs, and her alarmingly high-pitched voice suggests a few 'whippits' on the side. At least Ronald is only telling your children to dress in a way that'll make the jocks and bullies beat them up. Birdie wants your kids to be drug addicts.

Then we have Grimace. What the f*k IS Grimace? Is it a gumdrop? Top of a d*k? What?! Grimace is the most esoteric character in history. His name dictates frustration and sadness, yet he's always cheerful. I'd really hate to sit next to this guy at a funeral. He's always smiling and giggling. It'd be really embarassing. And what food was he supposed to represent? The milkshake I guess. Notice how Grimace supports one of the fattiest things on the menu, and he also happens to be the fattest guy on the cast. Yet, he's always smiling and no one seems to care that poor Grimace is *grossly* overweight. That's unhealthy. So while Ronald dresses your kids like pansies and Birdie drops some PCP in their milkshakes, Grimace will make sure they're nice and fat.

The Fry Guys. AKA the McDonalds equivalent of 'special' children. There's nothing stranger than a bunch of pom-poms on rollerskates. There's also no way to explain the significance of it in regard to french fries. Oddly, in the commercials these guys would always disguise themselves as bushes. Very convincing, considering that none of them were green. Oddly, the Fry Guys were the most normal of the whole McDonalds crew.

Next up we have the Chicken McNuggets. No fancy names. These were Chicken McNuggets. Now, understand that Ronald was friends with these guys. And Ronalds was telling us all to EAT Chicken McNuggets. Yet, somehow, the 'Nuggets didn't seem to mind. There were commercials of these misguided souls jumping into pools of BBQ sauce, happily prepping themselves for their impending doom. Hidden meaning? Suicide. The McNuggets were McDonalds way of telling you...'hey, if you get dealt a bad hand...cover yourself in sweet'n'sour, pull out a shotgun, and blow your f*ing head off'.

Last but not least, we have the most surreal and all-around evil of the characters...The Hamburgler. Firstly, the only thing the f*k can say is 'Robble Robble'. But really fast. Last week I got a tape recorder out and slowed it down..turns out he's actually saying 'Rob & Kill'. Awesome lesson for the kiddies. And what's with his gear? He's like an a*hole version of Zorro. But instead of carving a 'Z' on your chest, he'd annoy you by running around like a raving derelict on crack, trying to steal your hamburgers. Sweet.

In closing...parents, keep an eye out on what your kids are watching. Power Rangers and pro-wrestling aren't gonna f*k them up. It's these clowns that are turning our nation's future leaders into crazed lunatics with poor outfits, misinterpreted society roles, and an all-around bad attitude.

Posted by: Chris | March 21, 2007 12:55 PM | Report abuse

I think Ronald needs to settle down in that first commercial. So "Evil" Grimace stole your shake. Isn't retaliating by trying to drown him in Filet-o-Fish Lake a bit much? Just buy yourself another shake, dude. It's not worth being locked up by Big Mac for attempted grimacide.

Posted by: Columbia Heights, DC | March 21, 2007 1:17 PM | Report abuse

Thank you John - that made me laugh outloud!!!

And Liz, you forgot to mention Birdy, the Early Bird, in your intro, while not an orginial friend, I believe she was introduced as part of the ad campaign when they started serving b'fast - how sad is it that I remember that?! I was like 5 when it happened!!

Posted by: betty | March 21, 2007 1:30 PM | Report abuse

Is there a connection between Grimace and The Cookie Monster?
And at what point did we all figure out that the "shakes" at McDonald's were made from potatos (or is it potatoes

Posted by: Barb | March 21, 2007 2:11 PM | Report abuse

I worked at McDonald's in high school in the early 80s. Back then, remember how the burgers came in styrofoam containers? Each item had its own "foam," but there was this generic "arch foam" that was white with small, scattered multicolored golden arches all over it. We used it if we ever ran out of the regular ones.

Every so often, we noticed that an "arch foam" would have a single, small Grimace on it, randomly placed; once, I saw one with two Grimaces. The Grimaces were just as small as the little arches, and they weren't always in the same place. Only a few of the containers had this mark.

I swear I'm not making this up! It was bizarre. Maybe it was some weird inventory or quality control mark that we were oblivious to-- but we called it "the mystery of Grimace," and it kind of blew your mind.

Posted by: David S | March 21, 2007 2:23 PM | Report abuse

David S - I worked at McD at the same time and remember those clamshells well. I also remember when happy meals only came with a plastic Ronald puppet. No movie tie-ins then.

Does the term "10 10 pull lay" still make you edgy?

Posted by: Former Grill God | March 21, 2007 2:28 PM | Report abuse

Huh...maybe Prince Charles was onto something with this "McDonalds is the root of all health evils" kick.

Posted by: 23112 | March 21, 2007 3:10 PM | Report abuse

The original Grimace did indeed have multiple arms. The numerous arms were meant to hold and show the many shake flavors McDonalds carried. Unfortunately, small children were frightened by the multiple arms. Thus the amputations.

Posted by: Joseph | March 21, 2007 3:19 PM | Report abuse

Tbert, there's an episode of Scrubs where Ted's quartet sings the Underdog theme. It brings back great memories.

Posted by: Not bird, nor plane, nor even frog | March 21, 2007 3:23 PM | Report abuse

David S -- I'm fascinated by the Grimace-coded styro containers. Would love to hear more if you ever get an explanation.

Posted by: Liz | March 21, 2007 3:31 PM | Report abuse

I am very disappointed in today's Celebritology installment. People, you have been reduced to talking about McDonald's characters! The Grimace!! Surely this is a sign of the Celebritology apocalypse.

Liz, please make an effort to improve. TYVM.

Posted by: Cubeland, MD | March 21, 2007 3:57 PM | Report abuse

Cubeland, give Liz and all of us a break. This is ENTERTAINMENT. Lighten up. Grimace and the McDonald's crew bring back fond childhood memories for many of us, and give us a much needed chuckle--something our kids nowadays don't often get. Ah the simplicity of it all!

Posted by: Anonymous | March 21, 2007 4:13 PM | Report abuse

Does anyone else remember Uncle O'Grimacey who used to show up in McDonaldland in March with the Shamrock shakes? He was green, fuzzy, and sounded like a leprekaun.

Has anyone found shamrock shakes this year? I am needing some minty goodness. I have checked a number of McDs in MD DC VA and have had no luck.

Posted by: golflies | March 21, 2007 4:35 PM | Report abuse

There was law and order in McDonaldland- Big Mac was the policeman. He reported to Mayor McCheese.

Also there was Captain Crook- I just remember him from my glass collection. His theft surrounded the Filet O' Fish. Big Mac was always after him.

Anyway, that is some background. Always thought Birdie ruined the whole thing when she came on board in 1980. The Nuggets were cute.

Posted by: Moll | March 21, 2007 5:10 PM | Report abuse

Underdog/Scrubs clip on YouTube...

Posted by: Chasmosaur | March 21, 2007 5:58 PM | Report abuse

One should not discuss Grimace and his collaborative culture osmosis without revealing his role as one of the the opposition force to B'harne (or is he just plain evil)... you may not remember alt.barney.dinosaur.die.die.die - but i remember (vaguely, it's been 20 years) some very angst ridden arguments over whether Grimace was an agent of good in opposition to the evil hordes of sponge-minions or a force of evil masquarading as our friend.

Yes... Grimace has a storied and complex history...

a blast from the past (you gotta love the interwebs for stuff like this):
"What about Grimace of Mc Donald's? Grimace is held in very high regard by all Jihaddi who serve The Cause[tm]. Beyond that, there is no consensus among Jihaddi on his exact nature. Some Jihaddi regard him as the Anti-b'harnii and a savior of the Jihad while others honor him and treat him as a Saint of the Jihad. Still others regard him as a benevolent entity who helps the Jihad and should be honored. As a warning to all spongies and newbies: Don't insult Grimace or otherwise insinuate he's a form of the Hell Wyrm."

Personally I love how we appropriate cultural icons and repurpose them collectively - though I'll leave it to Prof Jenkins over at MIT to run this one into the ground ;)

Posted by: Quintilius Varus | March 22, 2007 12:38 AM | Report abuse

I worked for McD's workers' comp insurance company in the 80's. One employee filed a claim for injuries sustained while dressed as Grimace. Must have been the multi-armed one, because the kids didn't like him at all.

Posted by: Jerz | March 22, 2007 5:58 PM | Report abuse

Wow, those clips are...disturbing. I don't remember those at all, but I must have seen them while I was watching Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys (and promptly blocked them out). Why are fast food ads so, so psychedelic and odd? Must have been the '70s...

Posted by: Laura | March 22, 2007 7:01 PM | Report abuse

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