I, like many of my age, have fond memories of departing for home after Lacrosse practice, but not without stopping for a Dairy Queen Flursty. I would always ask for the Heath one, but my Dad just got plain for me because he knew that I wouldn’t like the Heath one even though I was sure that I had a Heath bar before at my friend’s food closet and liked it for how salty it tasted to me. But, Pappa always knows how to serve it up best. And he always served it up with discipline.
Those drives home developed a Pavlovian connection for me, between those unforgettable well served Flursty’s and a lovable little scamp named Dennis. I can’t even think of red overalls without salivating wildly and out my car window, driving madly toward the nearest DQ outlet. And my wife is a real Diane Keaton character. She is SO arty and loves to wear them “alls”. And they are red and she always has a sling shot. And man, I start salivating and then a race to get the keys before she can stop me.
Although I am unfamiliar with his work in comics, Dennis has become built in to nearly every aspect of my satisfying married life. But, alas… DQ seems to always come up short for me in terms of satisfying mischievous boy imagery on the outside O’ my cone. I mean, what give Dairy Queen? After everything I’ve given to you. Well, I think I may have found some answers… on the dairyqueen.com FAQ section:
The trademark license that International Dairy Queen, Inc. (IDQ) had with the company that holds the rights to Dennis the Menace ended December 2002. The trademark license has not been renewed.
Yeah, but what’s really going on here?
One especially sagacious answer comes from blog composer, bennygulks, who bravely told truth to power on The Nostalgia Blog*:
From 1971 until 2001 Dennis the Menace appeared as the spokestoon for Dairy Queen. Dairy Queen dropped him because they felt children could no longer relate to him. Don’t worry Dennis, even Donkey Kong had to go through this. RIP. I assume he shot himself after this news.
…So they are a big contributor to the pollution problem in the world?
Straight up, bennygulks.
What child, or should I say “digital natives”, could possible related to playing with getting dirt and frogs all over Mr. Wilson’s lawn? Or what young fella would even dream of using his boomerang to get all of Mr. Wilson’s clothes line laundry all over the lawn? Or even what if Dennis was inside of a small boat that was actually Mr. Wilson’s tub? These kids have the Cave Blitzer and are all about “can I get the crystal jims”? Dennis never asked that question.
But, despite how true every that has been said so far is, I still felt like their was so much more beneath the surface level of what we’ve said so far. Dairy Queen, thy reckoning cometh!
I spoke with Dairy Queen CEO, John Gainor. We met outside of his home on one of those swinging bench chairs on his deck. He was unshaven and in a bathrobe and he didn’t seem like he knew I was going to be there. I asked him about bennygulks observations.
“That’s basically spot on.” he said. “But, there’s a bit more to it.”
He leaned back and put his hands on that back of his head like he’s relaxing and his elbow was right up on my craw.
“Around the turn of the century, Dairy Queen had to start asking itself some really tough questions. Such as, why us? Why have we been blessed with so much cream and all the humility to know how to put that cream into practice?” he said pumping his legs to make the swing go higher and higher.
“Instead we ended up saying: ‘What if we make the DQ logo a pair of lips and that’s a new mascotte?’ And of course, we all loved it and we started acting out what the lips what do and be like and how it would want all the ice cream and we played around with the idea of him not be allowed to have it, but we finally decided he would get all the treats and lick all over the place.”
We are getting some major air at this point, his hands still netted behind his head.
“So we had the animators do a few demos and they were really great. Really side splitting stuff. But, then we we’re like: ‘Let’s get Dennis into the mix.’ So we did a couple ad spots where Dennis was interacting with the giant pair of lips. But, then that’s where it all went wrong.”
At this point I have a hard grip on the swing or other wise I am going to fly off.
“In our third ad with Dennis and the Lips, the Lips got upset and it ate Dennis. And we’re in the board room and I’m like: ‘That’s it? That ad was short.’ And the head of animation, Darryl, was like: ‘Yeah, we had to cut the ad short cause the lips ate Dennis.’ But, I’m like: ‘Yeah, but can’t we do another one with more of the ad?’ And Darryl’s like: ‘Yeah, but it’ll have to be without Dennis.’ And I said: ‘Why?’ And Darryl said: ‘The Lips ate Dennis.’
Now, I wasn’t really taking notes at this point in his story because I was really distracted by how we seemed to be conjuring up so much friction in the air that there was electricity flying around us.
“So, I kept coming back by Darryl’s office and asking him to put Dennis back in and Darryl was like: ‘What part of the DQ lips ate him don’t you understand? He’s gone, John! We can’t do anything! That’s life! One second you have a mischievous boy under your command and now he’s been eaten, okay!? I’m sorry, I can’t help you. That’s life. Just deal with it, John! You’re just gonna have to let by gone’s be by gone’s. We can’t save everyone. I didn’t want this to happen, but it happened! Okay! It’s over. Dennis is over! I’m going home!’ And he slammed his fist down on his lunch. I mean, what could say? Dennis was dead. So, when licencing came up we decided not to renew.”
The electricity so extreme and violent that I felt like I could seem him. His pale and scathing eyes. His impossible figure. Gorg.