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The Worst Celebrity Product Licenses of All Time

19 October 2009 One Million Watts 43,730 views 9 CommentsPrint This Post Print This Post Email This Post Email This Post

EDITOR’S NOTE: Allee Willis is the very definition of a hyphenate — a prolific visual artist, an Internet and technology evangelist and — oh yeah! — the award-winning songwriter of Earth Wind & Fire’s “Boogie Wonderland,” the Pet Shop Boys’ “What Have I Done To Deserve This?” and the Broadway production of “The Color Purple,” among other hits. Somehow, she also finds the time to cultivate a peerless collection of pop culture kitsch. Today, she shares some choice items from her celebrity files.

The Supremes White Bread

What was the marketing guy thinking when he hooked up The Supremes with a branded white bread deal? Pumpernickel, maybe, but white bread?

The Supremes Special Formula White Bread was baked in by Schafer Bakeries, Inc. of Lansing, Michigan in 1966, in partnership with Hitsville Merchandising — where someone should have caught the irony of the branding mismatch.

supremes

Here are some close-ups of the plastic bread bag:

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supremes-white-bread_3544

Muhammad Ali ‘The Champ’s’ Shoe Polish

Seems like there might have been something more sophisticated to match Muhammad Ali up with than shoe polish, a product that historically has had several negative connotations for African-Americans — from Caucasians donning blackface to shoe shine boys working a Depression-era occupation they’ve long since stepped above.

muhammed-ali-shoe-polish_4982

At least the color of the polish is brown. Had The Supremes’ marketing guy been in charge, no doubt it would have been white.

Eva Gabor’s Fix-A-Fashion Chin Strap

If it’s Eva Gabor, it’s got to be good — and this certainly lives up to all expectations! This incredibly cheaply-made  “fashion strap” –  one piece of elastic, two alligator clips and one plastic “decorative ring” — “keeps your wig securely in place while your wig is being combed, brush or styled.”

eva-gabor-chin-strap_0559

It looks like all you do is attach a clip to either side of your fake hair and tighten the noose around your neck by sliding the “decorative ring.”  The final instruction, as if written for an idiot, is “comb or brush your wig into desired style.”

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This product was made in 1972 for Eva Gabor International in Hong Kong and was sold at the May Company for $4. I’ve never worn a wig, but had I seen these at the time I would’ve bought a case of them.

Roberta Flack puzzle

There’s nothing wrong with with puzzles and nothing wrong with Roberta Flack (other than the fact that than she wasn’t one of my personal favorites; so many of her songs were so slooooooooow). But Roberta Flack so doesn’t seem like the type of celebrity who seems the right match for a puzzle. J.J. Walker maybe, or the Partridge Family, or Fat Albert. But Roberta Flack?

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Made in 1972 by Let’s Save The Children, Inc., USA, this is one product I’m happy they made, if only so that the shape of Roberta’s afro could be preserved forever.

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I love afros that are round and massive but with a back that’s sheared as flat as a wall. I also love how the afro on the standup bass player’s head fuses with Roberta’s, giving her afro that extra oomph at the top.

Read Part 2 Here.

- Allee Willis

See more photos of these dubious products in this Flickr gallery!

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9 Comments »

  1. Hilarious, BUT, growing up, Black folks were some of the only people still buying white bread in Oakland.

  2. Stevie Wonder Vanity Mirror. Charo’s “Let Me Teach You How to Espeak Good English!” records. Bruce Lee’s Dragon brand rice. James Brown hotpants, popcorn, mashed potatoes, So Nice Sugar and Spice. Sergio Leone’s Western Spaghetti sauce. Oh nevermind.

  3. You might want to include Denny McLain Paint. But for a different reason than the above.

  4. [...] The Worst Celebrity Product Licenses of All Time [...]

  5. [...] NOTE: In the first part of this series, Allee Willis showed us a few items from her peerless collection of flat-out bewildering celebrity [...]

  6. [...] What were they thinking? [...]

  7. White bread was a big part of my upbringing. So was listening to The Supremes. Never connected the two, though.

  8. I saw Mary Wilson talk about the white bread license – she said white bread was the only kind they ate – they wouldn’t have considered endorsing wheat bread.

  9. I always cringed at the Mercedes Benz commercial with Janis singing “Oh Lord won’t you buy me a Mercedes Benz” . . then laughed — maybe this passes for upscale advertising to some corporate suits. . . . We make the car trailer trash will buy when they hit the number or get a record deal. So German, so cool.

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