Categotry Archives: Business

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Rudy Perz

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Categories: Business, Tags: ,

Fifty years ago, Rudolph R. Perz, the creative director of the Leo Burnett ad agency in Chicago, was under pressure to come up with a new lovable new mascot for the Pillsbury account.

Sitting at his kitchen table and staring at a Pillsbury Crescent Rolls can, Perz wracked his brain for an idea. Suddenly, he imagined a doughy white character jumping out of the can.

Perz described him to Martin Nodell, an artist at the agency, who sketched the little spokesman. The joyful dough boy had big blue eyes, a chef’s hat, a sassy bandana, and blushed when he was kissed.

His name was Poppin’ Fresh.

Once the character was fully baked… err, formed… Poppin’ Fresh became one of the food company’s best known mascots, an ever-helpful and very ticklish character known as the Pillsbury Doughboy.

“The one image I have of my dad was of him tapping the can of refrigerated dough against the kitchen table,” Perz’s daughter Martha Nora said in a biography posted on the Donnellan Family Funeral Home website. “That’s how his mind worked for everything. The wheels were always turning and your never were sure what idea he would come up with. There was always a twinkle in his eye and he loved the element of surprise.”

Although Perz originally intended the Pillsbury Doughboy to be animated, he changed his mind after seeing a stop motion clay technique on television. Designer Milt Schaffer then brought the baking icon to life at a cost of $16,000, The Washington Post reported. The Pillsbury Doughboy has been created using CGI technology since 1992. Veteran cartoon voice actor Paul Frees served as the Pillsbury Doughboy’s voice until his death in 1986. Since then, the character’s voice has been provided by Jeff Bergman and JoBe Cerny.

The Pillsbury Doughboy appeared in more than 600 commercials from 1965 to 2004, and returned to the small screen in 2009, 2011 and 2014. He hawked dozens of freshly baked biscuits and cinnamon rolls, breads and cookies, and charmed viewers with his signature giggle (a sweet “Hoo Hoo” or “Hee Hee” that emitted whenever someone playfully poked his middle).

Yet the Pillsbury Doughboy was more than just an advertising spokesman. He was beloved by millions who grew up in the 20th century. According to General Mills, parent company of Pillsbury, the Doughboy received 200 fan letters a week and hundreds of requests for autographed photos. During the 1970s, “Pillsbury Playthings” — doll-versions of the Doughboy and his “family” — were some of the fastest selling toys in the U.S.

The 8.75-inch tall Pillsbury Doughboy was also mentioned or featured on numerous TV programs, appeared in several comic strip panels, flew over New York City as a balloon float in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, parodied on Mad TV, helped sell car insurance and credit cards and even “died” in an early Internet joke from “a yeast infection and complications from repeated pokes in the belly.”

As for the mastermind behind him, Perz was born in 1925. The Glenview, Ill., resident and advertising copywriter was married to the late Lois Wagberg Perz, and had three children and six grandchildren.

Next month, Perz was to have been honored for his doughy creation at the Museum of Broadcast Communications in Chicago. The exhibit, “A Salute To Advertising’s Greatest Icons,” will also feature Tony the Tiger, the Jolly Green Giant, Morris the cat, Mr. Clean and Ronald McDonald.

Perz died on April 1. Cause of death was not released. He was 89.


–Originally published in The Huffington Post.

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Kenji Ekuan

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Categories: Artists, Business

 

From London to Los Angeles, the sight of a shapely bottle sitting on a table at a Japanese restaurant signals the promise of a fresh meal seasoned by the salty sauce of soy.

You may never have given this condiment container much thought; for decades it has always been there, waiting for you to reach out and use on your platter of sushi. But the ubiquitous red-topped glass container with its dripless polystyrene spout didn’t exist before 1961. It came from the mind of Kenji Ekuan and his team, and was created for the Kikkoman Corporation.

#lapotenza #kikkoman #bottle #kenjiekuan #soysauce #sketch #japan #design #vintage

A photo posted by Fabian Schmidt (@lapotenza) on

According to a 2012 article in The New York Times, the iconic tear-shaped bottle has been in continuous production ever since. To date, more than 300 million dispensers have been sold worldwide.

Ekuan’s soy sauce dispenser has even been recognized as a work of art. In the mid-oughts, the bottle was added to the permanent collection at the Museum of Modern Art in New York as part of its Humble Masterpieces exhibition, which honors the design of everyday objects.

soy sauce
Photo by Kiersten Chou

Ekuan graduated from Tokyo University of Fine Arts and Music and the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, Calif. He became an industrial designer, a maker of the things we use every day (and often can’t imagine life without).

Ekuan founded GK Industrial Design Associates in 1957, which later became the GK Design Group. Today GK Design comprises eight domestic and four international firms providing product, transportation, environmental and communication design.

Over the course of his illustrious six-decade career, Ekuan designed the distinctive Akita bullet train and motorcycles for Yamaha. Considered Japan’s foremost industrial designer, Ekuan was also the author of “The Aesthetics of the Japanese Lunchbox” and several other books.

For his contributions, Ekuan received many honors, including the ICSID Colin King Grand Prix, the International Design Award, The Blue Ribbon Medal, the Sir Misha Black Medal and the Order of the Rising Sun.

Ekuan died on Feb. 8 of a heart rhythm disorder, Kyodo reported. He was 85.

–Originally published in The Huffington Post.

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Mark Balelo

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Categories: Business, Hollywood

Mark BaleloMark Balelo, an auction house owner who made multiple appearances on the A&E reality TV show “Storage Wars,” was found dead on Feb. 11. He was 40.

Balelo was one of the deep-pocketed buyers featured on the show that depicts storage-unit auctions. The former owner of a chain of thrift stores, Balelo had a knack for bargaining and finding treasure among trash.

Nicknamed “Rico Suave” for his flamboyant style, Balelo once hosted a live auction right before Halloween while dressed as Superman. He carried a “man purse” (or “murse”), which he considered his good-luck bag; the murses became so popular with fans that he later sold them on eBay.

Balelo also was instrumental in helping Nicolas Cage recover a mint-condition copy of a 1938 Action Comics book that was stolen from the actor’s storage locker. The comic book was valued at $1 million.

Balelo owned Balelo Inc., a business that specializes in asset liquidations and closeout sales. Until recently, he ran a gaming store called The Game Exchange. Although Balelo loved working — “My work is my hobby nowadays” — his favorite past-times included flying private planes, listening to music, hanging out with friends and going to Vegas. A strong competitor with a no-holds-barred attitude, he was best known on “Storage Wars” for beating the competition by showing up to auctions carrying more than $50,000 in cash.

Balelo was arrested over the weekend for alleged possession of a controlled substance. He was reportedly distraught after being released from jail.

One of Balelo’s employees found his body inside a business warehouse in Simi Valley, Calif., on Monday morning. Armando Chavez, senior deputy medical examiner, refused to provide any information as to Balelo’s cause of death. An autopsy will be conducted on Feb. 12.

–This obituary previously appeared in The Huffington Post

[Update – Feb. 13, 2013: Balelo’s death has been declared a suicide by the Ventura County medical examiner’s office. His body was also found in a business warehouse in Simi Valley, Calif. An earlier report stated that he was found in his home garage.]

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Elmer Lynn Hauldren

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Categories: Business, Musicians

“5-8-8 2-300. Empire!”

For much of the past four decades, just about everyone living in or near Chicago knew that telephone number. They knew Empire sold carpets. They knew the company spokesman on sight because he’d appeared in more than 1,000 television commercials. Between ball games, soap operas and local newscasts, The Empire Man was always there.

Elmer Lynn Hauldren — The Empire Man — died on April 26. Cause of death was not released. He was 89.

The St. Louis native served as an Army radio operator in Asia during World War II. Upon his return to the states, Hauldren worked at Young & Rubicam, Bozell Jacobs and DDB Needham as an advertising copywriter. One of his clients was the flooring company, Empire.

In the 1970s, Empire decided to try a new approach to promoting its brand. After several unsuccessful auditions, Empire’s former owner, Seymour Cohen, asked the soft-spoken Hauldren to be the company’s pitchman. Tapping into his advertising background, Hauldren created The Empire Man character, who was part-carpet installer and part-blue collar superhero. He also wrote the well-known jingle and sang it with the a cappella group The Fabulous 40s. Over time, TV viewers became so accustomed to seeing Hauldren in the Empire ads that many assumed he actually owned the company.

When Empire expanded its services nationwide, The Empire Man became a pop culture icon. He was so famous that a line of Bobblehead dolls featuring his face was created. In 2007, he even threw out the first pitch at Wrigley Field on “Empire Day.”

Hauldren continued to promote Empire products in radio and TV commercials until his death. The most recent ads feature an animated version of Hauldren, for which he provided the voice.

Privately, Hauldren’s passion was music. He recorded several albums with the doctor-themed barbershop quartet Chordiac Arrest, including “Live and Well!” and “Second Opinion,” and performed with the vocal quartet Chordplay.

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Bob Guccione

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Categories: Business

Robert Charles Joseph Edward Sabatini Guccione, the founder and former chief executive of Penthouse magazine, was a man who took calculated risks. Some paid off, others cost him millions.

The Brooklyn native originally planned to become a Catholic priest, and even attended the seminary, but dropped out when puberty caused his hormones to kick in. He wed at 18 and fathered a daughter named Toni, but the marriage foundered, and Guccione headed to Europe to work as a painter and journalist. He wed a second time, to British singer Muriel Hudson, and fathered four more children (Bob Jr., Nina, Anthony and Nick); however, his habit of amassing large debts ended that union.

Unable to make a decent living as an artist, Guccione next decided to try his luck at pornographic publishing. With less than $2,000 on hand, he launched Penthouse in 1965 as a low-brow competitor to Playboy, the glamorous adult magazine run by Hugh Hefner. In the magazine’s early years, Guccione couldn’t afford professional talent so he ended up photographing most of the models. He enjoyed pushing boundaries with each spread, and bragged about his decision to publish “lesbians, threesomes, full-frontal male nudity, erect penises.” Tabloid journalism, a racy letters column and beautiful centerfold models known as “Pets” helped Penthouse find an audience in the U.K. and the U.S. At its peak in the 1970s, Penthouse reportedly sold nearly 5 million copies a month.

Penthouse also inflamed the public’s passions with its controversial offerings. Feminists and conservatives blasted its raunchy content. In 1984, the magazine ran a sexually explicit pictorial of Vanessa Williams, the first black woman to win the title of Miss America. The pictures cost Williams her crown, but generated $14 million in profit for Guccione.

A year later, Guccione offered the serial killer known as The Unabomber a monthly column in Penthouse if he promised to stop taking lives. Ted Kaczynski, a.k.a. The Unabomber, gave Guccione permission to print his unedited manifesto, but with one caveat: he reserved the right to murder one more person. Guccione refused to take the bait. A tip from Kaczynski’s brother led to his capture in 1996. Kaczynski later pleaded guilty to 10 counts of illegally transporting, mailing and using bombs and three counts of murder, and was sentenced to life in prison with no possibility of parole.

Penthouse began to lose readers in 1986 when U.S. Attorney General Edwin Meese’s Commission on Pornography issued a report attacking the adult entertainment industry, prompting newsstands and convenience stores to pull the publication from their racks. In the 1990s, sales took a hit as subscribers began to seek out free porn and X-rated video online.

Although Guccione was once listed in the Forbes 400 ranking of wealthiest people ($400 million net worth in 1982), bad investments and risky ventures eventually cost him much of his fortune. He spent $17.5 million producing an X-rated version of “Caligula.” The 1979 film, which starred Malcolm McDowell, Helen Mirren, John Gielgud and Peter O’Toole, tanked at the box office. He tried to open a $200 million casino in Atlantic City but a stubborn resident and a licensing issue stalled construction for years. Guccione was forced to pay $45 million in back taxes in 1985 and another $80 million in 1992. And in 2003, General Media, the publishing arm of Penthouse International, declared bankruptcy.

His personal life was no less tumultuous. Guccione’s third wife, Kathy Keeton, an exotic dancer who was entrusted with the financial management of his publishing empire, died in 1997 from breast cancer. Her death affected him deeply. He wed a fourth time in 2006, to exotic dancer April Dawn Warren, but spent much of their marriage battling throat and lung cancer. Relations with some of his children also fell apart over money matters. In recent years, soaring debts forced Guccione to sell off many of his possessions, including an impressive art collection and his 27-room mansion in Manhattan.

Guccione died on Oct. 20 of lung cancer. He was 79.

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