Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Luckily for Mr. Whipple, There’s No Toilet Paper in Heaven

Dick Wilson, seen here playing Mr. Whipple in a Charmin TV commercial, passed away yesterday at the age of 91Was there ever a television commercial that crawled under your skin and consistently evoked an urge to immediately change channels?

In the golden age before remotes, Charmin toilet paper commercials were my nemesis. I literally jumped for the knob at the sight of pearl and cardigan clad Caucasian hausfraus going gaga over toilet tissue. Portraits of giddy delight erupting in facial displays of ecstasy, manicured fingers repeatedly digging and releasing plastic swathed toilet rolls, noses buried in bundles of bathroom bales, these women seemed more akin to refugees from the funny farm than anyone I’d ever encountered at my neighborhood grocery store.

For reasons I never understood, the Charmin display cast an irresistible spell over these dipwads, like sex toys in the middle of an underground paraphernalia shop. At the time, I was far too young to understand any obsession over toilet paper, nor did anyone offer anything remotely resembling an explanation. I eventually developed a strong dislike for the clerk who policed these inane suburbanites. His name: Mr. Whipple.

A mustachioed middle-aged man, glasses precariously perched over a bulbous nose, Mr. Whipple was the definitive wimp, someone who couldn’t stop a dog from taking a piss on his own lawn. “Please don’t squeeze the Charmin” was his signature imploration. This pathetic excuse for a bodyguard always ended the spot by grabbing his own pack to furtively squeeze alone. The camera then rooted him out, sending a subliminal message that even its champion watchdog couldn’t resist finger porking Charmin's soft white folds. In time they added a voice over, just in case viewers didn’t understand the pitch.

Oh, I understood fine, I just couldn’t help feeling sick inside. Why would anyone be possessed by a toilet paper fetish, let alone indulge it in the middle of a grocery aisle? Clearly, my mother wasn’t telling me something. Switching channels became an automatic response.

Thankfully, the mystery of toilet tissue affixation ended around the time I hit puberty. By then, those infuriating Charmin commercials had all but disappeared.

Yesterday, the man who made squeezing the Charmin a guilty little pleasure succumbed to natural causes at the Motion Picture & Television Fund Hospital in Woodland Hills, California. Dick Wilson lived to the ripe old age of 91. He was a universally recognized pitchman who didn’t mind forging a career from a product people like me preferred not to contemplate.

Procter and Gamble put Mr. Whipple down in 1999. Although relieved to witness his demise, I’m saddened to hear about Dick Wilson. There should be a lavish tribute on the P & G web site. Dick Wilson shilled for those people more than 500 times.

Another fixture of my childhood is gone. Each passing symbol from my youth reminds me of a bygone era I'm not quite ready to let go. Call it nostalgic affixation. Too bad I can’t dig in my fingers and sniff for relief.


CharmaineZoe said...

Yes, and just imagine if your name happens to be Charmaine!!!!