Archive for the Franken Berry Category

General Mills’ Monster Cereals

Posted in Boo-Berry, Boogie Nights, Count Chocula, Drawn Together, Franken Berry, Fruit Brute, Fruity Yummy Mummy, General Mills' Monster Cereals with tags , , , , , , , on November 12, 2015 by Manuel Paul Arenas

As I have mentioned before, I have always been a fan of Monsters and the Macabre. In my childhood days of the 1970’s, my favorite was the Frankenstein Monster, and my cousin Jason’s was Dracula. We watched every movie or cartoon we could which featured the two classic monsters; we dressed up like them for Halloween, collected the toys, comics and film books…and we ate the cereals.

Count Chocula, Frankenberry and Boo-Berry cereals.

Count Chocula, Frankenberry and Boo-Berry cereals

In October of 1971, General Mills issued two monster themed cereals: Count Chocula, and the strawberry flavored Franken Berry, followed in 1972 by the blueberry flavored Boo-Berry. Fruit Brute (a werewolf themed character with what Wikipedia describes as a fruit flavored cereal with lime flavored marshmallows) followed in 1974 but was discontinued in 1984 and replaced in 1987 with Fruity Yummy Mummy (a fruit cereal with vanilla marshmallows).

Fruit Brute and Fruity Yummy Mummy.

Fruit Brute and Fruity Yummy Mummy.

I never got to try the latter two, but I lived on Franken Berry for many years. In fact, Jason and I identified so much with the respective characters that we wouldn’t dare allow the other to partake of OUR character’s cereal, although my cousin has since confessed in recent years that whenever he stayed over our house, he would sneak into the pantry in the middle of the night and grab a handful of Franken Berry to spite me!

I loved the commercials  (some of which may be found here: http://www.retroist.com/2008/10/29/monster-cereal-fun-facts-and-commercials/) and collected the various prizes inside the cereal boxes. One prize that I seem to recall having owned at one point or the other was the Franken Berry monster car, as seen below:

Monster cars.

Franken Berry and Count Chocula Monster Cars.

Apparently the cereals disappeared for a while but have been reintroduced several times in recent years, around Halloween, and with revamped character images and, unfortunately, revamped recipes. The originals were frosted, flavored oat cereals with marshmallows, like Lucky Charms, whereas the new cereals are some sort of corn cereal, and some of the flavors have changed as well. My cousin recently bought me a box of Franken Berry as a nostalgic treat, but upon serving myself a bowl, I found it to have the consistency of packing peanuts with a hint of strawberry, and the marshmallows were flavorless as chalk. I understand why they might want to revamp the cereals to suit modern tastes, but at least try to put some effort into making them palatable. I also miss the old familiar Franken Berry character, the new one looks too slick to me.

Monster Cereal's revamped images.

Monster Cereal’s revamped images.

However, I think the nail in the coffin for the last remnant of my childhood innocence was seeing Franken Berry’s cameo in the season 3 episode, “Breakfast Food Killer”, from the animated series Drawn Together, in a parody of the role of the Burt Reynolds character from Boogie Nights. I guess it’s true when they say one can never really go back to one’s childhood.

Franken Berry's cameo in the Drawn Together parody of Boogie Nights.

Franken Berry’s cameo in the Drawn Together parody of Boogie Nights.

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TV, Monsters and Me

Posted in Black Light Verse, Carolyn Jones, Chiller Theater, Count Chocula, Creature Feature, Dark Shadows, Don't Touch That Dial, Dr Paul Bearer, First Studio, Franken Berry, Frankenstein, Goth Girls, Groovie Ghoulies, Hammer Horror, Lara Parker, Mistress of the Dark, Monty Python's Flying Circus, Morticia Addams, Richard Bledsoe, Scooby Doo, The Addams Family, The Dark Young, The Grimoire of the Dark Young, The Hilarious House of Frightenstein, The Munsters, Trish Justrish, Under Television Skies, Universal Classic Monsters, Vampira, You'll Die Laughing with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 16, 2015 by Manuel Paul Arenas
Ad for Shock!

Ad for Shock!

In 1957, Universal Studios gave leave to allow their films to be shown on national television stations distributed in their Shock! package which included sixty odd films from their archives, including such classics as Dracula, Frankenstein, the Wolf Man, et al. as well as their respective sequels. Thus began the monster craze of the 60’s, which has never died out completely ever since.

The Chiller Theater opening segment. The hand would rise from the pool of blood and drop the letters spelling "Chiller".

The Chiller Theater opening segment. The hand would rise from the pool of blood and drop the letters spelling “Chiller”.

When I grew up in the 70’s, I lived for monsters. I didn’t care about sports athletes or super heroes, I lived and breathed monsters. My cousin Jason and I would watch shows like Chiller Theater and Creature Feature, which featured movies from the aforementioned Shock package along with some other monster movies like the Toho Kaijū films (i.e., “Godzilla” and “Mothra”) from Japan, but I always preferred the Gothics. Creature Feature was hosted by Dr. Paul Bearer, who started my interest in Horror Hosts and whose bad puns and macabre humor can be found in my current stage persona.

Dr Paul Bearer host of Creature Feature on WTOG St Petersburg, Florida from 1973-1995.

Dr Paul Bearer host of Creature Feature on WTOG St Petersburg, Florida from 1973-1995.

My cousin was obsessed with Dracula, and I Frankenstein. We ate Count Chocula and Frankenberry cereal, watched Scooby Doo and the Groovie Ghoulies and collected anything and everything monster related, especially if it featured one of our two favorite monsters.

Monster trading card from the You'll Die Laughing series featuring Lon Chaney Sr in the Phantom of the Opera (1925). Notice that Mary Philbin's face has been replaced witn an unknown. I have read that this was done for copyright reasons, but it only seems to be on this run of cards from the 70's, as the later versions did not seem to do this.

Monster trading card from the You’ll Die Laughing series featuring Lon Chaney Sr in the Phantom of the Opera (1925). Notice that Mary Philbin’s face has been replaced with that of an unknown. I have read that this was done for copyright reasons, but it only seems to be on this run of cards from the 70’s, as the later versions did not seem to do this.

When I rediscovered “Dark Shadows” in the 90’s, my mother informed me that I used to watch the original show with her back in the day and even had a thing for a witch, whom I can only assume must have been the character Angelique, played by the lovely Lara Parker.

The lovely and mysterious Angelique, as portrayed by Lara Parker on the original Dark Shadows series.

The lovely and mysterious Angelique, as portrayed by Lara Parker on the original Dark Shadows series.

One crush I do recall, however is Morticia Addams, as portrayed by the exquisite Carolyn Jones. Even before I knew what sex was, I found her mesmerizing. Morticia Addams paved the way for my infatuations for Vampira, and Elvira, and, to this day, I hold her directly responsible for my fixation with Goth Girls.

Carolyn Jones as Morticia Addams, circa 1964.

Carolyn Jones as Morticia Addams, circa 1964.

Aside from my obsession with it’s matriarch, the “Addams Family” show was also a lot of fun, better than the broader comedy of “The Munsters”, which I also liked to some extent, and I really took to heart the Addams Family message of acceptance; it was okay to be eccentric and to walk on the dark side without being outright evil. Herman Munster always tried to get his family to fit in with their neighbors, whereas the Addams Family embraced their weirdness.

Along with my dark interests and fetishes, I can trace my entire creative persona to one children’s show. On my return visit to my beloved Boston in 2010 to record the vocal tracks for the long overdue sequel to the debut album by my old band, the Dark Young, our drummer, my good friend Geoff Chase, showed me a video of a Canadian children’s show called “The Hilarious House of Frightenstein”. The main premise was that the Count, a vampire, and his trusty servant, Igor, had been banished from Transylvania, and could only return when the Count revived Bruce, a Frankenstein monster. Every show they would try, to no avail.

What is significant about the show are two featured segments. Now anyone who knows what I do, or more importantly, what I’ve done, is aware that since the late 1980’s I have been creating what I call, my Black Light Verse; essentially, light verse on dark topics and have honed my craft as a performer, mostly during my tenure with the Dark Young, doling out these dark ditties with servings of dry humor and droll anecdotes. During my stint with the Dark Young, I created an onstage persona, a sort of Gothic Alistair Cooke, with my long hair spilling out over my velvet burgundy smoking jacket, sporting a cravat and a pentacle, I would sit in a chair with a cloth-bound tome, the Grimorium Iuvenis Oscurum (the Grimoire of the Dark Young), from which I would read my poetry and tell my stories.

Me onstage with the Dark Young, circa 1994.

Me onstage with the Dark Young, circa 1994.

Well, as I watched the show, I was surprised to find that I was already familiar with it. Memories of watching it as a child flooded back very quickly. Then came shocker number one, when Vincent Price came on (his spot was a regular feature on the show) and recited a bunch of spooky poems in his usual witty and urbane manner, the possible progenitor to my Black Light Verse, then came shock number two, when “the Librarian” came on.

Billy Van as the Librarian from the show "The Hilarious House of Frightenstein".

Billy Van as the Librarian from the show “The Hilarious House of Frightenstein”.

Played by Billy Van, who also played the Count as well as various other characters on the show, the Librarian was an old man with a shock of long white hair, and a mustache, who wore a suit and sat in a chair to read cute little nursery rhymes and fables in a dreadful tone. The joke being that he found them terrifying, and couldn’t understand why no one else was moved by them. So there on this children’s show, which I had all but forgotten, was the template for my adult stage persona; it was alternately a blow for my ego and a piece of the puzzle put in place.

Over the years, I have continued in my love for monsters, graduating from the iconic Universal Monsters to the Hammer Gothic exploitation films of the 60’s and 70’s, but it wasn’t all monsters and femmes fatales for me. For instance, Monty Python’s Flying Circus is mostly responsible for my love of wordplay and mixing high brow culture and low brow humor. In fine, if it weren’t for television in general, I might not have become the black bard that you all know and loathe today.

Ad for show

On January 16th, 2015, I read this entry to an audience at the First Studio in downtown Phoenix. It was for an event called “Don’t Touch That Dial”, which tied in with the art exhibit “Under Television Skies”. Host Richard Bledsoe and several local poets and performers read works and performed pieces which celebrated the early days of Television.  Below is a picture taken by Mr Bledsoe during my set, and next is a photo of me helping out with artist Trish Justrish.

Me, stressing a point.

Me, stressing a point.

Trish Justrish and Me

Trish Justrish and Me