SWEET SURPRISES

The Life and Times of Lucky, the Lucky Charms Leprechaun

by Lucky, The Lucky Charms Leprechaun, as told to Clifford Irving

also by Clifford Irving, available from Worldwide Perlman Press:


The first time I met Lucky, I told myself there was no way this was the same man who I'd seen just that afternoon on TV, puckishly fleeing a group of cereal-crazed youngsters with an easy grace and a touch of magic that brought back a little of what we miss in the non-puckish political atmosphere in Northern Ireland today. No, the Lucky I was introduced to was jowly, unshaven, and decidedly hostile. The only magic he demonstrated was in the way his hat, the shamrock drooping listlessly, stayed on even when he tripped over his bathrobe belt.

He poured us some mineral water -- been dry for two months, he told me with a trace of pride -- and Lucky Charms™ crunched under our feet as he led me to a marginally comfortable pair of tree stumps in the living room. On the shelves were mementos of past glories: the time he got away from the kids by making an elephant, the time he got away from the kids by making a roller coaster, the time he got away from the kids by making a rocket ship. Sales awards, advertising awards, and old box covers with his pictures on them, heavily retouched to erase the worry lines, crow's feet, and dandruff.

I started by asking Lucky who develops the plotlines for his commercials. "I do," he told me proudly. "And it all sprang from the first commercial we ever did."

"In the very first spot we ever did, I was eating breakfast, see, and the kids came after me right after I finished my bowl of Lucky Charms.™ In the spots today, they want the cereal; back then, they wanted ME, because you're supposed to catch a Leprechaun, right? Anyways, I commented that the kids always seemed to show up just '...after [I finished] me Lucky Charms™," and the client from General Mills completely misunderstood. "They're always after me Lucky Charms™!" he was shouting, "I love it!" So it stuck that way. But it pisses me off every time I have to say it."

Then he moves in a little closer and his voice drops.

"You know, it was never, ever about the frosted oat cereal. It was all about the sweet surprises. You know. The marshmallows. Always has been, always will be."

I asked him what he meant when he said "it was 'about' the marshmallows."

He thinks for a minute and takes another sip of Evian. He winces as it goes down, a reflex action left over from the days of partying and cereal and sex.

"I mean, what they told me, why I was doing it."

"You see, they told me at the start that I was going to be selling a wholesome oat cereal that they were getting kids to eat by sprinkling in a few colorful marshmallows. What I didn't realize was that they were actually selling marshmallows and getting parents to buy them by sprinkling in a little frosted oat cereal."

"At first, I was just naive. It was right there. I remember the first time I found out what was up. They brought in a new marshmallow, it was Orange Stars, I think. And I said, 'Great, now which new frosted oat cereal shape are we going to put in, y'know, to balance it?' And they'd say, 'No, no, then the Orange Star won't seem like such a big deal. We need to get all the publicity we can out of that, before we bring in any new shapes for the oats.'

"So I say fine, I can wait, but the next thing you know, they came up with the Blue Diamonds. 'Where's the wholesome frosted oats?' I ask them. And they start giving me the surveys and the focus groups and the whatnot, and then finally, just to shut me up, they say, 'Y'know, the frosted oats really aren't that wholesome anyway.' I ask them how they defined wholesome in the first place, and we get into a huge fight, and that's when the scripts they give me start going downhill and kinda emphasizing the kids and the cereal more, y'know?

The Seventies were Lucky's years of experimentation.

"I was into everything. You name it: corn, wheat, rice. I'd do purple multigrain and not even think about it. I don't remember half of what happened. Everyone was flaking out, the original Cuckoo Bird went cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs™ and jumped out a window, I bet you didn't know that. That's why he's always jumping around in the ads, so that you can't see the scars from where they reattached his face. The original Cap'n Crunch™ dropped some bad crunchberries and then drowned. I'll bet you didn't know that."

Lucky leans in close again.

"They fished him out, and he was dead, but he was still crunchy."

For some months in the early '80s, Lucky pushed for a new image and a new tagline: "Get Lucky with Lucky." It was largely ineffective at achieving its goal, which was to push Lucky and his cereal into the adult female market.

"I wanted to grow his image, y'know? The cereal and advertising people didn't buy into it to the extent that they should have. I don't think they ever really grasped the concept. I certainly could've gotten a lot more mileage out of it, but it was fun while it lasted."

Later in the decade, Lucky tried again to push his way into a more adult market by injecting a dose of reality.

"There was one commercial we did in particular that I absolutely loved, but it only ran for a week. The plot was, y'see, this gang of adults were after me Lucky Charms™. So I says, 'I'll make a Dry Cleaning Store and get away." But the spot bombed, as did the Real Estate Office, the Bed and Breakfast, and the Small Out-of-the-Way Restaurant.

And today?

"My biggest problem these days is what they're doing with the marshmallows. A green clover, THAT's a lucky charm. A purple horseshoe, THAT's a lucky charm. But since when is a heart a lucky charm? A yellow moon? A red balloon? These are not especially lucky. The little multicolored rainbow and the star are too close to call. And they don't even make the yellow moon anymore, they changed it to blue. What the hell, y'know? What are we, basing marshmallows on song titles that kids don't even know?"

"I still get all the cereal I can eat, and every time they come up with a new marshmallow, I do a new spot and a few taglines, but mostly they rerun the old stuff. And don't talk to me about royalties, I didn't know to ask for them back then. None of us did. That's okay for me, I'm still young, but Count Chocula™ is an old man and he's practically broke. As much as you may want to, you can't live on chocolatey things alone." (Editor's Note: soon to come from Worldwide Perlman Press: Out of the Closet and Into the Pantry: The Truth about Count Chocula, Frankenberry, BooBerry, Fruit Brute, Quisp, and Quake.)

EPILOGUE

I asked Lucky about his philosophy of life. He passed along what he felt were the basic principles.

  1. If life gets you down, just make a balloon and get away.

  2. If a relationship sours, just make a boat and get away.
  3. As a rule of thumb, if it's part of a good breakfast, they'll always be after it. Climb a magic beanstalk and get away.
  4. When pressures at home build up and your children get on your nerves, don't lash out at them in anger. Get help. Call one of the parenting hotlines, take a deep breath, and make a conscious effort to stay calm. See if you can remove some of the stressers that are setting you off, or you're liable to lose all communication with your children, and nothing's worse. Or make a drawbridge and get away.
  5. Quality of life is not judged by how much gold there is in the pot at the end of the rainbow, or whether or not you've got your lucky charms. Quality of life is determined by the number of different kinds of marshmallows you have.

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