Thursday, July 9, 2020

Hello Dolly

     Not every column works. The more I dug into Big Boy restaurants swapping out their iconic Big Boy for Dolly, a minor character in the Big Boy Saga, the more it seemed an IHOP-like scam (which pretended to change its name to IHOb, International House of Burgers, for a month) designed to plug their chicken sandwich. And besides, there is no single Big Boy chain, but a balkanized group, including realms such as Frisch's Big Boy, which isn't involved in the ploy.* Anyway, so this failed the newspaper-worthy test. But it might prove amusing for those here at EGD. It was either this or another letter from a gobsmacked Trump supporter, and I'm kinda sick of those.

     Big Boy's new mascot is a girl.
     Her name is Dolly.
     Let me say right off the bat, that I'm not outraged or offended.  Even though outrage is the coin of the realm in our social media world.  If only I could manage sputtering shock on command, if only rending my garments and rolling my eyes in goggled horror were my metier, well, then maybe I would be on television right now and you would all love me.
     Heck, it's their restaurant. If you want a girl to be the mascot for Big Boy, well, fine.  It's actually kinda of-the-moment.      
    Sincerely. Were I writing fiction, and wanted to somehow take the current kerfuffle over racist sports mascots and mash it together with the and-now-for-something-completely-different unease of processing the latest advance in gender fluidity, seasoned by the recent toppling of statues of erstwhile heroes—remember Big Boy restaurants are sometimes marked with large fiberglas figures of their burger deity—the arrival of Dolly, a supporting character in the Big Boy pantheon up to this point, with her own namesake sandwich, well, it's too perfect, right?
    Mascots are powerful. For instance, you probably know about Big Boy, even though the last Big Boy in Illinois, in Danville, bailed out of the franchise in 2017.  I grew up in Berea, Ohio, and we had our own Big Boy—it might have been our first sit-down restaurant. It must have been youthful lack of standards that imprinted the place in my affections, but growing familiarity with the chain—think of them as a Denny's with quality control issues—did not sour my liking for its funky hydrocephalic household god. A state of affairs outlined here a few years back.
     And yet, despite a series of awful dining experiences—the food arriving cold, or never arriving at all, leading my weeping children out to restaurant where the food does arrive—I don't blame the Boy. It isn't as if he knew.
Reddy Kilowatt
     I guess that's Dolly's problem now. Maybe a female mascot will help, and the disconnect between Big Boy being represented by a not-big-at-all girl might help the social acceptance of transgendered individuals (a shame Quaker didn't think of this: they could have replaced Aunt Jemima with Reddy Kilowatt. He's available). 
    Dolly is not an adequate replacement, not because she isn't male, but because she isn't big. Not a trace of chubbiness there, that you would expect if you actually ate the 1200-calorie sandwich. (Big Boy doesn't actually list the calories of the new Dolly sandwich; probably haven't done the chemical analysis yet. But a comparable sandwich is 1260, and Dolly's must be about the same, which itself is astounding. People knowingly eat that?)
     Nor does she have the retro charm of Big Boy. No checkered coveralls. No Reaganesque coif. No evil twinkle. She's a whitebread Smurf in drag.
     I think we're done here. The more I picked over the rhetoric coming from the Big Boy folks, the more I noticed they were creating a back door to yank their change back at any time. The shift might be temporary: poor Dolly, given the job as a symbolic token, unaware it'll be given back to the male when she's served her purpose. I began to suspect that what is happening here: Big Boy's is casting an envious eye on the fluke success of Popeye's chicken sandwich last year. Big Boy thought it would get it the game, and cooked up this half-hearted, half-assed PR scam. It was that, or actually make a quality chicken sandwich that people would want to eat, mascot be damned, and that obviously is beyond their capacities. Typical.
     Just to be clear, I wouldn't eat at a Big Boy under any circumstance, and don't want to be responsible for anyone else eating there. I even put away my Big Boy statuette collection, depicted above. We have to grow up eventually. 

* After this was posted, Frisch's Big Boy got back to me with a statement:

     “You may have heard that some Big Boy restaurants in Michigan, not affiliated with Frisch’s, are temporarily changing their mascot. At Frisch’s Big Boy, which operates in Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana, we’re remaining faithful to our beloved Big Boy. For more than 70 years, neighborhood Frisch’s restaurants have made memories with your family as the home of burgers, breakfast and Big Boy. We intend that to be the case for at least 70 more.”



  1. Shame to hear about your Big Boy collection. I think kitsch is something we really should not outgrow.

    But speaking of outgrowing, every time I see a fast food commercial that either blatantly appeals to sexual overtones of burgers or the manly qualities of more, more and more, I know it's Hardee's. Glad that stuff's past me by.

  2. We bought a Big Boy mascot statuette two years ago after stopping into one of the Frisch's in Ohio, thinking it might be a valuable collectors' item someday. And it was so cute. He still sits on a cabinet shelf in my kitchen.
    Dolly just doesn't enthuse me. I think the change was a mistake, but dining there was a bigger mistake. Poor service, and the food disappointing. (The workers were quite cheery and polite, however.)

    1. I meant to thank you for alerting me to this, Sandy.

    2. I had to share this breaking news! :)

    3. As our esteemed host is well-known to us EGD minions for not taking requests -- or being a short-order essayist, in the spirit of today's topic -- I'm impressed that you managed to inspire this post through your discovery of these Big Boy shenanigans, Sandy. : )

    4. Sandy is a close observer of my oeuvre and, to her credit, didn't ASK me to write something, merely alerted me to the news. That helps.

    5. Indeed, which is why I said "managed to inspire." I didn't imagine that Sandy would be so gauche as to ask. : )

  3. The world is rife with tales of outraged, delusional supporters of Hair Furor. What we need more of in the EGD sector of the economy is more inane nonsense like this! (I say that in only the most positive, appreciative way!) (Uh-oh, 2 exclamation points already -- I'm a third of the way to the minimum number usually deployed in a Clark St. comment.)

    I've eaten at a number of Big Boys and don't disdain them quite the way you do, but then I haven't been to one in decades. Everything is relative, though. There are plenty of mom-and-pop diners in the hinterlands that are just as disturbing. That chubby BB mascot was a winner, though, regardless of what he was shilling for.

    "...well, it's too perfect, right?" Indeed, you've nailed how this character substitution embodies the zeitgeist.

    "Denny's with quality control issues" ... "funky hydrocephalic household god" ... "No Reaganesque coif." It's all gold, Jerry!

  4. My college town was so small, sleepy, and rustic there wasn't even a Mickey D's was the mid-Sixties and they weren't as ubiquitous as they are now. But that southern Michigan town of 8,000 had a Big Boy out on the highway, and it wasn't too far from my dorm. Went there a couple of times--and got sick afterward both times (from the white sauce?). I've never gone back to a Big Boy.

    Even Burger King was better than Big Boy. Can't believe I actually used to choke down all those Whoppers, until I wised up. (That orange-colored sauce...ugh). Gave up on Burger King decades ago. But I'm still a Mickey D's guy through and through. Nuggets, Quarter Pounders, fish sandwiches, McRibs, and the breakfast items. Yum. They never disappoint me.

    I think eating preferences start very early. The second-oldest McDonald's franchise in the Midwest opened on Dempster Street when I was eight, not far from where I grew up. It's still operating in the same location, after 65 years. I received birthday postcards from them, redeemable for free burgers. Also redeemed the ones for Lucy, my kid sister. Lucy was actually Lucky, our dog.

    1. That “orange-colored sauce” on Burger King Whoppers: could it be ketchup mixed with mayonnaise? I happen to like that combination on my burgers and always assumed that was what Burger King used.

    2. Fake news, Grizz! Less than 6 months ago (commenting on the linked Big Boy post) you plainly stated: "I also had a 'terrible experience' after my one and only trip there."

      Yet today you expect us to believe that you "Went there a couple of times -- and got sick afterward both times?"

      Holy moly, you're as bad as our lying Maximum Leader. "There's a tweet for everything," as they say. Until I hear Kayleigh McEnany dutifully and smarmily clarify your waffling about this weighty issue, I won't be quite sure what to think. ; )

    3. My wife mixes ketchup, mayo, and pickle relish to make a reasonable facsimile of Thousand Island salad dressing. The "orange sauce" was almost the same color, but not as thick. Maybe they used less mayo? And no pickle relish? Didn't taste quite the same, either. I used to ask them to leave off that stuff. They hardly ever did so. Then I just scraped it off myself. Yuck!

      Finally I woke up, and wondered: "WTH? Why am I eating this Whopper crap at all?'" Haven't had one for at least forty years. I guess people still buy them, though, in big numbers. Orange sauce and all.

    4. Just to clarify, we're talking the autumn of 1965 here. I came, I ate, I got sick. Once...twice...does it really matter all that much, in the grand scheme of things, how many times I ate and pooped? I don't know how old you are, but do you remember exactly how many times you went somewhere 55 years ago? I didn't think so.

    5. Just to clarify... Uh, I was simply ribbing you, there, Grizz. And while I don't remember much from 55 years ago, a comment I made in the hallowed cyberspace of EGD in January would be as indelible in my mind as my first kiss. (That's also a joke, lest there be any doubt.) : )


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