Friday, February 23, 2007

The Jolly Green Giant: Behind the Legend

On day in 1952, a 98-pound weakling named Elmer Druck decided that bullies had kicked sand in his face one too many times. He adopted the Charles Atlas bodybuilding program and started lifting weights. However, he became so obsessed with “getting huge” that he began taking mega-doses of synthetic human growth hormone he obtained from a defecting East German shot-putter, along with, well, way too much chlorophyll. (“I figured it worked with plants,” he later said.)

One morning, he awoke to discover that he had become a 50-foot green monster. What was even more traumatizing was that he wasn’t a buff, intimidating, macho creature like the Incredible Hulk, but a big, green poofter who wore what looked like a gown Bob Mackie had designed for Cher on Oscar night.

At first, he tried to pretend he was normal, but that delusion was shattered the first time he tried to buy a suit.

For several years, he knocked around, working odd jobs: furniture mover, door-to-door salesman, semi-pro wrestler. (He wrestled in Mexico under the name “Los Grandes Verde Enchilada,” and his matches against the Aztec Mummy are said to be classics.) Then one day, he happened to run into a copywriter from the Burnett agency, who told him they were looking for a giant green mascot to pitch canned vegetables and that he should drop by the office.

The rest, as they say, is history.

But life at the top was far from glamorous. The Giant soon learned the perils of fame, as he related in an interview with the author:

They took advantage of me. I had this “personal services contract” and basically signed my life away. I was famous – as a freak. Worked seven days a week, 12-14 hours a day, posing for vegetable cans, shooting those godawful commercials, being hustled all over the country for meet-and-greets with sales reps from Boise …And you know what really blows? I don’t even get royalties. Sure, I got some tail. There’s always women who want to brag that they slept with a 50-foot green guy. They even asked me to be in this porn film, “Monster Dicks and Monster Trucks.” But they totally overestimated me, size-wise. The truth is I’m that from takin’ all that juice, my ‘nads had shrunk to the size of peas. Talk about ironic. The chicks were always so disappointed. Someone set me up with the 50-Foot Woman, but, sheesh, talk about aggressive! Every time I’d take her out for a romantic dinner, she’d get up, leave the restaurant and the next thing I knew she’d be overturning this Chevy with her bare hand! … So, yeah, chicks. After a while it was just easier to pay for it.

“Like that song said, It ain’t easy bein’ green. And 50 foot tall. And standing in a valley day and night. You know what it’s like in the middle of winter in Minnesota wearing just a toga?...

Ho, fucking ho.”

Little-Known Facts:

• The “Valley of the Jolly Green Giant” is the Minnesota River valley around Le Sueur. Right before the valley, there is an enormous wooden statue of the Green Giant poking above the trees. At least, that’s what the town would like people to believe. What the city fathers kept secret is that for many years the actual Green Giant lived in a gated lair hidden in the valley behind an Indian casino, and that he got his late-night kicks leaping out from behind the statue and scaring motorists on U.S. 169.

• The Giant once recorded a rap song, “Green as I Wanna Be!” The lyrics were:

Yo I’m green, y’all
And I’m fifty foot tall,
You call me an ogre
Cause I wear a toga
Yeah, I chill inna valley
Wit my bitch named Sally
She my ho-ho-ho
Makin’ the wack scene
Eatin’ peas and green beans
Till I’m green all over
Like I slept in clover
Go ahead and diss me
Cause I look so sickly
Like a frog done kissed me
Yo I’m green, y’all
Green as I wanna be!
Green as the Benjamins
Green as the trees
Green as the … somethin’ else that’s green!
Green, green
Not green with envy
Green as men be
From Mars you see
Green, green
Green as I wanna be!

It sold eight copies.

• The copy for a famous Green Giant ad proclaims “I Stand for Goodness” and parenthetically, in much smaller letters, “In fact, I haven’t sat down since 1925.” The truth is that all those years of standing have left the Giant crippled with sciatica and that he now hobbles around on a 50-foot cane.

• The Giant stole his catchphrase, “Ho ho ho” from Santa Claus and only after being threatened with a plagiarism lawsuit, added the words, “Green Giant.”

• His diet consists completely of canned peas.

• It has been long rumored that the Giant and Little Sprout are gay lovers, although the Giant’s official line always has been “We just happen to live in the same valley.”

Famous Quotes:

“Please – no more niblets!”

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