We needed a butcher, a butcher’s butcher, a real cleaver heaver— a swarthy, hairy armed behemoth, thick as a side of USDA prime, big-boned and bubbling with testosterone.
A butcher with maybe nine fingers who could hack, slice, chop and whittle his way through a 12-hour video shoot, squeegee goop off a TRU-SEALED™ cement floor and be back at it eight hours later fresh as a daisy and reeking of Old Spice.
A butcher king in a red meat Valhalla, thigh-high in 100% USDA beef– thick sirloins, tender rump roasts, savory ribs, honest ol’ hamburger, flanks, tips and, oh yes, lean bottom round! And Nancy just wasn’t coming through.
“These guys look winsome, Nancy.”
“Hello? Mr. Ford?”
“Nancy, we are without butcher.”
“Mr. Ford… we’ve exhausted all the talent in town. Rudy Vostokovich would have been perfect, but his eyelids flutter since the motorcycle accident, and nobody else looks particularly butcherish.”
“Then bring in the out-of-towners! Spare no expense, child! Go forth to Cedar Rapids, Davenport, Burlington and Ottumwa! Scour Galesburg, Peoria, Springfield and Macomb! “Let me ask you, Nancy– do you know what goes on at a meat packing plant?”
“Can we talk about this tomorrow?”
“Acquire cow, terminate cow, reconfigure cow. Now, I have purposely glossed over the details– cow parts everywhere– and the blood! I’ve witnessed this and I will tell you, honestly, Nancy, even now I am haunted with flashbacks. It was summertime, you see, third shift at a dank little packing plant just outside of Des Moines…”
“And, now, here we are with the opportunity to enter the slobbering maw of a meat-packing icon– Valley Packing of Oskaloosa– a major player!— to produce a video which will transform slaughter into a thing of beauty… and single-handedly reverse a ten year slide in domestic red meat sales!”
“Which, as you can appreciate, no 12-minute video in the history of the universe can do. But the folks at Valley Packing haven’t figured that out! Not yet, anyway! They’re convinced a video, featuring your friendly neighborhood Butcher-As-Narrator, will ignite a– no pun intended —stampede of ravenous consumers to butcher shops and supermarkets throughout the tri-state area in search of delicious, high-octane beef.
“They’re going to the state fairs and the tractor pulls, the quilting bees and the Cabbage Patch conventions. They’re targeting high schools and Rotary clubs, AA meetings and aluminum extrusion expos. Wherever people congregate, Valley Packing will be there with our video, Nancy. This is big! Eat more beef, you lunatics! –that’s the word! And they’re paying us out the whazoo to spread it!
“So, I need a butcher– a butcher’s butcher, a real cleaver heaver, understand? A swarthy, hairy armed behemoth, big-boned and bubbling with testosterone… and you keep sending me tapes of Carlisle McDufus and Farley Arbuckle.”
“I understand, Mr. Ford– you want a butcher.”
“Nancy, are you aware that beef production in the United States will top 12 million tons this year?”
“I’ll have the reels tomorrow.”
“Tons, Nancy. Now that is a boatload of beef!”
I popped one of Nancy’s cassettes into the VCR. A skinny guy with bad hair and a toothy grin read from my script. “Welcome to corn country!” he said.
Nancy found our man over in Centralia, Illinois, a real butcher, it turned out, who looked like Ernest Borgnine and knew his way around a carcass. We cleaned him up, gave him a run-through on the teleprompter and turned him loose.
A natural. Women swooned, grown men cried.
Valley Packing ran with Beef: Cut Ya’ Off A Big Ol’ Slice! for nearly five years and we used it on our promotional reel forever. Snappy dialogue, twangy original score, the latest transitional bells and whistles.
The video won a coveted Silver Stunner from the National Meat Packers Association, and, of course, we became the toast of the 4-H circuit in lower Southeastern Iowa and a little patch of West-Central Illinois. Heck, we were famous for a while all the way from Indianola across the river to Highway 67 and on down to Rushville.
Those were the days.
So, in many ways, it was a win-win as we say in the ad game. And, funny thing– what with all the hoopla, nobody seemed to notice that beef sales in the U.S. continued downhill faster than a fat kid on roller skates.