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Comics Confidential: Fritzi Ritz Puts the Strip in Comic Strip

We all grew up thinking of Fritzi Ritz as Nancy’s sensible, respectable guardian, but she had a secret past!

Francine “Fritzi” Ritz started out as a showgirl who not only took off her clothes to entertain newspaper readers, she also was something of a public exhibitionist as these long lost newspaper clippings prove.

Contacted at the Home for Retired Comic Strip Actors, Ms. Ritz explained: “I’m not proud of what I did, but I’m not ashamed either. I needed the money.”

Whatever Happened to Burger Chef?

Ask anyone under 40 about a fast-food chain named Burger Chef and you’re likely to get a puzzled expression. Or maybe, if they’re a fan of the TV series Mad Men, they might recognize the name as an account Don Draper and Peggy Olsen were pitching in one of that series’ episodes.

But Baby Boomers should remember Burger Chef as the chain that was challenging McDonald’s for fast-food supremacy in the 1960’s!

The chain started in 1954 in Indianapolis, IN. Two brothers, Dave and Frank Thomas were working on a flame broil system for Burger King (another franchise that had recently started). The brothers decided not to sell their flame broiler, instead opting to go into business for themselves.

Besides flame broiling, the chain also created a couple of other innovations:

  • The “Value Combo” that included burger, fries and a drink for one, lower price
  • The “Fun Meal” with a toy for kids (Yep, just as McDonald’s ripped off Big Boy when they “created” the Big Mac, the Happy Meal was a rip-off of Burger Chef’s kids meal.)
  • The “Self-Serve Works Bar” where you could add your own toppings.

At their peak, Burger Chef had 2,400 locations across the country. So, what happened?

In 1971, the chain was sold to General Foods and that proved to be their undoing. While General Foods knew the grocery business, they didn’t really know the burger business.

General Foods actually charged their franchisees too little in royalties. That left them underfunded when it came to national advertising, marketing and developing new items for their menu.

McDonald's began adding things like salads, breakfast sandwiches and more to their menu. Burger King used their “Have It Your Way” advertising campaign to stress their ability to deliver a custom-ordered burger quickly. That helped establish them as the main alternative to Mickey D’s. So, Burger Chef moved from second to third place in most consumers’ minds.

Eventually, General Foods decided they’d had enough of the fast-food business and sold the chain to Hardee’s.

And that’s the way the burger flips!

Our Forgotten Cartoon-Americans: Fresh-Up Freddie

We must never forget the contributions made to American pop culture by our animated brothers and sisters.

Fresh-Up Freddie got his big show biz break in 1957 when he was selected as the spokesbird for 7-Up. Exactly what kind of bird was never made clear.

The campaign was hatched by the Leo Burnett advertising agency and the design of the character as well as the animation was done by the Walt Disney Studios. Freddie made his debut on Walt Disney’s Zorro TV series, which also debuted in 1957.  His voice was provided by veteran voice artist Paul Frees (best remembered as the voice of Boris Badenov as well as the narrator for “The Haunted Mansion” at the Disney theme parks).

The formula for nearly all of Freddie’s commercials began with Freddie asking a hypothetical question that began, “Right now, you’re probably asking yourself…” Of course, the answer to every one of the questions somehow involved using 7-Up. The commercials all ended with Freddie singing a sort of nonsensical jingle that sure sounded like “Beet-en, Beet-en, Beet-en/Nothing does it like 7-Up!” (You can watch one here.)

Alas, as we moved into the 1960’s, 7-Up morphed into “the Un-Cola” and Freddie’s contract was not renewed.

But there was a time when there were actually Fresh-Up Freddie toys, buttons and of course, lots of magazine ads!

Boomtown America is proud to salute this plucky animation icon!

Besides Diana Ross, what other two girls made up the original Supremes?

Flo Ballard and Mary Wilson
O'RyanCordes Marketing