'Matter of Laugh or Death,' a humor column
By Bill Dunn
Interesting observations on this thing we call life
(appearing each week in the Republican-American newspaper, Waterbury, CT)
NO CLOWNING AROUND ABOUT HEALTH
A health advocacy group has mounted an intense campaign to force the McDonald’s company to retire Ronald McDonald. The group claims the famous clown lures children into a lifestyle of obesity and poor health. In response, McDonald’s CEO Jim Skinner declared emphatically the company has no intentions of forcing Ronald to retire.
I caught up with Ronald a few days after he received the company’s vote of confidence. His publicity agent gave me five minutes to sit down with the world’s most recognized corporate spokes-clown in his swanky 38th floor hotel suite in downtown Chicago.
The red-haired Ronald looked tired as I entered the room. He didn’t bother to get up from the enormous couch. He took a long drag on a cigarette then pointed toward a leather chair with his other hand, which was holding a cold Heineken. He growled in a raspy voice, “Sit down, kid.”
“Thank you,” I said nervously. “I appreciate you giving me some time to discuss this, um, awkward situation. So, does the ringing endorsement by your CEO make you feel a little better?”
“That weasel?” he replied with a cynical sneer. “I wouldn’t trust him as far I can throw a piano uphill! He’s a stuffed suit, a corporate clown. Hey, clown? Get it? I wear the floppy shoes, but he’s the real clown.”
Ronald started to laugh at his own joke, but it quickly turned into a deep, hacking cough. A long swig from the Heineken finally brought the cough under control. I continued: “But it must be somewhat reassuring to know the CEO is taking your side against that health advocacy group, right?”
He didn’t answer, and instead put down the cigarette and beer, and leaned forward and struggled to pull off his floppy red shoes. His feet, as it turned out, are not size 26, but somewhere in the size 10 range. He was wearing Nike brand white tube socks. He took turns gently caressing each instep. “Oh, my dogs are howling,” he said softly. “Eight hours straight on your feet at my age is no picnic, pal.”
“If you don’t mind me asking,” I said, “How old are you?”
He stared at me for a moment. “Well, kid,” he finally replied, “I’ve been doing this gig since the Kennedy Administration, and I wasn’t exactly in the third grade when I started. You do the math.”
“Well, you must be glad the corporation is standing behind you,” I said.
“Yeah, right behind me—where they can stab me in the back the minute public opinion shifts.” He gulped the last of his beer and leaned back. He slowly turned his white and red face toward me and said, “Glad? You wanna know what makes me glad, kid? Cash. And plenty of it. Those health Nazis who want me to retire just offered me a million bucks to join their group and go on tour bad-mouthing McDonald’s. I can’t wait to see CEO Weasel’s face when I quit next week. Your time’s up, kid. See ya.”
“OK,” I said. “But one last question, please. What about all the good will, all the kids, the Ronald McDonald House Charities?”
He shrugged and silently pointed toward the door. As I walked away he called out, “Times change, kid. Healthy is all the rage now. I can do healthy. I can do anything as long as the checks don’t bounce.”
Just before leaving the hotel suite, I glanced back for one last look at the most recognizable fast food mascot in history. The soon-to-be zealous crusader for healthy lifestyles lit up another Marlboro.
* * *
Note to McDonald’s legal department: This is a work of FICTION. Please don't sue my butt.
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