Thursday, March 13, 2008

ROCKIN' with the Meatmen (and the all-American Oscar Mayer Wienermobile)

(above) poster by Jim Altieri



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Jim Altieri's new poster for the (reformed) Meatmen's club appearance at Small's Bar in Hamtramck, MI intrigued me to find out more about the band and the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile.
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The Meatmen formed in Lansing, MI in 1981. Fronted by Tesco Vee (of Touch and Go fanzine fame), they were the most outrageous and original of the "funny punk" bands. With the Meatmen, nothing was safe or sacred. Using biting humor as a tool with which to both annoy and poke fun at the politically correct, the band managed to make many enemies (as well as friends) everywhere they went. As one website put it, "Obnoxious, crude, offensive, blasphemous, tiresome, and very funny, the Meatmen are one band you'd never be able to explain to your parents or even to the vast majority of your peers. They stomp on the sensitive issues of society with a [especially blatant] coarseness."
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The Small's Bar show showcased the latest version of the Meatmen, still fronted by Tesco Vee but now with a new lineup of punk kids playing the instruments. In the fall of 1982, Vee had disbanded the last of the Michigan-based Meatment lineups and moved to Washington, D.C. (and apparently became a junior high school teacher) where the band reformed many times over.
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As critic Mark Prindle puts it, "the Meatmen are just gross. The music is rudimentary, be it hardcore punk, stupid wank metal, or (most recently) a fascinating combination of the two. But darn it, it's also awfully catchy. I'm not proud to call myself a Meatmen fan but heck, they make me laugh and their melodies get stuck in my bean, so why not?"
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There are many complaints, reminiscences, and insights about the Meatmen at Prindle's website http://www.markprindle.com/meatmena.htm, but be warned, there's crude language and cruder observations there. Here's one of the cleaner observations, from Steve Robey: "Ever since I was a high school boy, I've had a t-shirt [bearing the cover of] WE'RE THE MEATMEN . . . AND YOU SUCK! My mother attempted to throw it away about 17 times, but I always found it in the trash can outside. I've still got it, 20 years later! I hide it from my wife, though--it would definitely be toast if she had a say in the matter. I recall wearing it as undershirt during a particularly important job interview,
which I didn't get."
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The Wienermobile that inspired postermaker Altieri was originally invented in 1936 by Oscar Mayer's nephew, Carl G. Mayer. It was 13 feet in length. In the 1950s Oscar Mayer and the Gerstenslager Company created several new vehicles of the same motif using both a Dodge chassis and a Willy's Jeep chassis; one of these models is on display at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, MI (see photo above), and it may be the Museum's most popular attraction.
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In 1969, new Wienermobiles were built upon a Chevy motor home chassis (and featured Ford Thunderbird taillights). This model was the first to travel outside the U.S. In 1988, using a converted Chevy van chassis, Stevens Automotive Corp. (headed up by noted industrial designer Brooks Stevens) built a fleet of ten Wienermobiles for the new team of Oscar Mayer "Hotdoggers," college graduates who were hired to drive the Wienermobiles through various parts of the nation. Also that year, Al Unser, Jr. took the Wienermobilie on a test lap at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
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In 1995, the Wienermobile, under the direction of designer Harry Bradley, grew in size to 27 feet (or 55 hot dogs) long, 11 feet (25 hot dogs) high, and 8 feet (18 hot dogs) wide. In 2000, the "big dog" was upgraded in power using a 5700 GM Vortec engine, now with a highway-safe top speed of 90 mph. Today there are six Wienermobiles, and the current generation sports Pontiac Firebird taillights.
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The Wienermobile makes for great newspaper copy everywhere it goes. Here are just a few stories I found:
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http://www.geocities.com/oldgliderguy/oscar/index.html (about "Doug's Wienermobile collection"
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And to put a rock & roll postscript on the subject, here's a reminiscence from poster maven "John A" writing at http://www.gigposters.com/: "I saw that Wienermobile going down the highway one day . . . the girls I was with started singing a "weenie man" song and flashed the driver when we passed him . . . sloowwwwwwwwwwlllllllllly."
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6 comments:

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Maybe the strangest manufactured car ever made, why you don't post some pictures of its motor?

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