On MASH, Sergeant Zelmo Zale is best known for his long-running feud with Maxwell Klinger. A handy sort of guy, he worked as an electrician in camp and could be counted on to get the camp generator back up and running or the jukebox pumping out more tunes. For many MASH fans, he’s a favorite recurring character.
Zale is portrayed by actor Johnny Haymer, a prolific actor seen all over classic TV and in award-winning movies like Annie Hall. He also did voice-acting on cartoons like Alvin & the Chipmunks and The Transformers. He appeared in 20 episodes of MAS*H, quietly bowing out in the same episode when Gary Burghoff leaves, “Good-Bye, Radar.”
But long before MAS*H premiered, for anybody watching TV in the late 1960s, Haymer was already a very memorable figure from a Rice Krispies commercial.
The legendary ad agency Leo Burnett was hired to come up with a campaign that would remind cereal lovers just how great a bowl of “Snap, Crackle, Pop” could be. The result: a commercial featuring a family at a breakfast table, where the father, played by Johnny Haymer, belts out a song like an opera singer that has everybody in the world soon singing along.
Upon being handed an empty box of cereal, Haymer bellows in complete dismay, “No more Rice Krispies!” — to the tune of the instantly familiar tenor aria “Vesti la giubba” from the opera Pagliacci.
Watch the commercial that’s now in the Advertising Hall of Fame, and surely you’ll be singing in dramatic tones at your own breakfast table for weeks, because this slogan is just as catchy today:
Rice Krispies have been around since the 1920s, and this operatic commercial isn’t the only time the cereal turned to a catchy song to keep boxes flying off the shelves. In 1963, the Rolling Stones wrote a short little ditty about Rice Krispies:
But we’re going to go ahead make the bold call, even with Mick Jagger in the competition: Haymer takes the cake for having the catchier commercial.
What breakfast cereal commercial was your favorite when you were a kid?