So I was reading a post on site Dinosaur Dracula about old comic book ads, I couldn’t sleep and I kill time like this. The first two ads were for Soda-Licious sweets starring 7-UP’s Cool Spot and the film Candyman and I realised that these two completely unrelated things are coincidentally responsible for two of my most vivid memories from the same period of my childhood (roughly late 1993, I would have been 7). I also realised that I hadn’t told anyone either of these stories, not family, not friends, there is nobody in my life or who has been in my life in the last 10 years who knows these two things, if I die tomorrow no one will ever know these things about me. I wasn’t happy with that. I was suffering from heavy bout of depression and with it long, extreme panic attacks so I wasn’t exactly emotionally stable and the thought that no one would ever know the story about me and Candyman upset me, so I wrote both stories out on Word, along the way I added a third story that was in the same boat because the Cool Spot story reminded me of it. Now I’m going to share them with the internet so that at least one person knows them and sleep a little easier. So are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll being:
Me and Cool Spot
For a while I completely worshipped Cool Spot, I should have just built an alter made out of 7-UP bottles and those horrible cheap sunglasses they sold by the counter and honestly I did so much weird shit by myself when I was under 10 that I can’t say for certain I didn’t. Spot or Cool Spot was a mascot for 7-UP, he was introduced in 1987 and was an anthropomorphic version of the big red circle in the 7-UP logo, he also wore sunglasses and trainers because that’s what cool people do. The Spot was never used to promote 7-UP here in the UK (Fido Dido was, more on that in a minute) but the video game Cool Spot was released. It makes more sense than you think, Cool Spot looked and played like any other me-too mascot platformer that came out in the wake of Sonic the Hedgehog’s success and it was developed by Virgin Games – who were a British firm. I latched the fuck onto this game and if you’d’ve asked me at the time I’d’ve said it was my second favourite, behind only Sonic the Hedgehog 2, I rated this thing that much – I still think it’s a decent (if a little unforgiving) 2D platformer but then I wouldn’t expect anything else from a game programmed by David ‘The Earthworm Jim Bloke’ Perry. To me Cool Spot was as big as any video game star, if I drew a picture of video game stars (a fairly common occurrence) he’d be on there alongside Sonic, Mario, Link and Pac-Man, when my grandad gave me a fancy wooden wine bottle box to store my Mega Drive cartridges in I drew Cool Spot on it – again putting him in the same league as Sonic, Knuckles, Ecco, the Ferrari Testarossa and Alex Kidd. But the memory that I stumbled across, the point of this segment is this:
One day while wandering around in my garden I decided to create my own garden, the best of gardens, and sat down to drawn it. I drew everything the same way at this point, in biro on Computer Paper – that’s what we all called it, my mum used to ‘get’ it from work and it was neither A4 nor A3 – I insisted this was the way to get the best results, I eventually learned what a pencil was. I thought I still had this drawing and had it scanned but I don’t, I’m sorry, but I can remember it shocking vividly, I also remember that I didn’t finish it. It was a big garden, there was a few things I’d still put a my dram garden today (fibre-glass dinosaurs and a swimming pool) and some stuff that society and advertising had taught me was cool in late ’93 early ’94 , it included a skate park for instance even though I could not and still cannot skateboard in any way that doesn’t involve me sitting on the board and drinking juice cartons but it wasn’t for me anyway it was for all the cool friends having this awesome garden would absolutely guarantee me, I used to imagine being 13 and being part of a gang fairly often then, everyone had bomber jackets, Converse All-Stars and sunglasses and I was thin. Getting back to the point though is that below the skate park was my fountain, because all big gardens need one and it was a Cool Spot themed fountain where in the centre water would squirt and raise Spot into the air (this is genuinely a thing that water features can do, I don’t know if they can lift a large statue of a fizzy drink mascot but it’s legit thing). I was so into this food mascot who I didn’t even know was a food mascot that immortalizing him in thousands of pounds worth of marble fountain wasn’t even a maybe but just something that obviously had to be. It was one of the first things I thought of if I remember correctly ‘in my dream garden I must have…a swimming pool, a Cool Spot fountain, dinosaurs…”.
Me and Fido Dido
While we’re on the very specific subject of 7-UP mascots: The Fido Dido Jacket. Fido Dido was the mascot for 7-UP in the UK for a long time, a lot longer than in the states because we never had Spot, and I still consider him to be THE mascot for the brand, it’s Tony the Tiger or Ronald McDonald or whathaveya. Turns out he’s not owned by PepsiCo but was licenced, he was created by two women from New York (Joanna Ferrone and Sue Rose, who is the horrible human being responsible for inflicting Angela Anaconda on the world) and dates back to 1985, who knew. Anyway I grew up in (and currently live in) a town called Collier Row which is in Romford (it’s next door to Romford itself), it’s built around a roundabout (Americans: those are circular things you drive cars around) with four streets coming off it in a rough X shape, this is ‘up the top’ where our shops all are. For a while my mum and nan worked in a ‘cheap shop’ called Saint’s – I miss it so –which was on the same side as the Library (it was about two shops up from it actually) where there was also for a while this clothing shop that sold, amongst other things, bomber jackets. It was run by a short Indian gentleman who had a really full head of hair and shouted a lot, that’s all I remember about it other than the Fido Dido Jackets.
He used to hang them from his shop’s canopy; they were that shiny material and used to shimmer in the sun like Aztek treasure. I lusted after them so badly, I used to stand and stare at them to the sounds of the owner shouting at someone (I presume it was at someone, he could have just been insane). I’m pretty sure they each had Fido Dido wearing a Fido Dido bomber jacket (meta?) with his back turned, but turning around to look at ‘the camera’, I wanted to be as cool as Fido Dido. I was weirdly obsessed with the concept of cool as a kid, I blame Sonic the Hedgehog, my weird preconceived notions about coolness and what it meant meant I never told anyone about my wanting for these jackets except maybe a passing mention to my mum in the most fake-casual way a child can mention something. They weren’t particularly expensive and I’m sure my mum or nan would have got me one as my winter coat that year had I asked but I assumed the following: because they were so cool (and shiny) they were really expensive, further I didn’t understand the concept of ‘unofficial’ (read: bootleg) back then and would never have thought that something was anything more than 100% official if it featured a ‘proper’ person or character and not a knock-off and 100% official meant it was expensive (I’d learnt this via knock-off action figures, seriously); that I simply wasn’t allowed to own such a jacket because I was too young and too uncool to do so, so I shouldn’t ask for one because it wasn’t appropriate. Instead I just stopped and stared at the shiny jackets with the 7-UP mascot who looked a bit too much like Gary Rhodes and imagined being roughly 13 and owning one (because they would never go out of style and never not be available in my hometown) walking down the street with a posse of similarly attired youths.
Also it always struck me as really wrong that Fido Dido jackets came in anything other than green, I think it still would today.
Me and Candyman
Fuck Candyman, oh don’t get me wrong Candyman is a superb horror film and easily one of the finest of its decade but fuck Candyman because Candyman manged to traumatise me for around a month as a child and I hadn’t even seen the bloody thing (also because it’s all one word and that upsets Microsoft World, this paragraph is filled with angry jaggedy red lines, cross at me for ignoring them when I clearly have a word spelt wrong and need to change it). Candyman came out in 1992 when I was 6 so no one at school had seen it, a couple of kids claimed they had but I knew their parents for fuck’s sake and they would never let them watch shit like Candyman but the kids with older siblings or bastard parents had been told about the film’s plot or overheard about the film’s plot and the legend of Candyman. For those who haven’t seen it Candyman is just Bloody Mary but a big black bloke with only one hand and an awesome dress sense, you say ‘Candyman’ three times in front of a mirror and he turns up and kills your ass dead. While writing this I remembered the name of the little bastards who told me about this legend, it was fucking Sammi-Jo and Jason and Sammi-Jo still lives ‘round here so I think I may have to extract twisted revenge. Anyway these two giggling little turds told me about it and my six year old mind took it completely at face value, I wasn’t so much scared of the Candyman coming out the mirror but that I wouldn’t be able to stop myself from doing it when in front of a mirror and thus dooming myself. We had a lot of mirrors in my house, there was a big one in the hall, one in the bog obviously and my mum’s bedroom was and is still boarded with wardrobes with mirrored doors. So I couldn’t piss, leave the house or get a clean t-shirt (my room was so tiny I stored my clothes in my mum’s room) without the temptation to call upon the Candyman.
Then I had to spend the night sleeping in my mum’s room, I can only assume I was ill because that was usually the only time I slept in there (it was cooler, closer to the loo and the bed was closer to the ground) and I woke up in the middle of the night and laying all rolled up like a terrified little hotdog I gave in and whispered Candyman three times out loud and then shat myself and waited for death. Which didn’t come – no surprise there, I hate to ruin it for everyone but even if you want to believe Bloody Mary might work Candyman never does because Candyman is not based on a real-world legend it’s based on a short story by Clive Barker. But because I didn’t know that at the time I was instead convinced that Candyman was just waiting for the right moment and for a good four weeks afterwards I was as uptight as a priest on trial because I knew that any moment Candyman was going to lean out any reflective surface at any moment and slash me open. Oh yeah, because no one had seen the film the rough image I’d been given of Candyman was that he was a tall bald Black man (mostly true, he had hair) in a huge fur coat with a huge collar (sort of true, I was told more along the lines of John Ruth that Isaac Hayes) with an all metal version of Freddy Krueger’s glove (not true at all). I do mean any reflective surface btw, I remember walking through a small shopping centre in Romford called The Liberty and shitting myself past shops like WH Smiths because I thought Candyman might lunge out from between signs advertising Ruth Rendell and GamesMaster Magazine and collect the debt owed him. Eventually I just got more and more confident that he wasn’t coming and the worry subsided, notice that I didn’t say that I realised Candyman didn’t exist, that never occurred to me and I had no idea until I went to senior school that Candyman was a film, I just assumed he hadn’t heard me or because I wasn’t standing facing the mirror it didn’t count or something like that.
What’s saddest about this is that sometimes I still have nightmares where I’m lying in my mum’s bed, all rolled up like a hotdog and can’t stop myself from whispering Candyman three times. Tony Todd never turns up in it and guts me though; the fear just comes from being unable to stop myself. So if you live in the UK, when you see a news report that someone has smeared a 12 foot high ‘I never forgot’ in cowshit on the house of one Sammi-Jo of Romford, Essex you know where to send the police.
I feel better. I think I should probably feel embarrassed about revealing these to the world but I was 7! Everyone does stupid shit when they’re under 10, it’s not like it reflects badly on them as adults, well unless they killed someone I guess - but I didn’t kill anyone, at least not that I or you can prove. Ta for reading me go on about food mascots and slasher villains, you’re all wonderful.