Sunday, November 18, 2012

Twinkies and Other Tragedies

Alas, poor Twinkie. I knew him well.

It was official on Friday. Hostess announced that it was shutting down. No more golden sponge cake with creamy filling. No more Twinkie the Kid. No more Twinkies. Really. Like, forever.

Twinkies are to junk food what Mecca is to Islam. What Shakespeare is to an English major. What Darren Criss is to a teenage girl (at least the one in my house). The ultimate ultimate.

My day-to-day life won't change too much. My daughter, who has the world's most insatiable sweet tooth, prefers raw cookie dough, Starbursts and Ben & Jerry's. But, that doesn't mean Twinkies won't be missed.

As a child, I ate my share of Hostess products. My mom would buy boxes of individually wrapped snack cakes and slip them into our school lunches. (My favorites were Yodels, because you could creatively dissect them. Nibble the chocolate icing edge on the bottom first. Then, peel the rest of the icing. Then, unroll the cake. Then, eat the cream filling, followed by the cake, followed by the icing.)

Many (many, many) years later, I was the Creative Director at an ad agency in Boston. We were promoting a regional bank and its commitment to small business clients, a group who wears multiple hats and pretty much eats at their desk or on the run. Our bank client was proposing to make their lives easier. We designed a 3-dimensional pyramid-shaped box with a teaser that read, "Is this your idea of a power lunch?" Inside, was a package of Twinkies and an invitation to a nice lunch with a business banker. At least, that was the plan.

While the mailing was at the printer, Hostess issued a nationwide recall on ... you guessed it ... Twinkies. Traces of asbestos had been found in the popular snack cakes. We had to switch gears. Fast. The 5,000 Twinkies packs were replaced by 5,000 peanut butter and cheese cracker packs.

Twinkies for lunch? Funny.
Peanut butter and cheese crackers for lunch? Not so much.

But happily, that's not the only time Hostess played a role in my career. At a different agency, Twinkies helped us crack a difficult client relationship. Our client, a marketing director from a major financial services organization, was demanding, humorless and downright ornery. We were at our wits' end. Until, someone had the bright idea of bringing a tray of snack cakes into the meeting. Almost instantly, the disgruntled adult became a playful kid. For the first time in many months, the client smiled, laughed and actually appreciated the advertising ideas.

Thank you, Twinkie the Kid!

And now, in 2012 — the year that the ancient Mayans foretold life as we know it would end — Twinkies are no more.

What of Twinkies' less celebrated but equally sinful sisters and brothers? Along with T's demise, we must also mourn the loss of the famous Hostess Cupcake, Hostess Ding Dong and Hostess Ho Ho. I confess I'll miss even the most disgusting snack cake of all: the Hostess Sno Ball. No matter how many sweets or how much garbage was in my shopping cart, I could always feel self-righteous as I passed by those revolting pink monstrosities. 

And, in the monopolistic world of snack cakes, Hostess takes other labels with it. At this sad, sad time, we are also losing Drake's with its Yodels (sob), Ring Dings and Devil Dogs.

Twinkies were invented in 1930 but in this day and age, their loss is rippling through cyberspace. Google "Twinkies" and you'll come up with nearly 14 million hits in 0.17 seconds. (Who measures this stuff anyway?) For a real laugh, go on ebay and you'll find 12,800 active auctions. I have to assume that the $18,000,000 listing is a joke. There's a $3,000 Twinkie lunchbox and a $3,000 Twinkie Hawaiian shirt. But, my favorite is the vintage full-length mink coat that lists "Bonus 1 Sealed Twinkie."

But, fear not my vegan readers. Before I let my nostalgia for a snack cake persuade me to buy an ethically irresponsible coat, I am comforted by my belief that someone will bail out Twinkies. It's no different from Wall Street or the auto industry. What would America be without Hostess cakes? It's just a matter of time.

After all, everybody loves a comeback. 

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