More Bounce to the Ounce

Get Hep by Johnny Fosdick and Orchestra, featuring vocals by Anita Boyer (1939).  A very early Pepsi jingle for radio.  It catches you unaware…after the whole first minute of a catchy tune, you suddenly find out that you’re listening to a Pepsi commercial as Anita slides it to you sweet and sexy-like.

The list of Pepsi celebrity spokespeople over the years is huge…Polly Bergen, Joan Crawford, Aretha Franklin, James Brown, Johnny Cash, Michael Jackson, David Bowie, Tina Turner, Ray Charles, Madonna, The Spice Girls, Mary J. Blige, Brittany Spears, Snoop Dogg, Beyonce, Pink, Nicki Minaj, and many more…  They’ve become great snippets in time.  I’ve sprinkled a few of my favorites throughout this blog.

James Dean’s first professional acting job was Pepsi Cola’s first television commercial

…and it almost didn’t happen.

The recipe for the Easter edition of this blog is Pepsi Cola Cake with Broiled Peanut Butter Frosting from the Recipes for Rebels cookbook…  It’s a great vintage treat to add to your Easter feast (and a history that ties-in, as you’ll read below).  The cake is light, moist, and fluffy with flavors of chocolate, caramel and peanut butter (think Reese’s Peanut Butter Eggs).

As always, you can skip to the bottom of the page for the recipe and step-by-step cook-along…  You can click on any of the photos within the blog to see them larger…

I’m dedicating this column to my good friend Curt Whirl, who lives in the Orlando, Florida-area and is a nut for all things made with PEANUT BUTTER (and is s SUPERFAN of all things JAMES DEAN, and WONDER WOMAN, and the group WILSON PHILLIPS). I’ve been waiting to post a peanut butter recipe for him for months.  Someone please make him this cake!

THE START OF THE PEPSI GENERATION

An early bottle cap featuring an image of kola berries

Pepsi was invented in 1893 by pharmacist Caleb Bradham in New Bern, North Carolina.  It was sold under the name “Brad’s Drink” at his drugstore/soda fountain as a digestive aide that also served to boost energy.  In 1898 he re-branded it “Pepsi Cola, ” referencing the natural digestive enzyme Pepsin (which isn’t in the recipe) and the Kola nut (that provided the drink’s flavor and caffeine, along with sugar and vanilla).  By 1903 he was bottling and distributing the soda (and the syrup to make the beverage) nationwide.

Fluctuating sugar prices of the Great Depression and WWI forced him into bankruptcy.  In 1931 the company was sold and resold until it was bought by a candy store owner who marketed the syrup as a cheaper alternative to Coca Cola for fountain owners.  He began bottling Pepsi in 12 ounce bottles (Coca Cola came in 6.5oz bottles) and Pepsi’s new slogan became “A nickle drink, worth a dime.”  It hit the mark with price-conscious consumers…profits doubled and the “cola wars” began.  Pepsi later bought out the Frito-Lay snack foods company (see my previous blog, discussing the invention of Fritos) and became PepsiCo, a company that now pulls in over $63 billion in net sales per year.

Now It’s Pepsi, For Those Who Think Young by 1960-64 Pepsi spokesperson, singer and actress Joanie Sommers.

DEAN’S FIRST BIG BREAK

Early photo of Dean in Santa Monica

19 year old Dean in Santa Monica, CA

Shortly after graduating high school, James Dean said goodbye to Fairmount, IN and headed by train to Santa Monica, CA.  His intentions were to attend UCLA, but living with his father and his father’s new wife, it was decided that Jim needed to attend Santa Monica City College (now Junior College) for a year to establish residency in California and reduced tuition fees.  Winton Dean pushed Jim to pursue studies in pre-law or athletic administration.  His year at SMCC was frustrating, and the young Dean didn’t believe the school was helping to advance his true interest…acting.

With residency established, he transferred to UCLA in September of 1950, majoring in pre-law with a minor in theatrical arts.  He Joined the Sigma Nu Fraternity, the drama club, and various organizations in an effort to expand his networking possibilities and advance his career goals.

Dean was booted out of the Sigma Nu house, reportedly for fist fights and not following the “rules of the establishment” (there were very few drama students in Sigma Nu, and those that were there, became targets of humiliation).  The friendship of James Bellah, a Sigma Nu fraternity brother and fellow actor (son of author and successful Hollywood screen writer  James Warner Bellah), would prove influential in the start of Dean’s professional career.

Jim Dean tried out for several of the school’s productions before landing the role of Malcolm (the elder son of King Duncan of Scotland) in William Shakespeare’s The Tragedy of Macbeth.  The play was well praised, although Dean’s performance was not (some critics blaming his Midwest Indiana accent).  Jim seemed oblivious to the criticism and was thrilled with the experience.  Shortly thereafter he tried out and landed another role in a student production.  Jim decided that he should switch his major to theatrical arts.  The director of the second play counciled him that the only way to do that at UCLA was to withdraw from school and then reapply.  In February of 1951, Dean left UCLA only 2 weeks before the second production was set to open.  He had been frustrated by UCLA’s curriculum, that theatrical students must study all aspects of the craft…from costume production and set building to screen writing.  Jim just wanted to act…he never re-enrolled.

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“I couldn’t stand the tea-sipping, moss-walled academicians, that academic bull.”

James Dean to Hedda Hopper about leaving UCLA, 1955

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Johnny Cash, You’ve Got a Lot To Live & Pepsi’s Got a Lot to Give, 1970

CLICK ON ANY PHOTO BELOW TO WATCH A SLIDESHOW FROM JIM’S SMCC AND UCLA YEARS (USE THE FULL SCREEN BUTTON TO AVOID CROPPED PHOTOS, PRESS ESC TO RETURN HERE)…

Lynn Anderson does a country version for radio in 1973

His former fraternal brother and fellow actor James Bellah had a theatrical agent named Isabel Draesmer.  Isabel called Bellah about an upcoming job to appear in a Pepsi commercial.  She was concerned for Bellah, that because of his height, he actually looked older than his years.  She told him to wear tight-legged pants and a baggy sweater…maybe he could pass.  (Due to union laws, actors under 18 could only work 4 hours/day and had to be accompanied by a chaperon and tutor…to get around this the directors were looking to hire 18yo and over actors who looked younger.)  She also told Bellah to bring friends…the shoot needed plenty of extras.  Bellah called Dean who enthusiastically agreed.

A vintage Pepsi print ad...

A vintage Pepsi print ad…

On December 13th, 1950 the day of the shoot, Dean decided he didn’t want to go (he had been out late on a date the night before)… Bellah begged him imploring, “You promised.”  This was an opportunity that would help him get his union card.  Dean caved to the pressure and went.  The shoot was located at the merry-go-round in nearby Griffith Park.  The pay was $10 for the full day and a boxed lunch.  Isabel made arrangements with all her actors that she would meet them there at lunchtime to collect her $1.50 fee (she didn’t want 35 kids parading through her office to drop off money).  There she met James Bellah who handed her $3.  Isabel informed him that he only owed $1.50 and Bellah replied that the second fee was for his friend, Jimmy Dean.

“When I asked where he was,” Isabel recalled Bellah saying ” ‘They’re doing a special shot of him and a girl getting the brass ring’ and I thought ‘Uh-Oh!  Of all these kids on that merry-go-round, they’ve picked this Dean kid for the shot.  I’d better see about him.’ “

The producers liked Dean’s wholesome good looks.  Out of the 100 that had shown up, they asked him and a dozen others to come back the following day for another shoot.

vintage Pepsi advertising

vintage Pepsi advertising

It was at this shoot that Jim met his future Rebel Without a Cause co-stars Nick Adams and Beverly Long.  “We were all supposed to be drinking Pepsi Cola, going round on the merry-go-round, having a wonderful time,” remembers Beverly, “And then they had a jukebox set up and we were dancing and being silly…”   James Bellah was a bit jealous of all the attention on Dean, “It involved a jitterbug and a piano.  I was supposed to be the lead, but my dancing style is sedate.  Dean was more wild.  He got on the stage and showed me how the dance should be done.  He was a natural.  He grabbed one of the girls and started jitterbugging–tossing her over his shoulder.  So he got asked to do the second day of filming.”  Dean was paid the standard union minimum of $55 for the second day.

Pepsi never aired the first footage that was shot at the merry-go-round, but the jukebox scene became their first TV commercial (and James Dean’s first paid professional acting job).  Here’s the commercial (followed by surviving footage of the merry-go-round scene)

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Roberta Flack, Pepsi People Feelin’ Free, 1975

photo by Wilson-Millar Photography

photo by Wilson-Millar Photography

Thanks to James Bellah, Isabel Draesmer would become Dean’s first agent (although she never had him sign a formal contract).   “I had him come in,” retells Isabel, “He kind of draped himself into a couch, he would never sit.  He just kind of flopped.  I asked him if he wanted a career? (hiding his enthusiasm, Jim nonchalantly replied) ‘Can I make a buck?’ ”  Isabel set him up with photographer Wilson Millar to shoot a series of head shots.  Dean made great fun of the shoot with his friends, because Wilson shot mainly animal portraits at that time.  Millar’s eventual portfolio would be filled with many strong male portraits, some o.k. and nice female ones, and cast/production photos from plays and film.  The photos of Jimmy are beautiful and sensitive.  Isabel felt Jimmy’s strongest asset was his profile and lips.  She said his eyes were too close together and a full face shot made him look like a pretty boy (of which Hollywood already had many).  He looked younger than his years (as proof being he was able to portray a high school kid in Rebel at the age of 24) but she had difficulty placing him in the right jobs.

photo by Wilson-Millar Photography

photo by Wilson-Millar Photography

“Ken Dyson called me to say they were going to film an Easter show, and they specifically wanted Jimmy to play John the Beloved,” said Dreasmer.  The show was called Hill Number One and was the Easter special for a TV series called Family Theater that aired on the Mutual Broadcasting Network from 1947-1957.  It was produced by the Family Rosary Crusade and hosted by Holy Cross priest Father Patrick Peyton who is credited with the phrase “The family that prays together, stays together.”  The series featured many of Hollywood’s greatest stars of the era.

Hill Number One featured a cast of 50 and was filmed at Jerry Fairbanks Studios and Iverson Movie Ranch.  The story line tells two parallel tales, one set in WWII, the other 3 days before the crucifixion of Christ.  Jim’s character of John the Apostle didn’t have many lines, but he did reappear throughout the story several times.  The filming took place the last week of February and Dean was deathly ill with the flu.  His lines in the show are very stilted (mostly due to the script) and his voice was husky (due to the flu).

photo by Wilson-Millar for Hill Number One

photo by Wilson-Millar for Hill Number One

A month later on Easter Sunday, the show aired on every television station across the country.  The Hollywood Reporter estimated 42 million viewers.  The production received glowing reviews from the New York Times and the Hollywood Reporter.   Jim began receiving huge stacks of fan mail.   A group of girls from the Immaculate Heart High School near Griffith Park in Los Angeles had watched the program and found Dean with his “husky” voice to be very sexy.  They formed the very first James Dean fan club and sought out Dean’s agent Isabel Draesmer to invite him to a party they were throwing in his honor.  James Dean attended their party.

Isabel Draesmer threw a viewing party at her house and invited all her Hollywood producer friends.  James Dean spent Easter that year with his girlfriend Kay Mock and her family.  They watched the program at the Mock family home.

The show’s about an hour long and you can watch it HERE.

James Dean as John the Apostle in Hill Number One

James Dean as John the Apostle in Hill Number One

James Dean as John the Apostle in Hill Number One

James Dean as John the Apostle in Hill Number One

And in case you were worried, James Bellah went on to land a few minor roles on TV and a couple of movies, but (like his father) found greater success in writing.  He married, had children, taught writing at UCLA and lived to a ripe old age, dying in December of just last year.

Isabel Draesmer went on to manage talent like Hugh O’Brian, Buddy Ebsen, Joey Lawrence, Jack Grinnage (“Moose” in Rebel Without a Cause), and movie cowboy Tex Terry (whom she married).  When Tex retired from the movie business in 1972, the couple moved to Tex’s hometown of Mansfield, IN where they opened Tex’s Longhorn Tavern.  Isabel and Tex lived into their 80s and were buried “in the weeds where I was born,” according to Tex.  The restaurant overlooking the Rosedale Covered Bridge still exists and is now called Rock Run Cafe & Bakery.

Michael Jackson, from his 1984 Pepsi Generation commercial

PEPSI COLA CAKE WITH BROILED PEANUT BUTTER ICING

a fun look at how soda packaging has changed over the years...

a fun look at how soda packaging has changed over the years…

Post WWII there were many recipes published that incorporated name brand sodas in the ingredient list.  Everything from cakes and breads to meat marinades and  vegetable glazes.  This was an advertising ploy to sell more soda…but many of the recipes (like this one) are surprisingly delicious.  The bubbles from the carbonation interact with the leavening agents to produce an especially airy result and the sugars caramelize for a unique background flavor. If you listened to all the Pepsi jingles throughout this blog, you’re now hypnotized and probably salivating over this recipe right now…it’s fast, easy and very unique.  Here’s the original recipe, followed by my step-by-step cook-along.

INGREDIENTS:

CAKE

2 c flour

2 c sugar

1/2 lb butter

2 T unsweetened cocoa powder

1 c Pepsi Cola

1/2 c buttermilk

2 large eggs, beaten

1 t baking soda

1 t vanilla extract

1 1/2 c miniature marshmallows

 

FROSTING

6 T butter

1 c dark brown sugar, packed

2/3 c peanut butter

1/4 c milk

2/3 c peanuts, chopped

DIRECTIONS:

FOR THE FROSTING:

AND HERE’S HOW IT WORKED WHEN I MADE IT…

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This vintage classic would make a unique and crowd pleasing ending to your Easter feast.  Other recommendations from the Recipes for Rebels cookbook are Ortense Winslow’s Ham Loaf (pg 58,a dish Jimmy Dean enjoyed at Easter and special occasions on the farm in Indiana)…that would usually have been accompanied by Mildred Dean’s Heavenly Hash (pg 25).  I think the Reverend James DeWeerd’s Honey Rolls (pg 143) would be a perfect match.

Wishing everyone a wonderful Easter…a wonderful Passover…a wonderful Spring!

Recipes for Rebels: In the kitchen with James Dean is available at jamesdeangallery.com, amazon.com, Payne’s Restaurant in Gas City, IN, Ebay.com, and European customers (a metric conversion chart comes with every book) can order directly from me HERE…

Send me a photos…leave a comment (I love reading comments)…spread the love and share on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram…

 
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