During war time, bombs get dropped; such is the nature of war. Tragically often, said bombs cause damage far beyond their intended targets. Such was the case one time, with a certain McDonald's, a bastion of unhealthy comfort food in a volatile area. Errant ordnance reduced this greasy palace to smoldering ruins, and it was small comfort that the debris-laden air smelled like french fries for hours afterwards. They say if you visit this site in the middle of the night, you will find a lone man there. He is a chubby fellow clad in black and white, an outfit that recalls old-timey prison garb. He sifts, heartbroken, through the charred remains. "Rubble, rubble," he sobs mournfully. "Rubble, rubble."
On the surface, this seems to be merely a strange joke, perhaps a bit long-winded considering how slight the punchline is. Yet it is also indicative of a deeper phenomenon: my ongoing fascinating with the characters that inhabit the fictional universe of the McDonald's fast food restaurant chain. I have previously written here about a rather grim encounter with Grimace, the corpulent purple dullard who inhabits his own slice of said universe, but that and the Hamburglar joke above are not the only works I have written on the subject.
Several years ago, I encountered a statue of Mac Tonight, a McDonald's mascot from the late 1980s, at the Stanford Shopping Center in Palo Alto, California. For those of you unfamiliar with Mac Tonight, he was a moon-headed piano player whose name was based on a parody of a song from a Marxist musical (seriously). Here is a commercial from the era showing Mr. Tonight in all his somewhat eerie glory:
My mind working the way it does, I came to wonder how Mac Tonight would have ever ended up in that particular location, and what might have occurred to him during his years of obscurity. As such, I composed the following narrative about that very subject. I hope you find it illuminating. Actually, "illuminating" doesn't quite fit given the subject matter, but it's a moon pun, so deal. Anyway, without further ado:
Fifteen Minutes Later
The year was 1986, and the world was mine. I had it all: money, fame, groupies who were infatuated with the unique slope of my crescent-moon-shaped head. And heck, I'll say it: my name commanded respect. When Mac Tonight talked, people listened.
I always knew I was special; I mean, what else do you call a guy with a head resembling a celestial body but "special?" And I will tell you, back in the day, I made those lounge halls come alive; I don't care what Ray Charles tries to tell you, I invented the dark-sunglasses-and-tuxedo look. What does he know, anyway? He's blind, for God's sake! And then there are the people who complain because every song I ever wrote was about McDonald's, but those people simply have no idea how marketing works. I just found my niche, that's all, and look what it got me! Commercials, man. Show biz. The BIG TIME.
Those were the glory days. Me and Ronald sipping on martinis at the Hamburglar's place in the Hollywood Hills; going on mint julep benders with Colonel Sanders; my short-lived but passionate affair with Birdie. But the thing that meant the most to me was the adoration of the kids. They really loved me, like I was a hero, you know? A regular Ralph Hinkley. Admittedly, at first I was a little uncomfortable about lending my image to Happy Meal toys (I mean, my name is a pun on the song "Mack the Knife," which is, if I recall, about murder), but when I saw eight-year-old Timmy Johnson of Sacramento, California playing with a little plastic replica of me on a jet ski, well, I can't say I've ever been happier. Who knew that little Mac Tonight from Jersey would ever be given away as a toy prize alongside some tyke's McNuggets? Needless to say, my parents were proud. Beaming, you could say.
Then the good times stopped rolling, and Mac Tonight became passé. The younger kids were scared of me, they said, as if anyone could ever be frightened of a lounge singer with a bulbous moon noggin. My sunglasses gave people the impression I had something to hide, they said. So what? Like you never killed a man. I always thought the real reason had something to do with that Grimace guy. He was always givin' me these sideways glances like I stole something from his momma, and frankly I never knew what to say to him because I couldn't figure out what the heck he even was. So, not knowing what purple blobs with mouths might find offensive, I kept to myself. Is that so wrong?
Regardless, the fact of the matter is that I was out of a job, and nobody else wanted to hire me. My old lounge singer buddies thought I was a sell-out, and my job skills didn't extend far beyond crooning McDonald's jingles, to be perfectly honest. I was down and out; I don't care what Huey Lewis, says, it is most definitely not hip to be square. I tried my hand at the independent music scene, but c'mon, let's be real here: who's going to pay money for that?
So here I am, fallen from grace like a little moon-headed Lucifer, playing on this piano at the Stanford Shopping Center Mickie D's day in and day out. They don't pay me or anything. Actually, they never even hired me; I just showed up one day and started playing and no one's kicked me out yet. I survive on the scraps of food kids hurl at me and anything even slightly edible that gets thrown into the dumpster at night. And man, I love McDonald's, but I'm really starting to get tired of eating those darn soggy Filet O' Fishes every single day. Oh well, it's a living, I suppose. It could certainly be worse. You should see the sort of filth the Taco Bell Chihuahua has gotten into.
And what of Joey Marsilio's novel, Henry Garrison: St. Dante's Savior? Ba da ba bop ba, I'm lovin' it.