I have a confession: I have never eaten at a McDonald’s. Once, many years ago, I ducked into a Mickey D’s in Berkeley to use the restroom, and then ducked right out again. And once when I was babysitting a cranky child I briefly pacified him with a Happy Meal. But I myself have never eaten a Big Mac or a McRib or an Egg McMuffin or even the McDonald’s “salad.” I am, obviously, a Bad American.
I’m not totally ignorant. I’ve watched The Founder, the demi-factual 2016 film about Ray Kroc and the McDonald brothers, so I’m familiar with the origin story. And I’ve written about “You Deserve a Break Today,” the hugely influential McDonald’s ad campaign that ran from 1971 to 1990.
Like just about everyone, I knew about Ronald McDonald, the clown mascot who first appeared in Washington, DC, in 1963. (He was originally portrayed by Willard Scott, former Bozo the Clown, future Today Show weatherman.) But somehow I’d never, even once, heard of the big purple blob called Grimace, a denizen of McDonaldland who’s celebrating his 52nd birthday this month.
And I might have remained blissfully unaware of Grimace were it not for a June 12 post about Grimace’s birthday on The Impulsive Buy, a blog about fast food and supermarket snacks. To celebrate the occasion, McDonald’s is offering a combo meal consisting of a Big Mac or Chicken McNuggets, fries, and a Grimace’s Birthday Shake. The shake, writes TIB correspondent Marvo, “has a delightful blueberry flavor that reminds me of the fruit at the bottom of a blueberry yogurt but a little more intense.”
But enough about food. What’s the Grimace story, and why the name?