Saturday, July 4, 2015

The Winters of our discomposure

I know I told you last time that my next post would be about one of the funniest TV commercials I’ve ever seen, but while I was doing the research for that piece, I was sidetracked.

By a woman from my past.

How to explain her?

Maybe I should start with the Jessica Fletcher Syndrome – the idea that anyone who befriends Jessica Fletcher, or is befriended by her, will be wrongly accused of murder. Which means that it’s a very good idea to steer clear of Ms. Fletcher, lest you inevitably find yourself booked and printed in a capital case that, with your luck, would probably turn out to be the only one Jessica couldn’t crack.

The 1960s equivalent of Jessica Fletcher was a woman named Katy Winters.

Katy was neither a mystery novelist nor an amateur sleuth. And instead of a series with hour-long episodes, Katy was on for only a minute – sometimes only 30 seconds – during other people’s shows.

Still, Katy was a woman to avoid – even more so than Jessica. For while a friendship or even the merest acquaintanceship with Jessica might start you on the not-so-primrose path to death row, getting anywhere near Katy could lead to an infinitely worse disaster: being exposed on national television as someone who smells as if you just stepped ashore after a two-year tour of duty on a garbage scow.

Because, as you’ve probably figured out, Katy Winters peddled deodorant – Secret, to be exact.

All of Katy’s commercials had the same plot: Someone she knows is facing some sort of minor crisis that is stressful enough without the added fear of smelling like something the cat dragged in with one paw while holding its nose with the other.

The ad agency showed great creativity in devising variations of this plot: A couple is about to open a new restaurant; another couple is about to enter a costume contest as both ends of a horse; someone else (played by Maggie Peterson, who was Charlene Darling on “The Andy Griffith Show”) is about to take her road test.

Never fear: Katy always had some Secret handy to save the day. She probably loaded her pockets with the stuff -- both roll-on and aerosol – before she left the house each day. If the EPA had been around then, she would probably have been arrested as a one-woman ozone layer assassination squad.

A dip into that Sargasso Sea known as the Internet indicates that Katy was portrayed by Ann (or maybe Anne) Starr Roberts, who doesn’t seem to have any other credits. If anyone knows what happened to her – or if she herself is still around – please feel free to write in.

The Katy Winters ads ran for quite some time, and you knew she had become an Official Cultural Phenomenon when Johnny Carson began making jokes about her.

I was a kid when the ads ran in the 1960s, and I remembered her as being an annoying, middle-aged busybody.

But when you’re a 12-year-old, anyone above 20 is middle-aged if not out-and-out decrepit, and when I looked at a few of her ads on YouTube yesterday, I was pleasantly surprised to find that, far from being over the hill, Katy was relatively young – and more than relatively cute.

If I had been a few years older, and if Katy had ever given me a come-hither look (I mostly get stay-yonder looks), I suspect I would have come running – after first emptying my 401K or robbing a bank, or both, so as to have enough money to send her to a first-rate psychiatrist who could rid her of her perspiration complex.

Ah well. So much for what might have been. Next time I promise I will write about that other ad – cross my heart and hope not to offend.


Judy Berman said...

I must look up these ads on YouTube. Love your descriptions, Mark. ;-)

Leo Wong said...

Just his and can't remember what Katy looked like. I'll have to take your word for it. I very much enjoyed the post!

Mark Murphy said...

Here is one of her typical exploits....

Dan said...

Each commercial began with name KATY WINTERS flashed onscreen as if she was some celeb yet other than these deodorant commercials she was unkown to us making her the Rula Lenska of her era.☺