Friends, for those of us of a certain age, you can probably recall sitting in front of the television set in 1984 and laughing at Clara Peller’s catchphrase of “Where’s the Beef?” in a series of short-lived but very profitable Wendy’s television commercials. The slogan took the country by storm and even found itself as well as Peller’s image slapped on not just the serving trays and the paper sacks at Wendy’s, but also on the likes of hand towels, aprons, collectible plates, lenticular puffy stickers, a plastic bank, and Fleer even released burger-shaped bubble gum that included nine stickers to collect. To say nothing of the fact that Walter Mondale famously used the catch phrase against Gary Hart during a 1984 Democratic presidential primary. Did you know however that Nashville disc jockey and songwriter Coyote McCloud wrote and recorded a hit song featuring Clara Peller that same year?
You might be interested to know that Peller was 81 years young at the time the iconic TV commercials began to air on January 10th of ’84. For 35 years she actually was employed as an manicurist at a beauty salon in Chicago, it wouldn’t be until her 80th birthday though that her career as an actor would begin. That came about thanks to working behind the scenes as a nail technician on the set of a local Chicago barbershop commercial, catching the eye of some of the ad agency representatives overseeing the shoot. They were able to convince Peller to sign a contract and she found herself appearing in such TV spots as for the Massachusetts State Lottery.
Interestingly enough there were two versions of the now famous “Where’s the Beef?” commercial, the one we know with Peller and two other elderly women of course, but there was a similar ad shot and aired featuring three elderly men. Obviously of the two ads the public overwhelmingly preferred the former, with it catapulting Peller into the annals of pop culture stardom through a series of commercials for Wendy’s – who were pleased to find their sales skyrocketing 31% to take in 945 million dollars in 1985.
In closing out this article, I would be sorely remiss if I didn’t remind you that the esteemed Allison Venezio-Preston has a fantastic series of articles on this site focusing on Wendy’s training videos!