A-list celebrities don't really pimp food products. It's like doing TV commercials—it's okay in Japan, out of sight, but it seems far beneath the likes of Tom Cruise or Russell Crowe to do something so gauche in America. The exception is Paul Newman, whose vast food empire is about more than releasing a quickie, crappy product. The A.V. Club's Tasha Robinson has had a bottle of Olympia Dukakis-brand salad dressing (brought to you by the same defunct company that once foisted Erik Estrada corn chips on the world) on her desk since 1999: Inspired by that, we dug up some currently available products endorsed by marginal celebs. Sadly, the Dirt McGirt Rap Snacks did not show up in time to make this article.
Smokey Robinson Down Home Pot Roast
The most striking thing about Smokey Robinson's line of frozen entrées isn't the fact that he has a line of frozen entrées; it's his frighteningly dead eyes staring out from the surface of the package. They look cataract-stricken, or maybe devil-infested. Still, that doesn't stop Smokey from putting his name on seafood gumbo, red beans and rice, and other reasonably priced foodstuffs.
Level of celebrity: With an older crowd, fairly high. Younger supermarketeers might just think he's a creepy, dead-eyed chef.
Appropriateness of product to celebrity: Appropriate. Smokey offers comfort with his music, and cheap comfort with his meals.
Likelihood of consumption by non-fans: Moderate to high. For frozen entrees, these aren't half-bad. Or maybe they're exactly half-bad.
Marketing hyperbole: "The soul is in the bowl," which implies that you're actually consuming Smokey Robinson's soul. His creepy eyes agree.
Buy it at: Lots of grocery stores.
Dwight Yoakam's Chicken Lickin's Chicken Fries And Buffalo Style Bites
Just how much chicken-breast deliciousness can you get for $1? Not a whole lot, judging by Dwight Yoakam's suspiciously cheap frozen chicken treats. Tasters at The A.V. Club aptly described these microwavable goodies as "breaded nothing," though to be fair, breading only constitutes about 65 percent of each "chicken fry" or Buffalo-style bite. Check out modernfoods.net for more stomach-churning info.
Level of celebrity: High. Yoakam is a respected country singer, hotshot guitarist, and distinguished character actor. When it comes to selling chicken to rubes, however, he's no Colonel Sanders.
Appropriateness of product to celebrity: Moderate. Yoakam has long appealed to a more upscale, diverse fan base than his country peers, but this downscale item's cheap packaging and bargain price screams "midnight snack at the trailer park." Then again, there's a long tradition of country musicians lending their names to questionable products. Yoakam is clearly channeling his inner Krusty The Clown with his line of quasi-edible foodstuffs.
Likelihood of consumption by non-fans: Questionable, though these should appeal to misers who refuse to pay more than $1 for a chicken fix, and to folks enamored of products that look and smell like food, yet lack anything resembling flavor.
Marketing hyperbole: The label says "Wow! Only $1," but it just as easily could read "Yikes! Only $1!" Sadly, you get what you pay for with Dwight Yoakam's chicken treats.
Buy it at: 7-Eleven.
Mike Ditka Coach's Cut pork chops
Most former athletes or coaches can only hope to land a commentating gig (which Da Coach has), but name another one who has his own restaurants, resort, cigars, record label, food products, and wine ("Kick Ass Red," so you don't think he's a wuss or nothin'). His food, naturally, comes in gigantic proportions suitable for the fat-ass super-fans immortalized by Saturday Night Live.
Level of celebrity: In the football world, near the top. Everywhere else, not so much.
Appropriateness of product to celebrity: Perfect. Gargantuan meat products are perfectly suited for a man who's had a heart attack.
Likelihood of consumption by non-fans: Pretty good, at least among chronic overeaters.
Marketing hyperbole: "Finally Da Coach brings his own kick-ass twist to gourmet food!" Good, because real men only eat gourmet food that's ass-kicking, you fairies.
Buy it at: We got it at Dominick's.
Dexter Holland Gringo Bandito hot sauce
Of all celebrity foodstuffs, hot sauce seems the most common. Why? It's probably the easiest and cheapest to make—mix some vinegar with peppers, and voila, hot sauce. Joining sauce-marketers Cheech Marin, Joe Perry of Aerosmith, Ron Jeremy, Patti LaBelle, and untold others we've missed, is Dexter Holland, singer-guitarist for long-running punk outfit The Offspring.
Level of celebrity: Among the Warped Tour set, pretty high. In the mainstream music world and beyond, middling.
Appropriateness of product to celebrity: Pretty appropriate. The label on the bottle features a drawing of Holland as a bandolier-laden Mexican gangster. And he's from southern California—that's close to Mexico, right?
Likelihood of consumption by non-fans: Slim, unless you live in L.A. or Orange County, where you can find it in some restaurants.
Marketing hyperbole: Holland doesn't take it too seriously, referring to it as his "not-so-famous" sauce and mocking the need for nutrition information on the label. ("It's vinegar and peppers, for God's sake. What did you expect?") But he's attuned to his customers in another way: "I tried to make it easy on the pooper, too."
Buy it at: gringobandito.com
Jeff Foxworthy Grillin' Sauces, original BBQ
Barbecue sauce is just one of the many products available at thefoxworthystore.com, which offers apparel, books (both volumes of the Redneck Dictionary!), CDs and DVDs, and food. (Rolling over a link to any elicits a Foxworthy quip: "Apparel! Are ya nekkid?") The groceries section—"Groceries! I'm hongry!"—features five varieties of barbecue sauce and three types of beef jerky.
Level of celebrity: Moderate, thanks to his current gig hosting Fox's Are You Smarter Than A 5th Grader?
Appropriateness of product to celebrity: Perfect. Game-show hijinks aside, Foxworthy made his name with his "You might be a redneck if…" shtick. Offering only jerky and barbecue sauce in his "groceries" section is a redneck joke in itself.
Likelihood of consumption by non-fans: Low, at least non-ironically.
Marketing hyperbole: On the label, Foxworthy tells of his father's accident-prone grilling legacy: "There was a good chance that there was going to be a call to 911 whenever he fired up the grill… You always knew, though, that when Big Jim was grilling, the food was going to be good and the burns would eventually heal." Foxworthy signs off "Bone appateet!"
Buy it at: thefoxworthystore.com
Steven Seagal's Lightning Bolt energy drink
Steven Seagal is truly a powerful man. But even man-gods sometimes need a boost, so the mystical thespian—according to his website—traveled to Asia to find the perfect balance of energy and power. That follows through in the Cherry Charge and Asian Experience varieties of his energy drink, but what will the mystics think about Root Beer Rush?
Level of celebrity: Near the bottom of an extremely long downhill slope.
Appropriateness of product to celebrity: Damn near sublime.
Likelihood of consumption by non-fans: Zero; purchase will be limited to fans who are really buying a souvenir can/conversation starter.
Marketing hyperbole: "The name Steven Seagal's Lightning Bolt was an inevitable afterthought. When Steven Seagal finished creating a drink that holds untold natural power, there was only one equivalent in nature—The Steven Seagal's Lightning Bolt. Both mysterious and powerful, it's a symbol of the untold energy the earth has to offer—Such is Steven Seagal's Lightning Bolt energy drink." Doesn't that say it all? More than it all, really.
Buy it at: lightningdrink.com or Wal-Mart
Ben & Jerry's celebrity flavors
It isn't like consumers really need an excuse to gorge themselves on rich, goody-laden ice cream, but really, who hasn't wondered what Willie Nelson tastes like? (For the record, it's not bong water and beef jerky, but rather peach ice cream studded with cinnamon-sugar crumbles. Weird.) A handful of entertainers have earned the right to be immortalized in dairy form by Vermont ice-creamery Ben & Jerry's, with predictably delicious results.
Level of celebrity: Varies, but usually somewhere in the realm of cult favorite: Stephen Colbert (Americone Dream), Willie Nelson (Country Peach Cobbler), Wavy Gravy, and Monty Python (Vermonty Python) have all merited flavors. A high ratio of jam-band tributes—Cherry Garcia, Phish Food, and Dave Matthews' Band's Magic Brownies—speaks to B&J;'s hippie-centric origins and philosophy.
Appropriateness of product to celebrity: Americone Dream, Vermonty Python, Wavy Gravy, and Cherry Garcia depend more on name recognition and puns than a strong conceptual connection to their respective celebrities, but Phish Food (which contains fudge fish), Country Peach Cobbler, and Magic Brownies have subtle tie-ins to their namesakes. (Also, Cherry Garcia, the company's longest-running celebrity flavor, swapped in black cherries instead of its usual Bing cherries for a month following Jerry Garcia's death in 1995. Aww.)
Likelihood of consumption by non-fans: Pretty damn likely. Cherry Garcia and Phish Food rank among B&J;'s top-selling flavors, and all but Wavy Gravy are still in production.
Marketing hyperbole: None necessary. Interest in the company's products is high enough that new celebrity-endorsed flavors tend to create their own hype: The debuts of Colbert and Nelson's flavors sparked a faux-feud (egged on by Colbert, of course) between the two entertainers.
Buy it at: Everywhere.
The Cheech "Waatsappenin'" hot sauces
Cheech Marin is in good company as a minor-ish celebrity pimping hot sauce, but "The Cheech" really appears to take pride in this stuff—the packaging is great, and the three sauces (garlic, mango, and chipotle) were considerably different from each other, and all quite tasty. No, there isn't a weed-flavored sauce, and only a very vague weed reference. Will Chong sauce follow?
Level of celebrity: Well, he's far outstripped Tommy Chong, with lots of TV and voiceover work, and even the occasional film role. (Robert Rodriguez is clearly a fan.) But still, he isn't exactly a superstar—which is par for the course for a guy with his own salsa.
Appropriateness of product to celebrity: High. Cheech is a proud Mexican-American, and his sauces can only serve to bolster his culture's already-delicious food. The sauces are even manufactured in Costa Rica… which is at least close to Mexico.
Likelihood of consumption by non-fans: Reasonably high. There are plenty of hot sauces on the market, but Cheech's recognizable face and a solid product could send him straight up the charts.
Marketing hyperbole: "3 new sauces hot-nuf to joggle your jibber!"
Buy it at: thecheech.com
Rickey's hot sauce
There's no celebrity on the packaging or anywhere on the company's website, but fans of last year's video-gaming documentary The King Of Kong know the public secret: Rickey's hot sauce was brought into the world by Billy Mitchell, classic-arcade-game champion and outsized character. Don't get sticky fingerprints on your Donkey Kong console.
Level of celebrity: Practically nonexistent in the grand scheme, but massive in the very small world of video games. He's the first guy to ever get a perfect Pac-Man score, and he's got amazing hair.
Appropriateness of product to celebrity: Strangely perfect. Hot sauce can be mysterious, as can Mitchell.
Likelihood of consumption by non-fans: Extremely high. Mitchell surely sells more sauce to people who have no idea who he is than to fans. And that's because the sauces—especially the simple green jalapeno—are delicious.
Marketing hyperbole: Actually, it's anti-hyperbole in this case: "Rickey's does not want to change anyone's recipes or their way of cooking, we only want to enhance the flavor."
Buy it at: 800hotsauce.com
Sammy Hagar Cabo Wabo tequila
He's every Van Halen fan's second choice for lead singer, but Sammy Hagar doesn't need to slog it out on the road any more—in a way, he's getting the last laugh. His VH partners invested in his Mexican bar way back when, but when it faltered, he bought them out. Fast forward a few years, and Sammy's got an incredibly successful tequila—Cabo Wabo—to go along with his place. Last year, he sold an 80 percent stake to Campari, and presumably got even more stinkin' rich. In a related note, former VH bassist Michael Anthony has his own line of hot sauces.
Level of celebrity: Unusual. Drinkers still love him, but a VH tour with Sammy wouldn't generate nearly the excitement that last year's David Lee Roth-led tour did.
Appropriateness of product to celebrity: Hagar and tequila go together like Roth and Van Halen, which is to say very well.
Likelihood of consumption by non-fans: Drink enough, and you'll be a fan.
Marketing hyperbole: Sammy pimps like a madman for Cabo Wabo. Bikini chicks onstage with his band, the Waboritas, serving tequila? Oh yeah, he's got that.
Buy it at: Many liquor stores.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. Big Mo' candy bar
Guys who drive around in circles really, really fast have to get hungry. Is there a better way to satisfy that kind of hunger than with a big-ass candy bar, available with peanut butter or caramel filling? Perhaps. Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s Big Mo' bar has quantity, but not quality. It tastes and looks cheap.
Level of celebrity: Pretty high? It's tough to tell how big NASCAR is; sometimes it seems omnipresent, but nerds on pop-culture websites can probably go years without giving it a thought.
Appropriateness of product to celebrity: Low. Dale should have some jerky or an energy drink. Candy bars are for ladies, not race-car drivers.
Likelihood of consumption by non-fans: Very low, and repeated consumption seems almost unthinkable. If it were tasty, non-fans could get over Dale's face, but the taste doesn't cut it.
Marketing hyperbole: "Creating the exclusive recipe of the Big Mo' bar included numerous taste-tests by Earnhardt Jr., and was tailored to please his palate."
Buy it at: These were kinda tough to find, but eBay has a few. They may have been discontinued already.