"Oh, I'd love to be an Oscar Meyer weiner, that is what I'd truly like to be-e-E.
"'Cuz if I were an Oscar Mayer wiener, everyone would be in love with me!"
Sorry for the ear worm I've just planted in your head, but you all sang right along, didn't you? Even for the tone deaf like myself, it's a well-loved note of the past that never gets old.
So guess why I started there? Go ahead, guess!
That's right -- I am even cooler than you suspected. If things go according to the desires of my heart I am going to be singing that ad jingle with the family that created it this coming September.
Richard Trentlage wrote that song in 1962 as a contestant in a competition sponsored by J. Walter Thompson, the country's largest advertising company at the time. Still is, under the newer name of JWT.
It was a last-minute rush to get in under the contest deadline and Trentlage -- who was working in another ad agency in Chicago -- used his own kids to sing his hasty music and lyrics. Although his daughter Linda, age 9 at the time, had a little head cold, it only served to make the piece more irresistible. Son David was 10 and the two children had the genetic music roots of the Trentlage clan.
Of which I am a member, but hang on for more on that.
Trentlage created hundreds of jingles in his "ad man" career, some of which people my age can't forget even when they try. When you eat certain fast food and buckle your seat belt -- "Buckle up for safety, buckle up! -- you're responding in part to the marketing work Trentlage did decades ago.
That's not why I know and love him, however. That's not why I'm part of his family.
It was a dozen years ago or so I was contributing content for the Chicago Tribune's commentary page pretty regularly. My editor there was happy with my creativity, rarely snipping off a sentence for space or content. A huge compliment for a green freelancer hailing from some unknown spot of the globe, let me assure you.
I wrote a piece about my brother Dwight, the subject of some of my best work. Whichever that particular one was, it prompted Richard to write to me. Out of the blue, a chatty, typed letter arrived, having traveled first to editorial desk of the Trib.
It was from Richard, with what I've come to know as his everyday enthusiasm. He told me about his son Terry, born with Down syndrome. As a dad, Richard could relate to so much of what I'd written about my brother, he said.
Thus began a rather glorious relationship. Richard had written a book about Terry, still in binder form. Could he send it to me for editing?
"The Upside to Down's" arrived and I set to it, immediately noticing an abundance of exclamation points. Like everywhere!
Not knowing better, I pointed those out to Richard and that is when I discovered who I was dealing with. An advertising kind of man, THE CREATOR OF THE OSCAR MAYER WIENER SONG, no less. Filled with an effervescence that bubbled out of him at every breath.
Overwhelmed at this gift my writing had brought to my door, I looked up his number and called Richard, then realized he just naturally spoke in exclamation points.
Even when he told me that Terry Trentlage had been gone for some time, Richard was grateful for the joy he'd received by having such a fine son. And when Dwight died in 2007, Richard grieved with me.
We've had periods of less communication here and there, but when I recently received a thick packet (and that is pure Richard -- if you're going to send something, make it count) with the "Official Trentlage Clan Song Book" and information about a family reunion, I caught my breath and furiously dialed.
"Richard!" I shouted in exclamation point. "I got your package! It looks kind of like you invited me to your family reunion!"
Would he even know who this was, I wondered as I waited for Richard's reply.
"You are! You're part of the family!"
We talked and talked. I told him all about Camo Man and this crazy level of happiness that feels like it can't possibly be real. He knew exactly what I was talking about, having remarried himself a few decades ago.
"There's nothing like that second time!" Richard assured me.
I learned my lesson some time ago -- the people I want to meet are not going to live forever. Even if their ad jingle is absolutely destined to.
So I'm doing my best to get to Illinois in September, to hug Richard and sing with other Trentlages and revel in being a fine clan member. Because I really would love to be an Oscar Mayer wiener!