Saturday, August 19, 2006

The Secret Life Of Bevo Fox

Once upon a time (Thursday, August 03, 2006. 3:22 PM EST) I posted a semi-snarky blog entry about the long-forgotten-by-most mascots of the Busch Gardens theme park in Williamsburg, VA. With many years of successful amusement park mascot design under my belt, I felt that I was more than qualified to goof on these lamentably lame cartoon characters, which included a big beaver (insert crude remark here) and a swishy gay Frenchman. If you're ever so curious about that post then by all means go check it out, but then hurry back 'cause I have some apologizing to do...

A large part of those poor mascots' laughability factor, at least in my opinion, had to do with the overall 'pulled-it-out-of-my-ass-ness' of their very being. They seemed a motley group of 'whatevers,' thrown together simply to give the park's employees a reason to don body-lice infested fur suits and parade around on the asphalt in 90 degree weather for hours on end, scaring little children and upsetting guide dogs. Anyone who's ever worked in an amusement park knows that this is the cream job.

But one of these mascots, that devilish little fox with the twinkle in his eye, turns out to be quite the Anheuser-Busch celebrity. Bevo the Fox wasn't pulled out of anybody's ass just willy-nilly... he was ripped from the ass of a hard-working early 1900's ad man who needed the perfect character to pitch Busch's hot-off-the-bottlers new non-alcoholic beverage 'Bevo.' Yep, Bevo was the go-to fox in the company's (more than likely) desperate bid to convince prohibiton-era drinkers that this unfermented cereal beverage was as good as the real thing. For that alone, Bevo deserves much more respect than I've ever given him.

Bevo must have done a Hell of a job, because his namesake beverage was a top-seller in the early 1920's and an entire building (some might say 'shrine') was erected to honor the fox. Ostensibly a Bevo bottling plant, the building was more a destination point for near beer loving pilgrims the world over to come kneel at the feet of their tea-totaling buddha. So powerful was the craven image of Bevo that, in spite of the fact that Anheuser-Busch stopped production of Bevo in 1929, the building still stands to this day in St. Louis. Regular tours are given for the faithful. The pictures of the mosaic above and the cornice piece on the right come from The Bridge and Tunnel Club a neat website that offers, among many other nifty things, a picture tour of the whole Bevo building. All snarking aside, the place is a beautiful piece of architecture.

Bevo the Fox may be gone from beer label and amusement park alike, but he's still popular enough that his likeness will occasionally show up on items marketed to the powerful and unsteady on their feet beer-collector's market, like the figurine at the top of this post and the stein over to the left. The stein is from 1991 and is no longer in stock at, but they've got lots of other stuff for sale over there and Bevo might just be lurking around there somewhere. Dear God, is that a leg bone he's chewing on?

By-the-by, while I was researching the 'Bevo phenomenon' I suddenly found the words to the song "Ya Got Trouble" from "The Music Man" playing in my head...

"They'll be tryin' out Bevo, tryin out Cubebs, tryin' out Tailor Mades like cigarette fiends!"
...and suddenly a word that I had sung along senselessly to for years held glorious meaning to me! In one tiny cosmic moment my arrested-adolescent love of amusement parks and my gay-ish enjoyment of a good ol' fashioned Broadway spectacular collided into one singing, dancing, cotton candy eating entity. I then experienced the most intense ice cream headache that I have ever suffered through and had to go lie down for a few minutes.
When I awoke I Googled the word 'Cubebs' and found out via Wickipedia that the cubeb (Piper cubeba), or tailed pepper, is a plant in the genus Piper, cultivated for its fruit and essential oils and often used in the past in the form of cigarettes for asthma. That's right... those young River City youth were huffers.

1 comment:

eviedee said...

Is this "bevo building" at the brewery in St. Louis? If so I've totally been there! Free beer at 10am hooray!