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Oscar Mayer Whiners

PETA pig
When a protesting pig meets the Wienermobile, the encounter borders on the fantastic

By Traci Hukill

THE MORE TIME THAT ELASPES since the Wienermobile sighting, the weirder it seems. Last Thursday the 27-foot-long hot dog on wheels cruised into the parking lot of a Safeway on Stevens Creek Boulevard and deposited three cheery twentysomething "Hot Doggers," Oscar Mayer's talent scouts. The peppy trio and their souped-up meat wagon met an edgy crowd of nervous stage mothers, children with their fingers in their noses and snarling animal-rights activists, the most noticeable of whom actually wasn't snarling at all. Perhaps it was too hot inside her furry pink pig outfit to work up any real rage.

So 17-year-old Gwen Fish, who happened to fit the pig costume (provided by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, who follow the Wienermobile by mail), just sort of stood around and politely suffered the attentions of an agitated group of media folk.

Light bulbs flashed. Insults flew. The Wienermobile surreptitiously retreated across the parking lot, then disappeared altogether. The driver wasn't chancing another ugly encounter with PETA, represented today by the pig. Why, on one tour the pig clambered atop the Wienermobile and brandished a "Meat Is Murder" sign! No, the Wienermobile would make itself as inconspicuous as possible today.

"OK, kids!" bubbled Hot Dogger Alicia Broderick, a bouncing bundle of strained smiles. "Let's warm up with the Oscar Mayer wiener song!"

The milling children assembled into a loose formation and chorused, "Oh, I wish I were an Oscar Mayer Wiener" while more flashbulbs popped and anxious mothers hovered in the background. Fame lust had brought them here: hope that Oscar Mayer would pick their child to be the next darling voice of the hot dog industry.

"Why don't you just call it what it is--dead meat!" shrilled a PETA protester carrying a "Did Your Food Have a Face?" sign.

"Why don't you leave the kids alone?" hollered 70-year-old Bill Snow. "Your ringleader has leather shoes on!"

A verbal skirmish ensued against the backdrop of angelic voices singing the sunny jingle.

"Eight billion animals die every year--for what?" retorted Caroline Kweller of the South Bay in Defense of Animals, whirling around and pouncing on Mr. Snow. "With all the grain you feed animals, you could feed the entire world!" Later, though, she confessed to an erstwhile taste for hot dogs cultivated before she eschewed meat more than five years ago.

"Yeah, I did like hot dogs," she said regretfully, swiftly adding that she'd found a superior vegetarian substitute.

While her cohorts lined up across from Safeway's shiny automatic doors, wielding posters of butchered pigs and reciting a litany of crimes against pigs, which included unanesthetized castration and tail removal, the children were whisked away from the press and herded into the air-conditioned store to begin their auditions under the protective eye of two police officers standing in a corner.

"This is the first time I've ever seen one of these," said one, baffled. His partner leaned against a gum machine, looking supremely bored.

"All right, everyone!" cried a second Hot Dogger, leaping before the crowd of children. "Have you all done your WienerAerobics today? No? Well, then ... Bun to the right! Bun to the left! WIENERRR!" Three times she led the kids through the cheer and a few simple motions. By the last cheer the word "wiener" fairly thundered throughout the grocery store.

The first girl to audition nailed every note and smirked like all good students do. The next child was little Alec Underwood, whose voice and memory promptly abandoned him. While mother Kathy coached from the sidelines, 3-year-old Alec blushed, beamed and trotted a plastic toy across the microphone.

Meanwhile Andy Arnes, 12, waited patiently for his turn.

"I don't think it's that big of a deal to eat meat," he shrugged. Asked if he liked hot dogs, though, Andy screwed up his face.

"No, not really."

In summary, then: A giant wiener disgorges three people who are looking for talented children to sing about pork scraps. Pig sympathizers descend on the scene, demanding justice for swine and accusing the talent scouts of brainwashing the children, many of whom are too young to care about hot dogs and some of whom don't like them, anyway.

Yes, the Wienermobile incident definitely seems weirder as time goes on.

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From the August 14-20, 1997 issue of Metro.

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