Aliases: Mr. Wheat, Wheetabix Rockefeller, Zack Wheat.
Occupation: Word farmer
Favorite food: Swedish Wheatballs
Turn-ons: Large, crispy bowls of Wheaties
Turn-offs: Small, soggy bowls of Wheaties
Favorite wheat-producing state: Kansas
Favorite Sitcom Name:
Weezie from "The Jeffersons"
Favorite line in America the Beautiful: "amber waves
Favorite utensil: Spoon
Favorite blunt instrument: Mallet
Favorite expletive: f@#$%&*!
Favorite orgasm: All
Favorite weapon of mass destruction: Dijon mustard gas
Favorite element on periodic table: Boron
Favorite monkey: Rhesus
Favorite feminine hygiene product: None
Favorite gift the wise men brought Baby Jesus: Myrrh
Hobbies: Nuclear fission, torte reform, amateur mammography
Role models: Speed Racer, Dr. Seuss, Bea Arthur, Encyclopedia
Brown, William Wonka
Dad's advice to
son was 'write stuff'
I'm in the newspaper business today thanks to the nurturing influence
of a very wise gentleman. Nelson Mandela.
Wait no, I'm just kidding. Somewhere along the line I became
a pathological jokester. Let me start again.
I'm in the newspaper business today thanks to the nurturing influence
of a very wise gentleman. My dad.
Back in '83 I obtained a degree in that most marketable of subjects
-- philosophy. But other than a cross-country adventure with a
childhood friend, I didn't exactly have my future mapped out.
I knew I didn't want to be a Maytag man, a pentium chip magnate,
or a sea urchin monger. And I was ill-suited for any position
requiring a fancy jacket and decorative noose (aka tie).
Though I had enjoyed many a rollicking game of cops and robbers
as a youth, I was not gunning for a career busting bad guys or
pulling bank jobs.
I was not cut out to be a butcher or a brain surgeon. Professional
soybean farming was not a field I was inclined to pursue. And
I just didn't think I had what it took to become a systems analyst,
forensic scientist or Triple Action Gold Bond Powder salesman.
I was a human resource without a cause. In what I now recognize
as a desperate cry for help, I actually took a seminar from some
people who wanted to make money by having me sell mutual funds
to my closest friends. Then I got caught up briefly in some scam
involving solar panels.
I was anxious to begin making my humble contribution to the Gross
National Product, but I didn't picture myself toiling for Eastman
Kodak, Chuck E Cheese or Bristol-Myers Squibb.
The $20,000 question -- "What are you going to do with your
life?" -- loomed large.
I didn't know. But somehow, my dad did.
See DAD, next page
By John Breneman
The call came in just as I was finishing my 7:15 a.m. bowl of Wheaties.
It was from a Mr. Benny Crocker, assistant vice president for satirical
projects at General Mills, parent company of my favorite cereal.
I practically choked on my last spoonful of toasted whole-grain
goodness when he told me I had been chosen to appear on a Wheaties
box as part of their new "Obscure Journalists of the 20th Century"
series. My spoon clanged to the floor, nearly killing a malnourished
"We were looking for a real nobody," Mr. Crocker told
me, "and when we read your five-part series on 'The Benefits
of Partially Hydrogenated Soybean Oil as Part of a Balanced Diet,'
we knew we had found our man."
I was stunned. My carbohydrate-enriched mind could scarcely comprehend
what I was hearing. But once I digested the news along with 50 percent
of my recommended daily allowance of niacin, Vitamin B12 and zinc
I vowed that if the "Breakfast of Champions" wanted me
to appear on their hallowed box then I was ready to accept the challenge,
and the responsibility.
It was time to "do my homework," as they say in the fast-paced,
high-fiber world of semiprofessional journalism.
First I called Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods and Mary Lou Retton
for some friendly advice on what to expect as a Wheaties box icon,
but they weren't able to get back to me in time for this article.
Bruce Jenner was in a meeting and John Elway's people suggested
I do something unpleasant with my spoon.
No problem. By surfing the Internet I found a wealth of information
about Wheaties, which is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year.
Lou Gehrig was the first man to appear on the box, and Babe Ruth
has graced the carton against the familiar bright orange background,
along with sports heroes throughout the years.
Why, ever since Charlie Chaplin was first seen eating them out
of a battered leather shoe in the 1924 film classic "Will Work
for Milk," Wheaties have been an all-American favorite enjoyed
by paupers and presidents alike.
But what I didn't realize was that so many great 20th century leaders
and thinkers have been inspired by the mythical, medicinal toasted
flakes of wheat.
Wheaties played a pivotal role in the Allied victory over the evil
non-Wheaties-eating Hitler in World War II, when Roosevelt, Churchill
and Stalin polished off a box prior to the Yalta Conference in 1945.
Few outside the U.S. intelligence community are aware that J. Edgar
Hoover always kept a box in a drawer next to a sock puppet he called
"Mr. Wheat," or that Neil Armstrong smuggled two ounces
of Wheaties aboard Apollo 11 in a small orange pouch marked "Space
Legendary tycoon John D. Rockefeller was said to be a Wheaties
man, and Microsoft's Bill Gates reportedly won't make any major
business decisions without first taking a "Wheaties break."
Sources close to Gates say key advisers had to talk him out of naming
Windows 95 "the Operating System of Champions."
After a brief period of sagging sales in the 1950s when Joseph
McCarthy claimed that many Communist operatives ate Wheaties, the
cereal surged to new heights of popularity in the late 60s when
celebrity chef Julia Child delighted the American public with televised
recipes for Wheatie Tetrazzini, Carmelized Long-Grain Wheaties in
Sweet Cream, and her delectable Swedish Wheatballs.
Several leading medical journals have recently published startling
reports about the cereal's therapeutic properties. One study asserted
that consuming two servings per day can prevent rickets, curvature
of the liver and cardiac worms.
Researchers at Johns Hopkins have found that aggressive treatment
with a Wheaties-based pharmaceutical cocktail has proven successful
in curing everything from Riboflavin Deficit Disorder to skeletal
dry rot. And Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richard is said to have
visited an exclusive Wheaties clinic to beat a debilitating addiction
The National Enquirer is reporting this week that a Hindu mystic
who ate 24 bowls of Wheaties a day for seven months has evolved
to a higher-protein consciousness and achieved cholesterol-free
oneness with a God-fearing family of wheat farmers from Chafftown,
I believe it. Since becoming an unlikely Wheaties cover boy, I've
decided to milk the experience for all it is worth and have upped
my daily intake to six or eight bowls a day. The results have been
I feel more alive. What little non-Wheaties food I eat tastes better.
And my imagination has become a robust 62 percent more bizarre than
it already was.
Warren Beatty has called to feel me out about being his running
mate in the presidential race and I've received lucrative endorsement
offers from Nike, Schlitz and Triple-Action Gold Bond Powder.
And best of all, there is virtually no scientific evidence linking
excess consumption of Wheaties with delusional behavior among humor
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