My Father (RIP) always collected weird things stores offer as promotional items…a lot of them went up in our home on Ashley Street in Historic Polonia and then adorned the garage wall at the palatial Byrd Estate in Angola.
One thing I’ve admired for years was the Whammy Weenie! My father would never part with such things while he was alive and I never asked.
Last night I asked my Mom if I could have the Whammy Weenie and she let me take it.
The Whammy Weenie is one those things of legend here in Buffalo…
From a Buffalo Evening News Ad, August 31, 1982: What is a Whammy Weenie? The Whammy Weenie is the ultimate hex in the hand of the fans used to bring calamity to Bills opponent. Yuk! It is a wiener that is rancid, rotten and green…the symbol of all the foul, downright disgusting and repulsive distaste we have for the opposition. When waved in the face of the opponent, its moldy green odor and menacing sound is guaranteed to cause sudden sloppiness, frequent fumbles, inopportune interceptions and downright disorganization. Bills opponents will shake in the wake of the Whammy Weenie. Get yours at Bells today!
Many considered it to be the greatest promotional failure in Buffalo marketing history. The infamous “Whammy Weenie” was created by Bells Supermarkets in 1982 as a fan friendly way of cheering on the struggling Buffalo Bills. Instead, the promotion collapsed under controversy after only three games. Over the last 25 years, the Weenie has attained mythical status among Western New York sports fans.
The early 1980s were a disastrous period in Buffalo Bills history. After the team lost to Cincinnati in the 1981 AFC divisional playoffs, the Bills would only win 4 games during the 1982 regular season. In 1983 the Bills would split the season with a record of 8-8.
The “Whammy Weenie” was introduced as a game day noisemaker to “create havoc with the opposition.” It was to be the Buffalo equivalent of Pittsburgh’s “Terrible Towel” or Miami’s “Orange Crush.” The “hex” was in the shape of an 8-inch plastic hot dog with a brightly painted yellow logo and two internal noise-making ball bearings inside. Art Rago produced the original design for the promotion and marketing firm Bon Chance who was contracted to produce the Weenie.
The rollout of the “Whammy Weenie” was to be the promotional crown jewels in Bells Markets President Charles Barcelona’s 1982 football tailgate marketing campaign. In anticipation of the start of the season, large, full-page ads were placed in the Buffalo Evening News and supported by radio & television advertising. In-store displays not only featured the “weenie,” but also offered fans Weenie branded coffee mugs, travel pouches, bumper stickers, headgear and apparel.
The Weenie was free with a $5.00 purchase from Bells or you could buy it for .49 cents.
The promotion extended to game day at Rich Stadium. At one game early in the season, stadium PA announcer and Bells spokesman Danny Neaverth told everyone to “stand up and shake your Weenies!” You can only imagine what actions those words prompted among the drunken adult fans.
The promotion was pure genius until about three games in. Reports began to surface that the yellow paint contained a high level of lead. WBEN program & news director Jim McLaughlin had a Weenie tested. The study concluded that the paint contained 300 times the allowable levels of lead. Immediately, thousands of Weenies were taken off store shelves and destroyed. Bells offered refunds for returned Weenies. Weenie fans across Western New York disposed their green shakers thus ending the Whammy Weenie’s brief, but historic run in Buffalo sports history.
Since 1982, Whammy Weenies have become one of Western New York’s most sought after sports collectable as only a few remained in the collections of die-hard fans. A recent survey of sports memorabilia shops in Buffalo did not locate a single one. In the words of one dealer, “I have not see one of those in years.”
Thanks Dad…I feel weird taking or having some of my Father’s stuff, but that is part of life when your parents pass. One day I hope one of my children will proudly take the Whammy Weenie from me and pass it on.