Aug 4, 2016

Where's the Beef?

This muscle photo by flickr photographer Deanna Lynne is captioned "Here's the beef."

Gay-positive bodybuilder Kai Greene uses it to sell a muscle mass-building supplement.

The phrase is so universally used for describing massive muscle  that if you aren't a Boomer, you probably don't remember that it started with hamburgers.

In the spring of 1984, a commercial for Wendy's featured three elderly ladies examining a large hamburger bun.  It was large and fluffy, but the burger inside was tiny.  Suddenly one of the ladies blurted out, in a raspy, no-nonsense voice, "Where's the beef?"

80-year old Clara Peller, who had never acted before, became an instant celebrity, and her photo or the phrase soon popped up on everything from t-shirts to coffee mugs to board games.  Radio personality Coyote McCloud released a record where he sang and Clara said her catchphrase.

It became emblematic of the search for substance amid fast talk and flipperies.  During the 1984 presidential race, Democratic candidate Walter Mondale put a copy of his book in a hamburger bun and exclaimed "Here's the beef!"

The "Where's the beef" campaign ended in 1985, but Clara Peller remained a celebrity until her death in 1987.

When I moved to West Hollywood in the summer of 1985, "Here's the beef!" had taken on a new meaning.  Men were using it to brag about their size, both above and beneath the belt (the 1970s era of skin-tight jeans was over, so they needed a new advertising gimmick).

Gay men were buying each other gag gift underwear emblazoned with "Here's the beef", or else the original "Where's the beef?" and a large question mark and a magnifying glass.

See also Homoerotic Hamburger Ads of the 1970s.

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