Compton, Calif (AP)- Before he suddenly surfaced in the race for mayor of this hardscrabble Los Angeles suburb, Rodney Allen Rippy’s name was likely to evoke that question inspired by that class of former child stars who didn’t die young, end up in jail or a celebrity rehab series: “Whatever happened to that guy?”
Rippy was just 3 in 1972, when he became the toast of a generation as the pint-sized TV pitchman for the Jack In The Box fast-food chain. When he picked up a hamburger that looked as a big as a hubcap and tried to cram it into his mouth, America was entranced. When he finally said, “Too bigga eat!” a national catchphrase was born.
Soon the cute, chubby-cheeked youngster with the Afro as big as his head was hanging out in Hollywood with Michael Jackson. He made movie cameos and recorded a hit album called “Take Life a Little Easier.”
Then the 1970s ended, and so did Rippy’s career.
More than 30 years later, he resurfaced as a candidate for mayor in a city known variously over the years as the birthplace of gangsta rap, the murder capital of the country and the home of the drive-by shooting.
Although he got only 75 votes, finishing 10th among 12 candidates. The final results in the primary election, released Thursday, show that Aja Brown beat long-time Mayor Eric Perrodin, and will now compete in a run off with former Mayor Omar Bradley, who is currently facing corruption charges.
But Rippy’s earnest but futile campaign raised the inevitable question of where he had been.
Rippy never strayed far from Hollywood, it turns out. He simply stepped away from the cameras.
When his Jack In The Box career ended about the time he was finishing high school, he went to college and earned a marketing degree.
“I wanted to continue to act, but at the time acting was a thing that unless you were really burning hot, you better have something on the back burner,” he said recently over lunch at a Compton restaurant down the street from City Hall.
Seeing how the adults around him had turned a cute little kid from Long Beach into a national star, he decided marketing was the way to go.
He formed Ripped Marketing Group in 2000 and has promoted everything from smokeless cigarettes to leisure wear to country music. It gave him the idea, he says, that he could promote Compton too. He wanted to change the image of a city that, although financially troubled, has seen crime and gang violence drop precipitously in recent years.
He wasn’t the first child star to remerge from anonymity to run for office. His contemporary, the late Gary Coleman, did the same when he launched his quixotic campaign for governor of California in 2003.
Unlike Coleman and many other former child stars, Rippy never got into a fistfight with an autograph seeker. He hasn’t been caught in a crack house or drunkenly crashed his car.
“Don’t get me wrong, I know the good, the bad, the ugly, but I have sense enough to stay away from it,” he said. “My mom always said, ‘Rodney, you need to understand this: It’s very easy to get into trouble. It’s very difficult to get out.”
The Afro and the chubby cheeks are gone, but Rippy’s appearance often has people scratching their heads, wondering where they’ve seen him before. Their reaction when they find out is sometimes like that of Saudia Pearsall’s.
“THE RODNEY ALLEN RIPPY?” the waitress shouted with glee after she spotted him at a back table.
“Ahhhhh! I might vote for you just because I like you,” she added, laughing. “That little Afro. ‘This burger’s too bigga eat!'”
A day later, she was having second thoughts, realizing she didn’t know much about his campaign.
Her reaction — delight at meeting a celebrity but wondering what the heck he’s doing here — is something Rippy says he sees often.
Rippy lost out on a marketing job once, when the person he was to work for started to believe he was being punked for a reality show: “He thought it was some kind of game, like I had some sort of hat-cam on.”
Also On Black America Web:
This Week’s Celebrity Instagrams (11/26-12/2)
30 photos Launch gallery
1. Little Legend and Puddy 😍😍😍😍
1 of 30
2. "You on point Phife?" "all the time,Tip". 💥 #bannedfromnormal
2 of 30
3. Vegan! The Impossible burger at Crossroads
3 of 30
4. Lawrence #BeforeandAfterEpisodes 1-4: 184lbs 13% body fatEpisode 8: 196lbs 8% body fat S/O @coachdaveboxing with the works outs and @kildareriordan with the nutrition
4 of 30
5. Jus haaaanngin out
5 of 30
6. Meanwhile back at home in Atlanta GA someone mad they not on the 🛳. 😳
6 of 30
7. No limits... Photo cred: Chris Bridges @ludacris
7 of 30
8. new new
8 of 30
9. Apparently my 260lbs is too much for the actual vines in the Hawaiian jungles to hold me without breaking and me falling hundreds of feet. So for safety purposes, I'm forced to swing thru #Jumanjj on wires strong enough to hold 12 adult buffaloes and 1 adult Rock. #OnSet #Jumanji #IronicallyIEatBuffaloDailyForLunch #MoreManThanNatureKnowsWhatToDoWith
9 of 30
10. hey ma! 🎎#wcw 💙
10 of 30
11. Surprise visit to our factories!!! #GoodAmerican #USA
11 of 30
12 of 30
13. Peachy Keen 🔥✨⚡️
13 of 30
14. If this don't look thankful I don't know what does. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours. #UltraBlessed #24kMagic #SweetPotatoFly
14 of 30
15. Late nights @nbcmarlon with the writers... we in here!!!
15 of 30
16. There goes my baaaaaaaaabbbbyyyyy #QueenKingMagic!!! We're up to something! Ira BIG!!! Stay out our buisness -
16 of 30
17. You want to win every game you play but when you come home to these faces... who cares. #ILoveYouGirls best part of my day, everyday!
17 of 30
18. Steady,steady..... full size jenga.. "I got this one "???? Or do I ?
18 of 30
19. Cornrows kind of day 😉@dontaysavoy2 you convinced me and I love. ❤️️
19 of 30
20. #BrotherlyLove #tbt
20 of 30
21 of 30
22. #basel #TeamLOVE @kingcombs
22 of 30
23. Just introduced a special screening of @directher 's groundbreaking (must see) documentary @13thfilm with my brother @themichaelealy | @unitedblackout #blackoutblackfriday
23 of 30
24. Me & Vanessa Williams giving #DuckLips #Pose on the set of #DaytimeDivas @vh1 - Coming Soon to a tv near you. Lol. - My make up done by @makeupsurgeon
24 of 30
25. This picture just makes me wanna praise the Lord, you hear me!!!!!! Yes Lord brotha #TEDDYCAMPBELL What a #man !!! You are everything right on this picture husband ......... #gorgeous #stylish #classy #strong #masculine #king #sexy #debonair #gentlemenstyle And that #bible in your hand just seals the deal for me (probably cause i know that, that is what helped you become just as amazing as you look😘). While my heart and mind experiences the goodness of God at #church on Sundays, my eyes experiences the goodness of Teddy😍. Amen somebody🙌🏽. "Bless the Lord oh my soul and all that is within me bless his holy name" #myman #myhusband #goodman #blackman #dapperman #godlyman #goodfather #mybestfriend
25 of 30
26. Yesterday was my mama's 53rd birthday!!!!! Got to celebrate with her all day. If this is what I have to look forward to I can't wait. Looking like a soft bucket a cocoa butter. Yaaaaaaaaaas! 😍😍😍 love you mommy!
26 of 30
27. "Shout out to @PureAtlanta for getting the family right"....I'm loving this jogger. 😍😍
27 of 30
28. This pic warms my heart ❤️ #myLogiebeans and aunt aunt umba @itowandabraxton 😘
28 of 30
29. You will always be my baby😜. #HappyBirthdayReginae #mybaby18
29 of 30
30. GC "Gods Child" Red on Red SweatSuit available now at www.MonicaApparel.com ... Take Your Crown wherever you go!! I'm pictured in a Medium... Go to the site now for other options ... cc: @trukernell
30 of 30