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 (10/15-10/21)
31 photos Launch gallery
1. Just a NY girl with BIG dreams....
1 of 31
2. HAPPY CHILDREN=QUALITY PARENTING. We don't always see eye to eye on everything and that's normal. We're human beings. But we come together and do it right for what's important, the kids. We are not enemies, we are parents. And we are parents 1st. S/O to @monyettashaw for making Mason's bday memorable. S/O to @itscrystalsmith at home taking care of our other lil' Prince. ❤️❤️❤️ THIS IS WHAT CO-PARENTING LOOKS LIKE. #Blessed #Happy #AboveTheDrama #BiggerThanUs
2 of 31
3. So happy to finally be able to share with you all that I’m the new Global Brand Ambassador for @Revlon! Follow my day on RevlonSnaps. Yay! Choose Love, Everybody! #RevlonXCiara #chooselove #ad
3 of 31
4. Glam on point!!!@makeupbymotoko & @shaylinjoneshair #easybreezy @lifetimetv #beachesmovie #january2017 😘
4 of 31
5. ✨True love ✨📸: @jessiemarrerophotography
5 of 31
6 of 31
7. Today was not easy..but by the grace of God we all got through it. Words cannot express our gratitude for all of your Prayers, Positive thoughts and Support for us throughout the years. Tommy will be missed but most certainly never forgotten...And PLEASE don't ask "Where's Martin?.." he was there too...just not in this picture. Lol! God bless you all.. #LoveConquersAll #MartinShow
7 of 31
8 of 31
9. West coast get ready for #RockyHorror. I will be live tweeting again. #letsdothetimewarpagain
9 of 31
10. #THEKEYS pre order yours now ... Available everywhere #NOV22 #WeTheBest 🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑
10 of 31
11. We about to ROCK at #KCABlackBall!! All for our life-changing effort to end 🌎 AIDS.
11 of 31
12. Today's #SNAPJACK is brought to you by @yazzthegreatest 😂😂😂💋💋💋
12 of 31
13. Damn girl you kinda old to be headed to the Go Go. You coming in at the age they leaving. LMAO
13 of 31
14. Daddy daycare B-Boxin with @acewellstucker @shopraisingace
14 of 31
15. #FBF Naviyd & URV "LIL MONSTERS"
15 of 31
16. HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ONE OF THE BIGGEST LEGENDS IN OUR HIPHOP HISTORY! @snoopdogg CONTINUED BLESSING AND LOVE FAMILY!!!!! REAL OG!
16 of 31
17. Thank you for a beautiful night VSU! Let's do it again! #HOMECOMING
17 of 31
18. Had a great time this morning with my familia Erica, Griff & Truth!!
18 of 31
19. Check out my interview on @essence facebook live. #inmyownwords #nycpromo #day2
19 of 31
20. #She💋 #tbt #TheCoveAtTheAtlantis #DawgPawsAndAll
20 of 31
21. Bae #retailtherapy
21 of 31
22. Why me and @coryhardrict got the same pose... and notee... new mouth #naked
22 of 31
23. When my husband is my personal 'hype-man'! it kills me every time! 💜😂 #WHATNOW #lostfiles📷
23 of 31
24. Diggy Simmons
24 of 31
25. Hand full of @jacquieaiche 💙💎💍 @esnail_la 💅🏾
25 of 31
26. SuperSoulers! You can watch my interview with Carl Lentz live from my Facebook page, tomorrow at 11a ET| 8a PT. #SuperSoulSunday
26 of 31
27. 💋 .. When the friendship is easy like Sunday morning. ☀️
27 of 31
28. Sunday mornings are the best........... hugs and cuddles with my angel
28 of 31
29. #huggar16 #hellohuggars
29 of 31
30. My gym is everywhere!.. #RnBMoney #TheGeneral 📸: @twelvepastseven
30 of 31
31. Nothing I would rather be doing... Rocko setting up our movie, Romelō working on a puzzle & Laiyah singing and sharing all she's learning at school... I'm so grateful for the joy they've brought into my life ... Praying for peace , joy & love in the home of EVERY family ♥️ #HeadScarfPJSunday LOL 😂
31 of 31