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.”