Part One: The Un-Branding, Dunkers & Dictators, and The Mom & Pop Stores
Thirty years ago, Seinfeld’s pilot episode aired in a sleepy summer time slot. Considered so unremarkable, it nearly failed to become a series… an inauspicious beginning that contrasts interestingly to what is often acclaimed as the greatest sitcom in TV history, having cemented its legacy in nonstop syndicated rotation.
What is remarkable to me about Seinfeld is how incredibly quaint it looks now: products have changed, many of the vehicles aren’t made anymore, and modern norms of society are quite a bit different. Yet, it’s still endlessly quotable and hilarious.
This three part series reviews many aspects of society that have changed, evolved or ceased to exist since Seinfeld aired, and is organized by topic:
Part One: The Un-Branding, Dunkers & Dictators, and The Mom & Pop Stores
Part Two: Hot Wizards With Many Functions, and Sweet Rides coming soon
Part Three: Society Now!, and What Consumer, I’m The Consumer?! coming soon
Brands come and go, and products constantly need to adapt and refresh in order to survive. Almost every name brand product shown on Seinfeld has changed in one way or the other, if not having altogether exited the market. As consumers, we’ve kiboshed before… and we will kibosh again.
Drakes Coffee Cakes
Originally a New York bakery, Drake’s Cakes has been subject to multiple corporate buyouts dating back to the 1920’s, and is no longer manufactured in the Northeast. Drake’s Coffee Cakes were also inexplicably discontinued from 2017 to 2018.
This Pepsi can design was used from 1991 to 1998.
Diet Pepsi has undergone its own rebrands through the years, with the can Jerry holds in use throughout the 90’s. Interestingly, it was originally called Patio.
Cherry Binaca is no longer sold, and it's safe to say it wasn't a hit with the “crazy apartment dwelling creep” demo.
The original Dustbuster’s iconic wedge shape – a staple home appliance throughout the 80’s – gradually gave way to rounded forms and translucent plastic, starting in the 90’s.
Nestle Quik is nonexistent on store shelves, since it was rebranded to Nesquik in 1999. It’s also no longer sold in tin cans.
Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus
After nearly 150 years as “The Greatest Show On Earth”, Ringling Brothers ceased operation with its final performance in 2017.
Mello Yello has probably had more wildly different rebrands than any other soft drink in this article. The logo on the bottles Newman guzzles was in use from the early to mid-90’s.
Mug Root Beer
This Mug Root Beer can design was used from 1995 - 2003, but taunting a sweaty interrogator with a cold drink never goes out of style.
Sprite, Diet Mug Root Beer, Canada Dry, Pepsi, 3 Muskateers
George Costanza’s recliner with a fridge built right into it is a treasure trove of 90’s era junk food logos.
Baskin Robbins used this logo from the early 90’s until 2006, when they rebranded with an arguably far more clever design. Great place to get a sugar cone... a sincere apology, not so much.
Even the only candy bar with a cookie crunch needs to update its brand, occasionally.
Projections of rugged masculinity in tobacco advertisements ceased with the Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement in 1998… leaving cigarette manufacturers to ponder, “Who could love me?”
New York Giants
In 2000, the Giants reverted to their original logo, in spite of their home stadium being located across state lines in New Jersey. Yeah that's right, high five!
Dunkers & Dictators
Thirty years is a long time in terms of our narrow window of mortality, and many famous names who were part of an episode plot have moved on to the great velvet fog of the afterlife.
Joltin’ Joe passed away in 1999, and to this day whether or not he was a dunker is up for debate. YELP!
Dick Gregory passed away in 2017, arguably having long outlived morbidly obese exhibitionists with his strict dietary regimen.
Mickey Mantle and Clete Boyer
Mickey Mantle passed away in 1995, and Clete Boyer in 2007. Kramer’s baseball camp brouhaha shame will live on forever, though.
Rudy Giuliani became mayor of New York City during Seinfeld’s run, and famously took time right after his election to film a spot for the show. While no longer an elected official, today it's fair to say… he’s something else.
Gore-tex might be great for saving you from death of cold, but death by hanging, not so much.
Jackie Kennedy Onassis
An American icon, Miss Onassis-is’ passing in 1994 was actually part of the plot where Elaine is hired by Justin Pitt due to her grace (but not too much grace).
Artie Shaw’s name was casually dropped by Elaine as she laboriously picked salt off of Mr. Pitt’s pretzels. No longer a trivia question for a spot on the Woody Woodpecker crew, his storied life concluded in 2004.
El Commandante passed away in 2016 and rumor has it, the Communist pipeline of baseball talent was taken over by his brother, Dennis.
Passed away in 1999, and everyone who has moved beyond this plane of existence is still asking the big question: “What the hell is a ‘Velvet Fog’?!”
Steinbrenner's larger than life personality made great parody fodder for what was unquestionably one of Seinfeld's most memorable characters. He passed away in 2010, and I can still hear him bellow “Big Stein wants an eggplant calzone!”
Luciano Pavarotti, Jose Carreras
Pavarotti passed away in 2007. “The Other Guy”, "Mr. Camero" concluded the final performance of his farewell tour in November, 2019.
David Letterman hosted his last Late Show in May 2015, but the good news is that as of 2018, he has a full hour to badger his guests about the deadly dangers of monitor lizards.
Phil "Scooter" Rizzuto passed away in 2007. Although he was considered integral to mid-20th century Yankees wins, he's perhaps best remembered as a longtime color commentator. Holy cow!
Screen legend Anthony Quinn passed away in 2001, and legend has it that his undershirt is still being used as a bargaining chip for “interesting trades”.
Jim Fowler passed away in May, 2019 and we’ll always remember the lesson bestowed upon the idiots in Kramer’s Merv Griffin set: hawks and squirrels don’t get along.
Merv Griffin passed away in 2007. While his talk show may not be memorable enough to qualify for entry into the Smithsonian, his set at least belongs in the dumpster behind it.
The Mom & Pop Stores
Life moves fast in New York City. While buildings – and even some businesses – may stand for many generations, none are impervious to changes in consumer habits, building codes and bloody noses.
The last Sizzler in the New York metro closed in 2015, perhaps in part from heavy competition with hospital cafeterias.
Finally had to close shop for good in 2002, in spite of a surge of business due to suit-stealing hookers.
In 2009, The House That Ruth Built And Costanza Slept In gave way to modern facilities, right across the street. I still laugh every time I hear the line, “Oh my God! Mattingly just split his pants!”
Bradley's Jazz Club
The jazz joint where Elaine’s boyfriend’s “new number” fails to impress both her and critics closed its doors mere months after season seven’s “The Rye” aired.
Price Club was bought out by Costco in 1993, and for a few years operated as “PriceCostco” before being absorbed under the Costco brand in 1997… and with that merger went the last can of Beef-A-Reeno ever sold that fed a gassy horse.
Maybe the writers didn’t get the memo; Jerry’s emasculation while sipping a champagne coolie aired in the spring of 1996, and the club mentioned closed in January 1995, long before this episode was filmed.
Todd Gack invited Elaine to dinner at O'Neals, after claiming "it's not a date". Closed in 2010.
Improv Comedy Club
The original Improv went bankrupt in 1993, even though its exterior (and unspoken location for many Seinfeld episodes, including his standup routines) continued to be used in Seinfeldia long afterward.
The Brentano’s location on 5th Avenue closed its doors in January, 1996, before Kramer even had a chance to woo a velvet scrunchie-adorned retail clerk.
Kenny Rogers Roasters
Fun fact: the premise of “Hey!… Bad chicken… mess you up!” was based on a real life event. Kenny Rogers Roasters failed in the US, its namesake no longer wants anything to do with the business and in an even more strange corporate plot twist, is making hand-over-fist money in Asia.
A New York icon since World War 2, this served as the place where Kramer celebrates a book deal. P&G finally closed its doors after seventy years in 2009…. and the search for real au jus is still on.
Catch A Rising Star
This legendary comedy club had actually moved locations during Seinfeld’s run, then vacated New York in the late 90’s.
Its doors closed in 2006, and after having been in business for over three decades it certainly qualified as a fitness museum.