Well this is only nine months late! When Pat Harrington passed away nine months ago I briefly considered writing a brief tribute, but couldn’t really muster a meaningful link. He was most famous for playing the character of Schneider on One Day at a Time, but I never liked that show. I also knew that he had been a cast regular on Steve Allen’s various variety shows, which I liked far more, but it was before my time and I’d only seen about two or three of his appearances on those. Closer to my bailiwick is the fact that Harrington used to be a nightclub comic. (His dad, Pat Harrington Sr, whom we have previously blogged about, had been in vaudeville). And during the 70s (the height of his One Day at a Time fame), Harrington Jr was a constant fixture as a guest star on game shows and the like, so I often saw him in those contexts, and got to see the “variety” side of his persona there.
Which leads finally to my pathway in to celebrating him this morning. Harrington did a great Groucho Marx impression, and starting in 1974, he put it to profitable use by using it as the voice of the Vlasic Pickle Stork. Just as W.C. Frito had been my original introduction to W.C. Fields, the Vlasic Pickle Stork was undoubtedly one of my first introductions to the persona of Groucho Marx. Sad but true! (Leave aside the confusing mishmash of premises in the commercials: He’s a stork that delivers pickles like babies, but he’s Groucho and uses a pickle for a cigar? Who thought this up and who greenlighted it? Apparently the original justification for a stork as the mascot was that pregnant women supposedly crave Pickles. Aw, who cares — it was funny anyway.) And the Groucho-esque slogan, “That’s the best tasting pickle I ever hoid” makes much more sense when accompanied by the crunching noise of a pickle.
Vlasic still uses the stork as its mascot, and still runs the commercials, now with other actors supplying the voice. At any rate, R.I.P. Pat Harrington — the original Vlasic Pickle Stork.