Speaking of ethnic defamations a la Lady and the Tramp, is it fair to throw the famous “mamma, mia, that’s a spicy meatball!” Alka Seltzer commercial into the same racist dustbin? It flaunted a crude ethnic stereotype (i.e., the old-world “moustache Pete” Italian husband being served spaghetti by a fat Mama Corleone) for comic effect, and in so doing painted Italian-American culture with the broad brush of cliche.
And yet neither the Italian American Anti-Defamation League nor the Italian-American Civil Rights League made a peep when the commercial aired in 1969. A half-century ago their mission was to pressure the film and TV industry from constantly depicting Italian Americans as gangsters and street hoods.
Give the Alka-Seltzer guys credit for coming up with a handful of great slogans and commercials from the late ’60s to mid ’70s. The top three are “I can’t believe I ate the whole thing,” “spicy meatball” and “plop plop fizz fizz.” I can’t recall the last time I used Alka Seltzer, but it was a long time ago. I still use Pepto-Bismol