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What the . . . General Foods International Coffee Ad?

November 16, 2012

What the…Friday? is a weekly Friday feature in which I resuscitate a video relic from the swampy pits of Pop Culture Wasteland.

Today:  What the General Foods International Coffee Ad?

This post is for The Byronic Man.

Perhaps The Byronic Man noticed it had been three weeks since I delivered on my weekly WTF? video series commitment — or perhaps he didn’t notice at all.

You see, he’s a very busy man these days, what with now overseeing the care of another human being, the incredibly small kind, and what with being a very important comedianactorteacherwriter and all.  But all the same, he probably received the memo that I’ve been wearing the same coffee-stained sweatpants since Tuesday and have lost the will to live blog.

That’s when he generously threw this out:

I think you should do a “What the … General Foods International Coffee?”  Remember those awful ads?  Somebody has a touching moment of love or reconciliation and the woman says, “I’ll make the General Foods International Coffee,” because that’s not an awkward mouthful or totally strange thing to say and do.

[Actual photograph of The Byronic Man.  Or possibly a photograph I cropped from an ad for General Foods International Coffee.]

Initially I thought, on the contrary, there is nothing absurd about those lovable throwback General Foods International Coffee ads.  And I happen to like the name General Foods International Coffee.  General Foods International Coffee has a nice continental feel to it.  General Foods International Coffee is what I almost chose to name my first-born child.  And I happen to frequently “celebrate the moments of my life” with coffee, though maybe not with General Foods International Coffee.

But the words “General Foods International Coffee” had no sooner left my temporal lobe  medulla  cerebellum  brain-thingy when they were struck down by this granddaddy truth:

General Foods International Coffee is instant flavored coffee.  Instant Flavored Coffee.  Three words that should never touch, much less make-out in a cafe in Vienna.

And to that I give General Foods International Coffee a great big WTF salute!

Some preparatory notes before viewing today’s video.

1.)  This commercial typically ran on prime-time TV circa 1991-1992.  I am led to believe it was tailored to airings of Designing Women, Major Dad and Murder She Wrote.  Yes, these shows did qualify as prime-time TV back then.  Yes, I am as shocked as you are.

2.)  I carry with me the completely illogical fears that (A) I will one day dine at a cafe in Paris where my waiter will introduce himself as Jean Luc, (B) he will talk me into purchasing a time-share condominium in Branson, Missouri, and (C) the walls of my house contain a den of spider monkeys.

3.)  Over the years, I’ve put together a rough sketch of what Jean Luc probably looked like, which I am exclusively sharing with you today.

3.)  If you’ve long been wondering about the best way to torture me, consider serving me instant flavored coffee and then repeating the audio of this General Foods International Coffee ad — specifically during the part where the two friends erotically excitedly exclaim “Jean Luc” in unison.  At which point I will vomit  jean-luc the instant Irish Mocha Fudge Cinnamon Creme you just served me onto my already coffee-stained sweatpants.

64 Comments leave one →
  1. November 16, 2012 6:29 am

    Back then, I was too young to drink coffee (though nowadays kids start at what, 8?). Those commercials always made me want a cup. And thanks, I won’t be able to get that little jingle out of my head all day. Catchy, wasn’t it?

    • November 16, 2012 10:00 pm

      Haven’t you heard? Coffee in baby bottles is all the rage right now, Karen.

      Yes, the theme song to this is catchy as hell. But thankfully this will finally rid me of My Baby Takes the Morning Train (9 to 5), which took residence in my brain three WTF weeks ago. I’m happy for the change.

  2. November 16, 2012 6:42 am

    Brace yourself, Angie. This is what they serve in the best restaurants in DC. It’s what gives this city its International creds.

  3. November 16, 2012 6:47 am

    This commercial launched the career of the red-headed actress. She went on to play minor roles in a bunch of stuff I can’t remember.

    I, too, was horrified to learn that it was instant coffee, and even more horrified at the mess it leaves on the inside of a mug.

    • November 16, 2012 10:03 pm

      Yeah, ol’ what’s her face! Who is that anyway?!

      Sorry to bring up the topic of coffee here. I feel sort of like your reading this is, well, awkward. Like I just invited an alcoholic to a bar.

  4. November 16, 2012 7:08 am

    I feel like the Byronic Man has been getting a lot of attention lately. Jules mentioned him in her Daily Post interview, but even more importantly I called him dapper over at my blog. And here he is AGAIN. He’s such an inspiration! I lift my instant coffee to you, B Man. And to you, Angie, because you look fabulous in those sweat pants.

    • November 16, 2012 8:10 am

      It’s funny, because I’ve been feeling that The Byronic Man should be receiving a LOT more attention than he is. I think he deserves all the attention. Also a lucrative book contract.


      • November 16, 2012 12:30 pm


        Maybe The Byronic Man should write Sexy Stalin’s biography.

      • November 16, 2012 10:10 pm

        It’s true that everyone seems to be talking about you right now. The other day, I swore I heard “Byronic Man” while walking through the park. But instead it was just the sound of the wings of a flock of doves taking flight. That and I also accidentally molded your head into a lump of clay. Or maybe it was Lionel Richie’s head? Or maybe it was an ashtray?

      • November 21, 2012 5:37 am

        Best comment I’ve ever read. I am dying right now. DYING.

    • November 16, 2012 10:06 pm

      Me? Looking fabulous in sweatpants? You are going to make me get a very big head here, Rachel. And then that freakishly tiny pillow Darla sent me will no longer fit the bill.

  5. November 16, 2012 7:38 am

    I will never forget Jean-Luc!!! My sister and I use him as a punchline for years. Thank you for starting my Friday right with this WTF!!!

    • November 16, 2012 10:14 pm

      YES! I was hoping someone had him as a punchline in their family folklore! Thank you, MC! You made my entire week.

  6. November 16, 2012 7:39 am

    My grandmother drank this stuff! She also drank St. Croix flavored seltzer water. She was really, really fancy.

    • November 16, 2012 10:19 pm

      You mean LaCroix? Um, this is embarrassing…see, I drink LaCroix. Religiously. And I didn’t drink it before I turned 30. What is happening to me, Emily?

      So glad I can finally use your name! I almost slipped a few times and worried you were one of those bloggers who used aliases like Byronic Man or Good Greatsby or Speaker7 or Kimmy Gibbler. That last one is my dream alias.

  7. November 16, 2012 8:12 am

    Hey! Look at that! It’s like interactive media!

    It’s also a relief. There was always the chance you’d take my “hey, you know what might be fun…” as meddling and put up a “WOW, THANKS FOR TELLING ME HOWTO RUN MY BLOG, JACKASS. HERE’S MY SUGGESTION FOR YOURS: DO A POST WHERE YOU’RE FUNNY AND COHERENT” response.

    I like this one better.

    • November 16, 2012 10:26 pm

      Hey, the General Foods International Coffee customer is always right here at Cafe Vienna. I aim to please. And rather than direct, cap-locked, belligerent emails, I usually prefer a passive-aggressive approach, such as spending the evening hammering out a blog post with a mild mannered “Well, are you happy now?!”-tinged insinuation.

  8. November 16, 2012 8:15 am

    Dang, Nnng, you’re fast! And now I can’t stop thinking about how The Byronic Man is clearly the new face of General Foods International Coffee. All of this “blogging” just to try to suck us into drinking sh*tty coffee. I’m onto you, Byronic Man.

    • November 16, 2012 8:51 am

      That’s what I was thinking – jeez, from B-man’s random thought to fully-finished brilliance in a mere nanosecond!

      • November 16, 2012 10:13 am

        I’m drunk with power!

        Also booze in my instant coffee.

        But mostly power!

      • November 16, 2012 10:31 pm

        Yeah, just keep feeding me blog ideas and I’ll possibly post again in the month of November. Don’t be chicken. It’s not like you’re giving me test answers, Peg. I swear it’s not cheating. C’mon! Don’t you want to be as cool as the Byronic Man?

    • November 16, 2012 10:14 am

      I recently bought a lot of stock in GFIC. Also beepers.

      • November 16, 2012 10:28 pm

        Beepers are the same as pagers, right? The fact that I don’t even remember that they were called “beepers” speaks volumes. In the form of shrill, incessant beeps.

    • November 16, 2012 10:27 pm

      He is so getting kickbacks for this, I just know it.

  9. November 16, 2012 8:48 am

    Glad you found the will to blog again! Another great nostalgic post where I leave with that weird 90s feeling again.

    • November 16, 2012 10:32 pm

      “Weird 90s feeling”… you have no idea how many times I’ve experienced this. You know my heart, Simple Life.

  10. November 16, 2012 8:56 am

    When my sister and I were in Ireland we went to an Italian restaurant (I know, I know) one night and the waiter was a hunky, flirtatious charmer- type just like in the commercial. Even though that trip was 10+ years after this commercial aired, whenever we talk about that night, one will turn to the other with a smirk and say “And what was that waiter’s name?’ Then in unison, “Oh yes, Jean Luc!” and then we continue the “just between us” smirking while fake-giggling.

    Good times, good times…all thanks to the miracle of advertising.

    • November 16, 2012 10:37 pm

      I can’t even get my head around the Italian restaurant in Ireland part. You mean, they serve more than just corned beef hash there?

      I love that you and MC from Cramp My Style both had the Jean Luc inside joke with a sister. Oh, sisterly bonds that I’ll never know. And why now does this remind me of a Massengill commercial?

      • November 21, 2012 4:43 pm

        Yeah, with sisters it’s all hunky waiters and feminine itching. So sorry you’ve missed out on this special bond.

  11. November 16, 2012 10:31 am

    I have been celebrating the moments of my life non-stop with instant mocha coffee ever since I saw this commercial during a commercial break in Designing Women in 1991. And now you are telling me that apparently I was a fool to do so! My entire life has now been revealed to be a sham. Thanks a lot, Angie!! (and also B-man! Don’t think you get off the hook, either, sir!).

    As an aside, I must say that I love how you portrayed Jean Luc’s feet as mini-baguettes. It is just as I imagined him in my many erotic dreams of him over the years. Ahhh, memories.

    (P.S. Since we’re apparently telling you what to write about on your blog now (ahem, B-man, ahem) I was just wondering if you were ever planning on using a certain horrid 5th grade school picture featuring Halley’s Comet any time soon?)

    • November 16, 2012 10:44 pm

      I definitely pegged you for a Designing Women fan. Okay, so you’re not — but get this. I never really watched the show until it went to reruns. Then, for whatever reason, I turned Designing Women junkie. It was the only thing on at 6 a.m. when I got ready for work in the morning. So I would listen to it every day — for about two years! Until the cable format was reshuffled and the slot was given up to Kate & Allie. Oh how I miss cable TV.

      The Jean Luc feet as baguettes? Purely subliminal.

      Oh, Misty! How can you ever forgive me? You’ve trusted me with that gem for far too long. It demands its moment in the sun. Its moment in the moonlight? I will make it happen this month, I promise.

  12. November 16, 2012 2:06 pm

    Ha – I used to enjoy this stuff!
    That was before coffee was introduced to me :)

    • November 16, 2012 10:46 pm

      I love me some true-blue coffee. However, in college I was a sucker for the gas station cappuccino machine. I was devastated when I later discovered that real cappuccino tastes like coffee!

      • November 17, 2012 12:11 am

        I loved gas station cappuccino too. Mobil On The Run had pretty good ones.

  13. November 16, 2012 4:04 pm

    This brought back memories…memories of me saying “Jean-Luc” to random people and they looking at me strangely. I completely disagree with Byronic Man that General Food International Coffee is an awkward thing to say.

    Jean Luc: Would you like some more General Food International Coffee, madame?
    Madame: Oui. I would like some more General Food International Coffee, the more General Food International Coffee the better. Is there a croissant you would recommend I eat with my General Food International Coffee.
    Jean Luc: My croissant.

    • November 16, 2012 10:56 pm

      The more I see General Foods International Coffee in print, the more I like it. There’s something about it that seems so — oh what’s the word for it — American. I like it so much that I think it should run for President in ’16. There are rumors swirling around about Jean Luc as the running mate. Keep that guy away from the interns.

  14. November 16, 2012 4:17 pm

    Nothing says “Good Times” like a Premium Style Instant Coffee beverage from the General Foods International Coffee Industrial Concern!

    • November 16, 2012 10:58 pm

      Indeed. When you want to serve the best, just pull out a tin of instant coffee. With enough cinnamon and mocha, I’m certain you can’t tell the difference.

  15. November 17, 2012 12:12 am

    This commercial was buried in the back of mind until seeing it just now. I totally remember it, especially the “Jean-Luc!” part.

    • December 2, 2012 9:56 pm

      Jean-Luc has earned himself a place in pop culture history. And yet his mom said he’d never make it in life as a waiter.

  16. November 17, 2012 5:07 am

    Sometimes I want to praise jingle writers of the world for their ability to really make the message stick in my head, as they’ve done their job and done it quite effectively. Other times I want to gently take jingle writers of the world by the hand, lead them to a cliff above a raging pool of hot volcanic lava and shove them over said cliff into said pool for their ability to really make the message stick in my head, as they’ve done their job and done it quite effectively. This is both of those times.

    • December 2, 2012 9:55 pm

      I will be singing “the best part of waking up is Folgers in your cup” for the rest of my days. Coffee commercial jingle writers either deserve more money or extra whacks across their heads.

      • December 3, 2012 8:30 pm

        I’ll go with the latter. But thanks for providing two options!

  17. tarrtarr permalink
    November 17, 2012 3:44 pm

    I love that kind of coffee, i love that commercial, I love vintage-y things. :) happy happy post!

  18. November 18, 2012 7:39 am

    My mom had some Instant Flavored Coffee in the cupboard for a decade that no one ever touched. No one except me. I would climb onto the counters, open it up, lick my finger and then stick in the tin and then stick in my mouth and repeat until I heard someone coming. Then I’d cap it, jump down, and enjoy the caffeine buzz. Sometimes I’d use a spoon.

    • December 2, 2012 10:01 pm

      That is truly a delightful story. I think you need to capture this in paper.

  19. November 18, 2012 7:27 pm

    I started drinking coffee in junior high, and it was easiest to just heat water in the microwave, and dump in instant powder. And I’m telling you, of all the instant coffee I drank, this stuff was probably the best. That’s not really saying much, but still…

    And I’m sure my mom saw it advertised during either Matlock or Major Dad.

    • December 2, 2012 10:01 pm

      I’d definitely prefer it to Sanka. But maybe that’s not saying much?

      My mom loved Matlock!

  20. November 19, 2012 10:09 am

    General Foods International Coffee was awesome! It was the only thing even close to real coffee I could ever drink, and my mom’s work had three or four different flavors back by the hot water pot.
    And on a random side note, this is what Jean-Luc thinks of your taunting.

    • December 2, 2012 9:50 pm

      I used to drink my mom’s General Foods International Coffee! I thought that’s what coffee was supposed to taste like. Imagine my disgust when I learned it doesn’t actually taste like hot chocolate.

      Jean-Luc, that’s so very European of you.

  21. November 19, 2012 1:47 pm

    My mom totally drank that stuff.
    And probably watched Murder She Wrote, too.

  22. November 21, 2012 5:43 am

    I love General Foods Internatio0nal Coffee. Every week, I buy one of the dusty cans of Cafe Vienna from Walmart, run home and savor the memories of Jean-Luc. So what? Gonna make something of it? Huh?

    P.S. Byronic Man rules the wordpress world now. For him to casually throw out an idea and for you to run with it like this? I am definitely voting for him and Jules in the next election.

    • December 2, 2012 9:59 pm

      This does not surprise me one bit about you, DarDar.

      P.S. I secretly fear him.

  23. November 21, 2012 6:42 pm

    We know a number of people who own (organic, fair trade, totally hipster) coffee shops here in town. Marty made a point of telling them “I only drink Nescafé” with a straight face and a perfect tone of feigned nonchalance mixed with coffee snobbery. I loved to see them die a little inside when he said that, and he had to reassure the people that he was joking when they found themselves at a loss for words. :)

  24. November 24, 2012 3:33 pm

    Wow, that was horrifying on so many levels. Somehow, I think the myth that they serve French Vanilla Flavored Coffee indirectly led to the bad wrap France got during the Bush years, and to Freedom Fries. The General Foods International Coffee ad men have a lot to answer for.

    • December 2, 2012 9:43 pm

      I have absolutely no doubt that George Bush drinks General Foods International Coffee.

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