NVDT #89 – Smells Like Sunshine and Happy

Part of Open Link Blog Hop

The Prompt: What commercial do you hate? What commercial is your favorite? (YouTube link us if possible) Have you ever gotten an idea for a story from a commercial? Note – 2k read.

Richard Carpenter got “We’ve Only Just Begun” from a commercial, so… I should also recuse myself here since hard-hat movies (industrial video of all kind) and myriad TV commercials were my first day job as a corporate musician and remain a side gig to this day. But I won’t.

My favorite commercial? Smells like Sunshine and Happy. From The Hot Girl.

Jackson’s apartment, Long Beach, CA – late summer 1982

“Jackson… I… There’s a…” her pecan sized ice-blue eyes closed, her lips turned tightrope. She opened her eyes, re-inflated her lips, glanced at the ceiling, breathed a barely audible “Shit…

He waited, his back against the refrigerator of his narrow kitchen, unopened beer in one hand, arms folded like a shield. As if it would help if she went full Tasmanian devil.

On the opposite side of his small kitchen divider stood the very attractive, at the moment very tense Kaitlin Everson, the actress whose lawsuits had roared like background noise on cheap tape through almost five months of his life. She absently tapped her fingers on the divider’s tile top while inflicting minor contortions on her camera-loves-me face, the machinations framed by her signature swept up cascade of lazy ringlets over softer waves that fell below her shoulders.

After a short eternity that was probably less than a minute, she finally found him with her eyes. “There’s a long story, Jackson. About… About why I hate musicians.”

It sat on the counter between them. Awkward, slightly embarrassing. Like having a sun pinked fat man in a speedo suddenly show up in your line of sight at the beach.

“I’ve heard some of them.” He considered the urge to kick start their usual venom laced exchanges, took a straight shot instead. “That’s why you’re here, Kait? To tell me a long story?”

“Alix was supposed… She didn’t call you?”

“She said,” adopting an exaggerated French accent, “‘My love, the lovely and most delighted Kaitlin has telephoned. You will speak with her of what she desires, s’il vous plaît?’” He gauged her. Tense, but otherwise nothing he couldn’t have found in a promo head shot, shifted his voice back to normal. “Since no one living has ignored Alix’s s’il vous plaît, here you are. We could have gone neutral somewhere. Or was that the point, to stay out of public places?”

“No…” she turned, made a slow, right-to-left scan of his place. “I heard about this old apartment of yours. How comfortable and real it is. The open windows, the sounds, the sweet monster dog. And about what happens here. I heard… was told that you had eleven top-shelf L.A. women in here on Saturday mornings all summer with zero trippy bullshit. I had… I wanted, to see it.” She stopped her fingers, took a surprise deep composure inhale for someone usually cooler than a bucket of ice.


“So I sat with Randi Navarro and Cicily Warren at a Women in Broadcast luncheon last week.”

“Rubber chicken and a ‘go get ‘em gals’ speech from somebody irrelevant. What else did those two have to say that would put you in my living room?”

“They showed me their personal bio packs. And they were the shit. The supreme shit. Custom hint-of-color-folders, custom cards, embossed calligraphy, perfect complementary colors, not overdone. Definitely not office supply store print shop ready-to-wear. They said massive taste, and they would be the first ones out of any pile. I asked Randi where they came from and she said you were involved, and that… That I should contact the French lady lawyer who untied our two-little-bitches-in-Hollywood knot. She said to call you and that you, that you might let me in on who does that work.”

He caught ‘Your little bitch in Hollywood knot’ before it got out. “Any of them could have sent you straight to the source. No one needed to send you to me like I clear who gets access to that talent. Yeah, I’m involved, indirectly, but it doesn’t matter what I think, or how you and I feel about each other. The point is that a talented person who has something to offer and could make a difference gets hooked up with what they need to advance their career.” He turned, put the unopened beer back in the fridge. “If I had to be ape shit happy with everyone I worked with I’d be screwed. And so would you and so would everyone else in this town.”

“How do we feel about each other? I mean, now that we aren’t…”

“Suing each other? The truth is, you carried the movie that made both of us and everyone involved all temporarily insane, and at long last some money. You’re way too good looking and too talented and your bitch factor is too high for you to disappear. And you’re too smart not to care about something. So I’m down. Like I said, not that it matters what I think.”

“That was the best backhanded compliment I’ve ever gotten. I think.” She leaned both arms on the divider. He stepped up to the counter attached to the other side, thought for a second.

“Look, Kait, I was a green, dopey, shaggy flatland college boy with a deal that fell in my lap. You gave me that shit on your shoes look the day we met and I figured okay, fair enough. I’m not actress bait, drop it and get on down the road. I always wonder why girls who bail on me do it, but I get it. I justify it by telling myself I’m an acquired taste.” They looked at each other for a few, like a lion tamer and a lion, trying to figure out who was which.

“It wasn’t personal, Jax.” She did that thing he thought was a universal girl move, averting her eyes to look at her fingers absently doodling on his tile-topped divider. “Musicians were like a, a bad habit until I started getting real work. After I got the full-time job on the soap, I put that part of me down. Some guys I’d known before wouldn’t let it go, and they did some really stupid, mean shit.”

“I can see how everybody I know who buys strings or sticks would miss you.”

“That’s two believable almost compliments.”

“Don’t faint on me, I’m out of brandy. Finish your story?”

“My story is I got tired of their shit and one night I’d had enough and went off on a B-list spandex hair farmer at the Whiskey. It got turned into ‘Ex-Groupie Soap Star Goes Off’ press. With pictures of me screaming and looking all fucked up. Which I was, screaming anyway, about all their lying bullshit. I had to sue them, all of them, to stop it.”

“So suing musicians is just how you get through your day?”

“You can bag the grin. Randi warned me if I gave you a chance, you’d find a way to get around me. No matter what I put up.”

“Randi and I went a few rounds at first, so she warns every female that’s about to talk to me.”

“She should. And Cicily told me what you did to that piece of work pussy-bait ex-loverboy of hers. I worked a laundromat-on-acid fabric softener spot with that rat fart when I first started, back in high school.”

“Whoa. No shit? The one where the girl pulls her clothes out of the dryer, the guy dumps his clothes all over to run help ‘cause she’s so cute and her clothes smell so good, everything goes all wiggly and BAM, they’re holding hands in a field somewhere?”

“You saw it?”

“Hell yeah. I can’t believe that was you and Gibson. That’s sad, because a lot of us wanted to be the dude in the laundromat. You probably started a whole humongous urban myth about picking up chicks with fabric softener, you being all way wet-dreamable in that almost see-through dress. In fact, I need to call some people and tell them the ‘Smells like Sunshine and Happy’ chick filed a couple of lawsuits to keep from going out with me.”

“You’re not supposed to be funny, Jax. Or nice. Or easy for me to be with, or work with. I emptied my humility piggy bank and rehearsed some deep southern fried Scarlett O’Hara damsel in distress for this.” She crossed her arms, grabbed her lacey blouse with both hands in the center of her chest. “Oh puh-leeeeease, Mistuh Jay-uc-son, you just hay-uv tuh help po lil ol’ me.” She let go, relaxed her arms back onto the divider.

“That has to be the smallest humility piggy bank on the planet and the best Scarlett O’Hara I’ve seen since some guys explained cotillions to me when I was sixteen.” He pulled a pair of business cards from a kitchen drawer, set them on the divider. “You’re helped, Kaitlin. The only rule is don’t try to be smarter than the people who will help you. That about killed the control freak in Randi, but if you like her package, that’s how it happens.”

“Screw that stress. Let whoever it is clean up my press world and drop a quarter in my direction when it’s time to pick it up.” She tapped the counter again, caught herself, shook it off. “Okay. Coming here is what about killed me. And that’s all there is? No ‘who’s on top now.’ No insincere apologies, no name calling, no games? No pinch my left butt cheek until it’s purple?”

“That’s it. Well…”

She raised an eyebrow.

“Is that your hair?”

“For fuck’s… Yes it’s mine. It’s cut longer down the back so I can put the center curls in and it balances. If I don’t put the curls in I have to do all kinds of crap with clips or my hair looks like a horse’s ass from behind. Godammit, I see it. Don’t you even think it. What is it with everyone and my fucking hair?”

“Everybody says it’s a fall. That bass player you got so pissed off at had a curly fall just like your hair tied to his antenna and lime green crotchless panties taped to his back window. He said both of them belonged to you.”

“They weren’t mine. Not my hair, for damn sure not my panties. I mean give a girl some credit for taste. And that waste of air with all of his phony Kaitlin’s groupie swag taped to his car got his ass sued with the rest of them. I am not a groupie and never was, and this is my hair. Once upon a time I liked to hit a fatty and dance and I liked to go out with band guys. Until a few years ago turning twenty-one and regular employment raised my IQ.”

“So you didn’t pull a train after the —”

“NO!” He thought her eyes might catch fire. “You can eat shit and fucking die, Jackson. You’re as bad as all the rest of them.” She spun, steamed for the door.

That’s the Kaitlin I know.” He couldn’t hold the laugh. “Day-um, bitch. Chill. You hungry?”

She stopped at the door, turned halfway around. “You hillbilly asshole. I’m starving.” She did the index finger flip between them. “You? And me? Now?”

“Let’s go. Hangin’ with you’ll make me look good, and we can bust each other’s chops a little longer without blood or lawyers. You forgot these.” He held out the two business cards, tugged on her ringlets when she got close enough to take them. She yanked the cards with one hand, punched him on the shoulder, hard, with the other.

“Fuck you, you, you,” a laugh of her own got out. “You goofy, pickle dick hick.” She shook her hair, checked out Paula’s and Stacey’s Morisé Women’s Initiatives cards, dropped them in a clutch not much bigger than they were. “You’re driving. Because I like your old car and want to be seen riding in it. Since that is so incredibly shallow of me, I’ll buy. But only if you take us somewhere clean in West Hollywood or Beverly.”

She looked up, caught him grinning. “And all that ‘I’m really just a cute, fun guy’ shit you’re working like it would make La Brea belch Elvis back? Buy it a coffin. If anyone asks? We still hate each other. Got it?”

The whole chapter, Used Dog Food, is here

What other hoppers think is here

Yeah, yeah. I’ll use anything for a writing exercise.

Published by

Phil Huston


17 thoughts on “NVDT #89 – Smells Like Sunshine and Happy”

  1. I didn’t know that Richard Carpenter created that song from an advert. I bet you have lots of ‘insider ‘ knowledge to put into a book – but you’d have to ensure you don’t get sued, lol.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s why most of my stuff is third person. And I stay way from the really raunchy aspects. People can get that from the Zappa and others’ books. Wakeman manages the fine line between funny and tasteless.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Richard Carpenter didn’t write the song. Paul Williams wrote the chorus for a commercial jingle for a real estate company in Los Angeles. When the Carpenters producer was looking for songwriters, Willians interviewed. His entire catalog featured commercial jingles and Richard and Karen liked that one, so Williams collaborated with Richard on a full version. It launched both of their careers. Williams has been a highly prolific songwriter, but he always wanted to be an actor and is best known for playing an ape in the 1970s Planet of the Ape franchise.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Some bank in California. Written by Paul Williams and Roger Nichols, who lied when Carpenter called, told him oh yeah it’s a whole song, then beat it back to the house to finish it before he called back. There’s a garage recording of someone else “the first recording” of the song, short a minute and a couple of verses, “produced” by Nichols. I learned a long time to separate the artist from the art, so I’ll give Richard those big major 7ths nd his arrangements, even though he and everyone else involved ought too be shot for what they let happen to his sister.

      Liked by 2 people

    2. I think it was a real estate company. My mom was a huge Williams fan and would always watch any interview with him and I think it was either a real estate company or a bank that specialized in first-time homebuyers. It was a local-regional California business.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Even my favorite John Denver did a commercial for a bank back in the day. Of course, they approached hm, he wrote the ditty, then expanded it into a song. I’ve never liked it.


    1. It’s sappy. John could sell his own brand of sap but that bit was a stretch even for him. IAs below, I learned long ago to separate the artist from the art and in that JD was top notch commercial songsmith but a pretty sorry Hallmark moment salesman. For all the good tunes and the shlock I don’t think even John could have sold a Mersey Beat classic turned pop Nashville with pedal steel like Karen Carpenter did. But I think Karen Carpenter could have sold bullets to Monks and beach real estate in Arizona if she’d tried. A&M, Alpert and Bacharach never hurt, either.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Karen’s voice was unique in their era. Very beautiful. What she chose to do to her body was very sad. What the Carpenter handlers allowed to happen to both of them is a cautionary tale for aspiring young musicians. Nobody is looking out for you. Take care of yourself because the people making bank off you surely aren’t going to.


    1. The one mentioned for the story is not real. However it pops up occasionally, as do references to it like “Be nice sometimes, you know, if life was really like a fabric softener commercial.” Out of context the scene is a professional reconciliation between those two and he finds out the commercial he’s referenced since a teenager is the actress who sued him — all demonstrative coming of age stuff.

      But thanks for giving my youth in Hollywood a go!


  3. Most commercials bother me…I am honestly curious about who needs to be spoken to like an idiot in order to gain their loyalty.
    But, since I feel like I owe an answer: remember that Cherry 7-Up commercial with a pre-Friends Matt LeBlanc? Yeah, “🎼Isn’t it cool and red🎼” just didn’t do it for me.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. My favorite is everyone making the pilgrimage carrying their their tailgates of a lesser God lesser up some some hill where a hatchet faced dude who needs a shave stands in his fancy and confusing tailgate equipped truck. Nah nah nah nah, hey hey yeah. adios…

      Liked by 1 person

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