A Rose by any other name

Kevin Cowherd

February 28, 1992|By Kevin Cowherd

At the risk of being accused of sexism or ageism, or any other ism for that matter, I have just about had it with the Corlick Sisters.

The Corlick Sisters, of course, are the two elderly women who appear in those annoying commercials for the Denny's restaurant chain.

Their trademark gimmick is that one sister continuously refers to the restaurant as "Lenny's," while the other sister, instead of smacking her over the head with a menu (after all, this has been going on for months), gently corrects her.

There is a body of opinion that insists the commercials were cute when they first aired, which now seems like some time during the Eisenhower administration.

The fact is, though, that after repeated showing, whatever cuteness was present has declined to such a level as to be all but invisible to anyone who has successfully completed fourth grade.

Instead, the commercials have become so irritating that roving mobs of irate TV viewers have begun to descend on Denny's restaurants nationwide, demanding that the Corlick Sisters be turned over for a lynching right then and there.

God help me, but I'm of a mind to join them.

OK. Before we go any further, let me say this: When you write a gutsy, controversial column on a highly emotional topic, you expect a lot of angry mail.

But even when you write something as vacuous as this, there is bound to be some reader backlash.

Therefore I fully expect to receive a lot of letters (in the tell-tale 69-cent Bic scrawl of so many of my readers) demanding: "How can you say such nasty things about these two sweet old ladies?"

As mentioned earlier, some misguided readers may also accuse me of age-ism.

Look, let's get something straight right now: I have nothing against old people.

Some of my best friends are old people. And despite an upbringing in which words such as codger, geezer, gramps, etc. were routinely used around the house, I have largely weeded out derogatory references to the elderly from my vocabulary.

Having said that, however, let me add that I do have something against annoying commercials, no matter the age group of the actors involved.

On a purely visceral level, the Corlick Sisters commercials are irritating for a couple of reasons.

First of all, what exactly is the problem with that one sister's memory?

How many times does this woman (is that Edith or Rose?) need to be told that it's Denny's, not Lenny's?

Fine, I can see making that mistake the first few times the name comes up in conversation.

But if someone keeps referring to it as "Lenny's" week after week, eventually you have to say to yourself: Hmmm, looks like the old girl is slipping.

If this is indeed the case -- in other words, if it's an organic problem -- well, OK, there's not a lot that can be done for her.

But if it's simply a matter of being lazy with word association skills, I'd think seriously about some sort of behavior modification therapy.

For instance, each time she says Lenny's instead of Denny's, someone could bop her over the head.

Hold on, hold on . . . I'm not saying you hit her with a wrench or anything.

I'm talking about clocking her with something along the lines of a soft pillow or one of those foam rubber Nerf hammers.

Eventually she'll associate the word "Lenny's" with a mild form of discomfort (not to mention embarrassment).

And with any luck, she'll begin using the restaurant's correct name without having to resort to the next step in her therapy, which would involve electrodes.

Disturbing memory lapses aside, that one dizzy Corlick sister also demonstrates questionable behavior at times.

In one recent commercial, she's seen playing an accordion at her table, to the obvious consternation of other patrons.

In another commercial, she's swinging a plastic baseball bat dangerously close to a waitress.

Now if I'm corporate management at Denny's, I'm thinking it's time to tighten security. I don't think you can simply allow customers to bring whatever they want into your restaurant.

Musical instruments, in particular, could start an unsettling trend. Next thing you know, people will be arriving with clarinets or even upright pianos and demanding to perform while waiting for their bacon cheeseburgers.

For God's sake, it's a restaurant, not a concert hall -- something that could be tactfully pointed out to Edith Corlick and her sister Nose.

Rose.

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