The voice on the other end of the phone was unmistakable.
"I'm BAAAACK!" brayed Wendy Kaufman, better known as Wendy the Snapple Lady, before breaking into a trill of delighted giggles.
The Long Island woman went from the company's order department to letter-answerer to advertising icon before food giant Quaker Oats bought Snapple in 1994, and Wendy lost her job.
"I never left Snapple. Snapple left me," she says. "When Quaker came into the picture, they decided I was no longer the image they wanted to project that I had had my time, and that they wanted to go mainstream."
She tried some other gigs (including 20 seconds in "Vegas Vacation") and turned down an offer from Mistic soft drinks.
The acting wasn't making her happy.
"I was heartbroken," she said. "I could have done those things anyway and still been the Snapple Lady.
"All I wanted to be was the Snapple Lady."
As the Snapple Lady, she starred in 36 commercials as a kind of jovial fairy godmother, zipping across the country to make Snapple drinkers' dreams come true, and help make Snapple the billion-dollar business it became.
Finally, in January of this year, the Quaker people started talking to Wendy again.
By that time, the pro-Snapple Lady buzz had been building. A Colorado disc jockey named Kathy Kelly had Kaufman on the air and launched a plea for her return that would eventually take Kaufman to radio stations all over the country -- "begging for my job," she said.
An Internet-savvy fan built a "Save the Snapple Lady" Web site, complete with an online petition that visitors could sign and ship to Snapple.
Once Triarc Beverages Group slurped up Snapple in May for the bargain-basement price of $300 million -- down considerably from the $1.7 billion Quaker paid -- William Smithburg, Quaker's chairman, was out of a job, and Wendy was back in a new commercial.
The new spot glosses over all the corporate politics, though. Its premise is that Kaufman took a break from Snapple to do a little island hopping, and came up with the idea for the company's newest drink flavor, Snapple Orange Tropic.
Pub Date: 6/26/97