Chuck's Story: An Amazing Journey.
"Welcome to my home!" —Boneless Chuck
A Little Character Goes A Long Way.
So, how does a pink, pudgy, bald, bean-bag “doll” become beloved around the world? Comfort cancer patients, the sick, and lonely? Help the police. Attend the Olympics and World Cup? Visit Elvis’ grave? Ride with bikers in the Sturgis Bike Rally? Raises money to help cancer victims? Because people found something in him that touched them and they shared him with others. Their relationship with Chuck transformed him from a silly novelty item into something unimaginably special for over 30 years. It wasn’t by design and I was totally surprised. This is his story.
How it All Began.
In 1986 I was a young illustrator in New York City. One beautiful Friday in July, I had several appointments with art directors around the city. However, each one stood me up. They left early to start the weekend—without bothering to call me to reschedule. My day was wasted. I was tired, hot, and not happy. I returned home, changed out of my suit, turned on the TV, and checked my answering machine for messages. There was nothing from those art directors, but two messages stood out.
The first was from a girlfriend who always complained about her boyfriend. I would listen and offered advice. But did she take it or make the slightest change? Never. The second was from a friend who loved to moan about his job and boss. Like her, he never did anything. This was definitely not the day to waste my time with pointless griping.
As I erased their messages a commercial on TV announced, “A huge sale on boneless chuck” at a local market. This struck me as funny. I thought, “There must be a huge sale on boneless chuck because I’ve been dealing with boneless people all day.”
I envisioned boneless, spineless people for sale. It made me laugh out loud and I drew a quick sketch. Then I had an idea.
I ran out and bought some pink fabric, dried beans, and a styrofoam meat tray. A few hours later Boneless Chuck was born!
My Original Sketch.
Originally, I called him Boneless Chuck The Spineless Wimp. I packaged him like hamburger and wrote this description.
"Is there a Boneless Chuck in your life? Married to one? Friends with one? Work for one? Elected one?
Everyone is a Boneless Chuck Sometimes!. Ever had difficulty taking a risk or making a change?
Even if it's good for you? Like quitting a bad habit? Leaving a job? Ending a relationship? Exercising?
Eating healthy? Resisting temptation? Doing the right thing? Pursuing a dream: Dealing with a major life change? It isn't easy? Sometimes we get stuck. We need encouragement. We need a friend who won't
judge us. If you need a friend who's understanding and always supportive...who has a kind heart and a
strong funny bone? You have a friend in Chuck!"
Chuck was for my own amusement. But, everyone laughed at his drawing and said he reminded him of friends and co-workers, and
I thought maybe he could be a funny gift item. So, I started looking for a manufacturer and in 1989 he debuted in stores! I was thrilled! Radio stations and newspapers talked about him and he even received write-in votes for the Governor of New Jersey!
But, a year later the economy crashed and the manufacturer went out of business. Just like that, Chuck was gone.
Or so I thought.
Twenty years later, in 2005, when the internet was created, I posted a description of him online. I had no website—almost no one did back then. Suddenly, I began getting emails from people around the world who were excited to find Chuck again. They sent me photos and shared their adventures, and stories of how Chuck had impacted their lives. I had no idea people loved him or that he was part of their life or that anyone had been looking for him twenty years. I was stunned. I wept when reading their emotional letters. The message was clear. I had to bring Chuck back. There were two problems: I had no money and no idea how to manufacture him. But, I had a mandate and two years later, after maxing out my credit cards Boneless Chuck was back!
This is What is Truly Amazing!
1. Most people never saw or read Chuck's description. His styrofoam packaging quickly disintegrated and fell apart. Plastic container technology of today didn't exist back then. Stores sat him on a shelf with his spindly legs dangling and his little face peering up at customers. People didn't know what he was, but they were attracted to him and decided what they wanted him to be—or needed him to be. Thankfully, they told me. Amazing.
2. Toy companies try to create fads like Cabbage Patch dolls or Beanie Babies. Chuck isn't a Disney character with a movie or an Elton John theme song. Yet, somehow he's still alive and in people's hearts for over 30 years. Amazing.
3. Hamburger is also frequently called ground chuck. If the commercial I heard announced a sale on ground chuck—Boneless Chuck wouldn't exist. Amazing.
Who knows why certain things capture people's hearts and imagination.
Chuck is my proudest creation.
(He was never called a spineless wimp again!)