Rodney Allen Rippy today may have a future in politics.Photo by: Chris Hatcher / PR Photos)
Rodney Allen Rippy today may have a future in politics. (Photo by: Chris Hatcher / PR Photos)
By Janice Malone

Special to the NNPA from the Tennessee Tribune

NASHVILLE – It was the 1970s, an era when big balloon afros, Soul Train, big bell bottom pants and platform shoes were the norm. Remember these classic 1970s TV commercial taglines? “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing” (Coca Cola); “My Bologna has A First Name (Oscar Mayer); “He Likes It! Hey Mikey!” (Life Cereal). Joining that list of popular TV ads catch phrases was “It’s Too Big To Eat!” (Jack in the Box’s Jumbo Jack Burger), became a national hit and made cute little 3 year-old precocious Rodney Allen Rippy a household name.

Rippy was seen trying to wrap his mouth around the super-sized Jumbo Jack hamburger. The tag line “It’s too big to eat!” (pronounced “It’s too big-a-eat!”), became a catch-phrase of the year. Another spot showed Rippy giggling while singing the song “Take Life a Little Easier,” which was released as a single by Bell Records in the fall of 1973 in the wake of the commercial’s popularity.

At the age of 5, Rippy became the youngest person ever to make any Billboard music chart.  Rodney subsequently had guest-roles in many popular television shows, including The Six Million Dollar ManMarcus Welby, MDPolice Story, and The Odd Couple (where Rodney played the owner of the building where Oscar and Felix lived). He also appeared frequently on talk shows such as The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson and Dinah’s Place with Dinah Shore. Rippy also had a co-starring role on the CBS Saturday morning children’s show The Harlem Globetrotters Popcorn Machine.

In later years Rodney went on to appear in other TV and entertainment related projects.  He eventually graduated with a degree in marketing and advertising from California State University, Dominguez Hills in 1995 and later created his own company.

Rodney was made Honorary Mayor of L.A. It seems he was destined to be a future politician.

Earlier this spring, Rippy made an attempt to run for the office of Mayor of Compton, Calif. He didn’t win but says politics just might be in his immediate future. After the mayoral race Rodney says he received a call from one of the original band members from the James Brown Revue about helping them to re-launch their music careers again. Here, Rodney Allen Rippy reflects, recalls and reports on what he’s been doing in his life over the last several years.

Q: Do people still recognize you or your name as the little kid actor from the Jack in the Box TV commercial?

R. RIPPY: Yes, people still recognize me everywhere that I go! I can be at a restaurant; I can be making hotel or airline reservations, and the reaction is still a positive one. It’s still quite funny to me. Over the years I’ve been invited to some of the most prominent events imaginable. I’ve met top-name celebrities and I’m still meeting them, such as Quentin Tarantino, Samuel Jackson, Morgan Freeman, Ron Howard, etc. A few years ago I was invited to speak at the Congressional Black Caucus event and that was quite an honor.

Q: Do any of these famous names remember watching you on the Jack in the Box commercials as a kid?

R.RIPPY: All of them remember me! It’s just amazing.  I’ve worked some of the real top  veteran Hollywood legends such as Johnny Carson, Sammy Davis Jr., Mike Wallace, Dinah Shore, all remember the commercial and were just so nice and kind to me. It’s been amazing.

Q:  Do you recall doing the Jack in the Box audition that brought you so much fame?

R. RIPPY: Yes, I do. That was my very first time auditioning. I don’t remember being nervous at all. And to this day, I’ve never been really nervous about being in front of a crowd or a camera

Q: Was it difficult to make the transition from child actor to adult hood?

R. RIPPY: In my opinion a lot of people remember me as a child actor but I also did entertainment projects in my teen years, too. In 1980, I moved out of L.A. and over to North Carolina for eight years because my parents retired in North Carolina.  So after I graduated high school I wanted to go back to L.A. to attend college. My parents had set aside money for me in a trust from my years as a kid actor. So I went back to L.A., attended college and lived on my own as a young adult. After obtaining my degree in marketing and advertising from Cal State Dominquez Hills, I launched my own business and later ended up working in L.A. based TV and radio stations, and even had my own radio talk show.

Q: What inspired you to run for mayor of Compton, Calif. recently?

R. RIPPY: I was born and raised in Long Beach, CA, which is in the same area of Compton. So I’ve always been very familiar with people and the activities that took place in the area. With that in mind, the reason I ran for mayor is because I am always hearing negative things about the city of Compton. For years people have talked about what a scary place Compton, Calif. is. So over the years I’ve constantly asked myself, why doesn’t somebody do something to try and help this city? So when the opportunity presented itself, I threw my hat in the ring and ran for mayor.

Q: Unfortunately, you didn’t win the mayor’s race this time. Do you have plans on running for mayor again or any other political office?

R. RIPPY: Now that I’ve put my foot into the political landscape, I think there’s a good possibility that I might continue to have an interest in politics for my future. My family members back in North Carolina were very supportive of me on mayoral race, too. So if the opportunity presents itself, I’m ready.”

Q: Was it difficult getting people to take you seriously about being mayoral candidate?

R. RIPPY: Yes, in some circles but not everywhere. It was interesting and a learning experience. Since I have such a strong show business background, there were some people who thought I was running for mayor to create a reality TV show! But even if that had been the case, it would’ve been great positive publicity for the city of Compton.

Q: Advice to parents who are considering or already have their child/children pursue a career in entertainment?

R.RIPPY: It’s a great life. If a parent has a child with any kind of talent, I recommend it. It’s a wonderful experience. My mom and dad were not entertainment parents. My mom was a housewife but for some reason she thought her kids had what it takes to be in front of the camera. So one day she signed up me, my brother and my sister to an agent. Each of us had our own agents but my siblings didn’t want to stick with it but I did. So at three and half years old, my mom started taking me on auditions and the rest is history.