The Amazing Real Facts Behind The World According to Snapple
By Peter Carlson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, July 14, 2003; Page C01
"A duck's quack doesn't echo."
"A snail breathes through its foot."
Fact #230: There are 229 Real Facts.
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You learn a lot reading the inside of Snapple caps. You choose your flavor -- lemonade or pink lemonade or peach iced tea or whatever -- and you twist the cap. It opens with a jaunty, snappy "Thwop!" You flip the cap over and there it is, a "Real Fact" to ponder as you gulp.
"A camel has 3 eyelids."
"Slugs have 4 noses."
"Lizards communicate by doing pushups."
The facts on Snapple caps are incredible, astonishing, mind-blowing. To read Snapple's 229 Real Facts is to realize that the world is more strange and wondrous than you'd ever imagined.
"Squids can have eyes the size of a volleyball."
"Oysters can change from one gender to another and back again."
"Mosquitoes are attracted to people who have recently eaten bananas."
The world according to Snapple is full of marvels and oddities. It's a place where "beavers were once the size of bears" and "a sneeze travels out of your mouth at over 100 miles an hour" and " 'Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star' was composed by Mozart when he was five years old."
So it should come as no surprise to dedicated readers of Snapple caps that the story of the caps is full of weird little facts that could appear on Snapple caps if Snapple ever decided to create Snapple caps about the history of Snapple caps.
"Brad Pitt was rejected
by Snapple cap editors."
The idea for Snapple's Real Facts was born early in 2002, during what seemed at the time like an ordinary Snapple marketing meeting.
"We were thinking of a way to entertain our customers," recalls Maura Mottolese, Snapple's VP of marketing, "and we thought, 'The real estate under the cap is unused real estate now.' "
It wasn't always unused real estate. Back in 2000, the real estate was used for jokes. But, Mottolese admits, the jokes were "pretty sophomoric" ("If the #2 pencil is the most popular, why is it still #2?"). So Snapple's marketing muckety-mucks knew they needed something that was, in the parlance of the ad biz, New! Improved! They decided on facts, Real Facts, facts that would amaze and amuse Snapple drinkers.
"We were looking for something out of the ordinary that they wouldn't know and wouldn't even know they'd want to know," says Marke Rubenstein, executive vice president of Snapple's ad agency, Deutsch Inc.
And they needed these facts fast -- in time to get them onto Snapple caps before the spring Snapple-drinking season. Rubenstein sent orders to Deutsch offices in Chicago and Los Angeles, demanding that they find weird facts on the double.
And they did. Within weeks, Rubenstein and Mottolese had a list of 300 weird facts. They whittled it down to the 109 Real Facts that appeared on Snapple caps in 2002. In 2003, they produced a second list of 120.
Along the way, scores of facts were rejected, discarded, tossed in the dustbin of Snapple history. If truth be told, some facts just aren't good enough to be Real Facts.
"They have to fit within the Snapple brand persona," says Mottolese, who shoulders the awesome responsibility of making the final decision.
She's a little vague about just what, exactly, constitutes Snapple's "brand persona." She also declines to give examples of facts rejected by Snapple.
"I wouldn't want to say," she says, "because I wouldn't want to see it in print."
Fortunately, Rubenstein was less secretive, and she faxed over a list of 14 rejected facts that you will never see on a Snapple cap, including these:
"The sixth most common phobia is that of vomiting."
"Baby polar bears often hum as they nurse on their mother's milk."
"Brad Pitt was once a driver for strippers."
"Lawyers and politicians have
attacked Snapple facts."
In America, no place is safe from the scourge of lawyers, not even the inside of a Snapple cap.
Over the past two years, lawyers, lobbyists and politicians have protested that Snapple caps are erroneous, inaccurate or damaging to the Republic. The folks at Snapple are quick to change the disputed facts because they have a deep passion for accuracy -- and also because they're interested in selling drinks, not fighting lawyers, lobbyists and politicians.
"A law firm for an agricultural group demanded that we change Real Fact 20," Mottolese writes in an e-mail. "Originally, it stated, 'Broccoli is the only vegetable that is a flower.' It now reads, 'Broccoli and cauliflower are the only vegetables that are flowers.' "
Which speaks volumes about the awesome power of an angry cauliflower lawyer.
"A lawyer for a telecommunications company in California asked us to remove Real Fact #70," saying it was wrong, Mottolese wrote in her e-mail. "Originally, it stated, 'Caller ID is illegal in California.' Real Fact #70 now states: 'A jiffy is 1/100 of a second.' "
Which is approximately how long it takes to change a Snapple cap when an irate telecommunications lawyer is chomping on your butt.
"The governor's office of West Virginia asked us to edit Real Fact #76," Mottolese wrote. "Originally, it stated, 'There is a town called Big Ugly, West Virginia.' It now states, 'There is an area called Big Ugly, West Virginia.' "
Reached in the office of West Virginia Gov. Bob Wise, Joanne Calhoun, who answers weird questions from the media, said she knew nothing about the Big Ugly controversy. But she is familiar with Big Ugly.
"Whenever somebody dies in Big Ugly, the headline says, 'Big Ugly Man Dies' or 'Big Ugly Woman Killed in Car Wreck,' " she revealed. "I've had a lot of laughs with that over the years."
"Jack Burtis disproved a Snapple fact by licking his elbow."
Every morning, George Clancy, principal of St. James Middle School in Johnson City, N.Y., starts the school day by making announcements on the public address system, then reading an inspirational quote and a Snapple Real Fact. One day last spring, the Snapple fact read:
"It is impossible for humans to lick their own elbows."
Within seconds, virtually every one of the school's 175 students -- and several teachers -- were attempting to lick their elbows. None of them could do it -- except Jack Burtis.
Jack -- then a 10-year-old fourth-grader with supple arms and a long tongue -- effortlessly licked his elbow. He showed his teacher, who immediately sent him down to the principal's office. He showed Clancy, who heralded the lad's achievement by calling the local newspaper and writing to Snapple.
The newspaper, the Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin, put a picture of Jack on the front page. The folks at Snapple called Clancy and asked if they could send the "Snapple Lady" to the school.
"I said, 'She's not like a Hooters lady, is she? This is a Catholic school,' " Clancy recalls.
Actually, the Snapple lady is Wendy Kaufman, a peppy, portly, middle-aged Everywoman who appeared in Snapple ads. When she came to St. James, two local TV stations sent news crews to record the historic event.
"Are you ready?" Kaufman asked Jack.
He was ready.
"Go, Jack!" she commanded.
He stuck out his left arm, twisted it so the elbow faced up, leaned forward and licked his elbow. The crowd went wild.
"Oh, my God!" the Snapple Lady screamed. "Oh, my God! He did it!"
She gave him a Snapple backpack and three cases of Snapple.
"Jack's gaining celebrity status because of his unique talent," reporter Justin Pizzi informed the WBNG-TV Action News audience.
Contacted later by The Washington Post, Jack reflected philosophically on his multimedia celebrity.
"It's cool," he said, coolly.
"Ryan Blaire used a Snapple cap
to propose to Mandi Sherwood."
They met at Camp Lokanda in Upstate New York in 1993. He was 16. She was 15. He was a waiter. She was a camper. Waiters were allowed to go to town. Campers weren't. So he asked if she wanted him to get anything for her in town.
"Sure," she said, "why don't you bring me a peach Snapple?"
Much to her surprise, he did.
"We ended up kissing that night," he recalls.
They both lived on Long Island. They stayed in touch. But they went to different colleges and dated other people.
"We wanted to experience all that life has to offer in our college years," she says.
After college, they both happened to get jobs in New York City, Blaire selling radio ads, Sherwood as an accountant. They started dating again. Every year, on the anniversary of their meeting, he gave her a Snapple peach iced tea. She still loved the stuff and sometimes she'd call him at work to read him an amazing Snapple fact.
So, in the fall of 2002, when he decided to ask her to marry him, Blaire called Snapple, recounted the story of their relationship and asked if they'd make him a special Snapple cap that would help him pop the question.
The Snapple folks were happy to oblige. They produced a bottle of peach iced tea with a special cap.
On Dec. 27, 2002, in a hotel room in Aruba, Blaire handed the bottle to Sherwood. "Look, I found a Snapple for you," he said.
She popped it open and looked at the cap. It said: "On December 27, 2002, Ryan Blaire asked Mandi Sherwood to be his wife. Mandi, will you marry me?"
"She just froze," he says. "She was speechless."
"I read it," she says. "It was kind of registering but I couldn't accept it. I was reading it over and over and I didn't even notice that Ryan was on his knee, ready to propose."
"I said my little thing: 'I'm absolutely in love with you and I want to marry you,' " he says. "She was absolutely speechless."
"I couldn't believe it," she says. "It was such a surprise. And finally, he said, 'Are you gonna say yes?' "
She said yes.
They will wed on April 17, 2004.
In the meantime, Sherwood is planning to take the Snapple bottle and the now-famous Snapple cap and a picture of the happy couple on that happy night and seal them forever inside a clear plastic cube.
"I think it's important for our relationship," she explains.
"A Snapple fact inspired
a new line of research
into Alzheimer's disease."
Last summer, Laura Juszczak was walking her son Paul, then 7, back home from a swimming pool in New York City, when he saw a Snapple cap on the sidewalk and picked it up.
"He's a big fan of the facts on Snapple caps," Juszczak says. "He picks up this cap and he reads it to me: 'Camel's milk does not curdle.' "
It's not the coolest Snapple fact. It can't compete with, say, "Mosquitos have 47 teeth" or "The Mona Lisa has no eyebrows." But it intrigued Juszczak. A chemist, she is an Alzheimer's researcher at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York.
She thought: "This is interesting. I wonder why camel's milk does not form aggregates?"
"I'm interested in what could cause a protein -- milk is a protein -- to aggregate or not," she explains. "I'm interested in aggregating proteins, like the proteins that aggregate in your brain when you have Alzheimer's disease and impede neuron function."
Back at the office, she did a literature search, pulled up a couple of scientific papers on the chemistry of camel's milk and discussed the matter with colleagues from India, who had actually drunk camel's milk.
"It's interesting," she says. "I didn't get any further than that. I've back-burnered it. I'm working on something else right now. We'll just have to wait."
Could an obscure fact printed on a Snapple cap found on a New York sidewalk lead to a breakthrough in Alzheimer's research?
It's a long shot, of course, but it's possible. Stranger things have happened.
As regular readers of Snapple caps know, our world teems with unlikely events, marvelous oddities and weird wonders.
"Frogs never drink."
"Giraffes can lick their own eyes."
"The average woman consumes 6 pounds of lipstick in her lifetime."
"Termites eat through wood 2 times faster when listening to rock music."
"Fish can drown."
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