The following vintage clip from YouTube shows cereal pitchman Sugar Bear saving Granny Goodwitch from "Mad Vitamin Stealer" Victor Vicious. In the years that followed his rise to "Bear of the Hour" and subsequent fall into oblivion and madness, scholars have wracked their brains over just what made this paradoxical character so cool, so charismatic, and yet so destructive to tooth enamel.
While the symbolism in this TV spot might require volumes of data to deconstruct, I'll attempt to make it all very simple without sugar-coating the facts. First, let's be frank: Sugar Bear was a known Quaalude abuser, as evidenced by his tell-tale lazy eyelids from photos of the period. Furthermore, his entire adult life was devoted to getting children hooked on mountains of processed sugar. Make no mistake, he was shrewd and he was cunning. He made us laugh; he made us cry. Yet, we loved him in spite of all that he put us through, even more than Danny Bonaduce.
Born in a simple log cabin in 1962, leaving a nasty placenta stain on the kitchen table, Sugar Bear was a precocious banjo-player who appropriated the old-school cocktail suave of Bing Crosby and upgraded it into a more accessible druggy vernacular. His entire wardrobe consisted solely of a blue turtleneck sweater and no pants, which was very de Rigeur amongst Greenwich Village poets of the day.
Few lives are without contradictions. Likewise, there were controversies and questions as to the bear's loyalties. It all started when Sugar Bear was invited to lecture at a Marxist training camp in North Korea in the summer of 1968, where he was welcomed as a revolutionary hero. He made various trips to other Iron Curtain countries, only to quietly return to his corporate Post Cereal job until President Reagan banned him from returning to the States during the 80's.
Sugar Bear was a protege of Timothy Leary as well as close friend and confidant to Bobby Seale, Eldridge Cleaver, and Barry Goldwater. He was an enigma and a two-dimensional character; a friend and foe; a lover and a fighter; alpha and omega, cheese grater and processed cheese in a can. Still, in the final analysis, he was a devoted and loving husband to his wife Maxine and their three kids: Stoolie, Crapper, and Grunter --no matter how much human carnage he left in his wake.
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