In 1983, retired Chicago manicurist, Clara Peller, would embody Andy Warhol's "15 minutes of fame" adage when she was plucked from obscurity to star in a tv commercial for the then struggling Wendy's fast food chain. In that first, fateful appearance, she and two other women of advanced age visit the competition and after looking at the rather puny hamburger patty shouts in a raspy voice "Where's the Beef?"
According to an A & E biography, "Where's the beef?" was actually an error by Peller who was supposed to say "Where's all the beef?" but the director kept it in. Peller's botched line became an overnight sensation and became an icon of 80s pop culture and made Peller a celebrity for the last few years of her life. She filmed several commercials for Wendy's, see three from '83 & '84 below,
Peller was very happy with her new-found fame and frank about her intentions to do as many commercials as she could, per this NBC Today interview from '84. In just a few short years as a performer, she starred in numerous tv commercials, made an uncredited cameo on SNL, and appeared as guest time keeper for the 20-man Battle Royal of wrestlers and NFL players at WWF's Wrestlemania 2 pay-per-view. So, something tells me she had no regrets when Wendy's fired her in '85 for doing a commercial for Prego spaghetti sauce in which she finally finds the beef she'd been looking for.
Clara Peller died on August 11th, 1987, just one week after her 85th birthday. Here's to living life to fullest and to Clara!
Oh, and our great original "Where's the Beef?" t-shirt is available for sale here.