"A sweet little lady asking 'Where's the beef?', fighting for the rights of elderly people. It was amazing! People would say "Are you looking for your next Clara Peller?" I never looked for the first Clara Peller. She was just there!"
About This Interview
In his three-hour Archive interview, Joe Sedelmaier discusses his early years working as an art director at several advertising agencies including Young & Rubicam and J. Walter Thompson. He talks about his difficulties in breaking the mold in television commercials, from the content, to the camerawork, to the insistence he felt agencies had on sticking to the storyboard and not discovering things on-set. He recalls creating his own company to produce commercials and his interest in working with the smaller agencies who were less rigid in their thinking. Sedelmaier addresses the animosity that existed toward using humor in television advertising and how he embraced it as his sole "genre" in creating commercials. He describes his approach to humor, casting his commercials with "real" people, and the importance he felt in having control over every aspect of production. He outlines how his insistence on complete creative control wasn't tolerated in Hollywood, when he was hired to direct the feature film "Easy Money". He recalls his most well-known advertising campaign, the "Where's the Beef?" spots for Wendy's, which made a star out of octogenarian Clara Peller. He talks about some of his other commercials for Wendy's including the celebrated "Russian Fashion Show" commercial which featured a portly runway model sporting the same gray frock to illustrate daywear, eveningwear, and swimwear attire, and the "Parts is Parts" commercial featuring a Southern-accented fast food counter employee explaining processed chicken to a customer. Sedelmaier speaks of other well-known ads he created, including his 1974 Southern Airways ad (which "put him on the map") that showed a passenger discovering a frighteningly somber coach section, as well as ads for Federal Express (featuring fast-talking man John Moschitta) and Valvoline ("Motor Oil is Motor Oil"). Karen Herman conducted the interview on April 7, 2006 in Chicago, Illinois.