A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006. Now a Popeyes fast food restaurant on Google Maps.

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Entry from June 30, 2019
“That’s a spicy meatball!”

“Mama Mia, that’s a spicy meatball!” became a national catchphrase thanks to a 1969 commercial for Alka-Seltzer. The actor Jack Somack played an Italian who was eating meatballs in a mock commercial for “Magdalini’s Meatballs.” Flubs occurred, and Somack was eating meatball after meatball, and getting indigestion (requiring Alka-Seltzer).
The commercial was directed by Howard Zieff (1927-2009), who would later direct movies. The advertising company was Doyle Dane Bernbach.
Wikipedia: Alka-Seltzer
Alka-Seltzer is an effervescent antacid and pain reliever first marketed by the Dr. Miles Medicine Company of Elkhart, Indiana, United States. Alka-Seltzer contains three active ingredients: aspirin (acetylsalicylic acid) (ASA), sodium bicarbonate, and anhydrous citric acid. The aspirin is a pain reliever and anti-inflammatory, the sodium bicarbonate is an antacid, and the citric acid reacts with the sodium bicarbonate and water to form effervescence.
In an Alka-Seltzer commercial from 1969, an actor (played by Jack Somack) in a commercial for the fictional product “Magdalini’s Meatballs” has to eat a meatball and then say “Mamma mia, that’s-a spicy meat-a ball-a!” in an ersatz Italian accent. Take after take is ruined by some comedic trial or another (comedian Ronny Graham dropping the clapperboard). By the commercial’s end, Jack has eaten so many meatballs that it’s “Alka-Seltzer to the rescue.” With his stomach settled, Jack does a perfect take, except that the oven door falls off. The director (off-camera) sighs and says, “OK, let’s break for lunch.”
Alka Seltzer - Mama Mia, that’s a spicy meatball - (1969) :30 (USA)
By Dabitch on January 1, 1970 - 11:30
“Mama Mia, that’s a spicy meatball!” says the actor as he chows down on the fictional “Magdalini’s Meatballs”.
Ad Agency: Doyle Dane Bernbach
Director: Howard Zieff
Principal actor: Jack Somack
24 September 1970, Newsday (Long Island, NY), “That’s a Meaty Role, Jack” by Thomas Collins, pg. 3A.
Pg. 2A, col. 3:
THE COVER. Jack Somack, the Jew with the Slovak name who gets Italian parts in commercials, tells reporter Thomas Collins about his rise from chemical salesman to acting star. The story’s on the facing page.
24 March 1971, New York (NY) Times, “Commercial Wins Award,” pg. 40, cols. 5-7:
LOS ANGELES, March 23 (UPI)—The Alka Seltzer commercial featuring the phrase “Mamma Mia, datsa somma spicy meatball” took top honors tonight at the 11th annual International Broadcasting Award ceremonies.
The “Magadini’s Meatballs” commercial, originating by the New York advertising concern of Doyle Dane Bernbach Inc. and produced by Zieff Films of New York, won the television sweepstakes award and a trophy as the most humorous television advertisement.
The awards are sponsored by the Hollywood Radio and Television Society.
25 February 2009, New York (NY) Times, “Howard Zieff, ‘a-Spicy’ Adman Who Became Director, Dies at 81” by Dennis Hevesi, pg. B16:
Howard Zieff, the commercial director and ad photographer who stuffed an actor with spicy meatballs in a memorable Alka-Seltzer spot and used an American Indian in print ads to convince people “You don’t have to be Jewish to love Levy’s real Jewish Rye,” then went on to direct movie comedies, died Sunday in Los Angeles. He was 81 and lived in Los Angeles.
“Mama mia, that’s a spicy meatball,” the middle-aged actor intones in Mr. Zieff’s 1970 Alka-Seltzer commercial. But because the actor repeatedly flubs the line, not quite getting the accent right, he has to chomp down on meatball after meatball. Finally, after many takes, the voice-over announcer declares: “Sometimes you eat more than you should. And when it’s spicy besides — mama mia, do you need Alka-Seltzer!”
1969 Alka Seltzer “Spicy Meatball” Commercial
Published on May 19, 2010
The Origin of the Phrase “That’s A Spicy Meatball!”
by The Retroist|Published July 9, 2012
Filmed as a series of “outtakes” this commercial starring Jock Somack was cutting edge for its time. It may be common place now, but this was one of the first faux commercials for a product that doesn’t exist. It is only at the very end of the commercial, after you are wrapped up in the story that they pull out the product and we are all left with a collective, “Ohhh”. They zigged when I thought they were gonna zag! Its actually a commercial for Alka-Seltzer. Genius!

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityFood/Drink • Sunday, June 30, 2019 • Permalink

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