April 6, 2006
1979, recalls Grafton Healy, was one of the busiest years for dandruff shampoo commercials. It’s also the year that his son, Tuner, said, “Dad I think our economy is based on waste; I mean take all these dandruff shampoo commercials, for example. People don’t care about dandruff, but the companies try to convince us that it’s a serious problem.” Well, Grafton didn’t like to have the roots of his ideals shaken so greedily, so he decided not to let the comment fly bynot without further investigation. A couple calls and a few dollars later, Grafton had set up a dandruff research group. Needless to say, the results were astounding. An attractive athletic man, subject #271, met woman #48 in an upscale bar. One thing led to the next and by the end of the week, 271 and 48 were copulating. Both reported that the entire encounter, from first sight to last smell, was extremely rewarding, and neither had noticed any of the 74 flakes counted on 48’s right shoulder. After four months and 800 subjects, the subject was conclusive.
But Grafton Healy wasn’t done. His next goal was to test this dead skin ideology and the power of grasp on the American mind. A public service announcement was concocted reporting the results of the study and attempting to free American scalps from needless worry. The networks kindly turned down Healy’s bloated airtime bids, as he expected. The sponsors would have become alienated at best. But what was especially tweakish was the firm disinterest from public broadcasting.
It was quite an investment but by 1983 Healy had completed the construction of his own network TV station. With a staff of over 600 and FCC licenses abounding, the first broadcast was just a fortnight away. Grafton sat facing Benton Wittipy, program director and Tennessee Lipton Merle, advertising director. On the desk were not one or two, but five video canisters containing sixteen cleverly crafted pro-dandruff expos,” Merle said, “You can do this, but you’ll be alienating many future sponsors.”
“What’s more,” interjected Wittipy, “you’re eating up important programming time, and the ratings will drop thus repelling potential advertisers.” But with millions to spare and Tuner by his side, Grafton Healy sacrificed a large and potentially viable investment to poke fun and perhaps awaken the American value system. For a brief spell, he had loosened the status quo.
One year later, in an ice cream parlor, high school band trumpeter Tim Hand sat with junior varsity field hockey lineswoman Jenny Nisticle. “I see a few flakes,” offered hand.
“Oh, yes.” Acknowledged Nisticle. “Hey, my shampoo fund is still untouched. Want to see a movie?”
“Love to,” encouraged Hand while wrapping his arm around her neck. Hand, by the way, had a few flakes.
Years later, Tim Hand and Tuner Healy set up a research group to investigate consumer trends and habits. Having covered laundry detergents and life insurance, they hoped to move on to large scale weaponry.