I almost ate KFC with Mr Dressup. That sounds surreal, but it’s true. It’s probably the most interesting thing that’s ever happened to me, but it’s also a story I’m loath to tell. There are a few reasons why:
- I did not eat the KFC I was offered by Mr Dressup’s entourage, so the story is one of failure.
- When this happened, I was 4. I lacked autonomy over things like what I ate and when, so it was not even my choice to not enjoy the fried chicken I was offered.
- The sentence “I almost ate KFC with Mr Dressup” is an assault on the mind. It can’t be processed easily by most people. I would be met with blank stares.
- No one is going to believe it. I have a photo to prove it and still no one will believe it. The bucket could have been in the shot and no one would believe it.
- The story does not build beyond the first shocking sentence.
- Most people who would like to meet Mr Dressup have not done so. To tell them a story about how I have done something they wanted to do but fucked it up tends not to sit well.
Despite all of that, today I will tell the story.
Note point 5 and don’t get mad when this fizzles out
Mr Dressup, I guess, was my first concert. He was in town on tour, and I obviously went to see his show because, as noted, I was 4 at the time. Mr Dressup, to a 4-year-old kid in the 90s, was bigger than the Beatles. Honestly, even today I’d rather meet him again than any particular Beatle. Maybe then we could eat that KFC together.
I ended up backstage because my dad worked at the local paper. You make connections as a journalist, and sometimes you use them to have your kid meet Mr Dressup. If I had kids and if I worked at a local paper and if I had connections and if Mr Dressup was both still alive and in town, I would do the same.
So there I was, backstage talking with Ernie “Mr Dressup” Coombs. I have no idea what I said. Frankly, I get awestruck to this day when I see my mutuals from various social media irl. I just about had a panic attack the other day while talking to someone at work who I have talked to many times before. If I had to guess, I didn’t say a damn thing. Mr Dressup and my parents did the talking.
That is, until one of his roadies reached into the fridge. “Hey, do you want any chicken?” they asked my family and I.
For other people, the same scenario plays out at 1 am rather than 1 pm. They’re 18, not 4. Instead of the biggest name in 90s kids programming, they’re sat across from a rock ‘n’ roll musician or a rapper. What’s on offer is some weird drug they haven’t heard of, and of course, they say yes.
For me, my family said, “no, thank you!” To KFC with Mr Dressup.
My regret about not eating KFC with Mr Dressup only grows with time
Obviously today I look back on this situation differently than I did when I was 4. I didn’t care then that I was ruining what would have been the greatest celebrity story anyone could tell. I remember the guy pulling a bucket of the Colonel’s finest out of a fridge, and I remember thinking, “why would you want to eat cold chicken?”
Children can be wildly intelligent, but that was one of the most foolish thoughts ever to cross my dome. And anyone who knows me knows that the competition for the title of “most foolish thought to cross this dome” is intense. Obviously, you would eat cold anything to say you did it with Mr Dressup. The food is not the point.
Although, the food in question is partly the point of the version of the story I’m telling today. Another thing I couldn’t have known as a 4-year-old kid is the meme status KFC would ascend to. We didn’t have the dating sim, the VR training dystopia, the sexy Christmas movie, the double down, or anything like that. It was just a pretty good place to buy chicken back then, and the best you could do for fast food in the small Southwestern Ontario city where I lived.
That it was KFC, and not some random sandwich or soup, is what would have made this story. The brand carries weight today that it didn’t back then. It would seem almost visionary. As though there were actually other food options in that part of town on a Sunday morning.
I vaguely remember Mr Dressup not being super enthused about the choice either.
Memories of Mr Dressup
I don’t remember anything about the show. I don’t remember much of the conversation. All that stands out is the bucket of chicken coming out of the fridge. I remember thinking the room they had given Mr Dressup was not classy enough for a celebrity such as him. They should have put him in a fancier suite.
On top of that, I remember smiling and laughing, and I remember Mr Dressup doing the same. Your memories from childhood are always a bit hazy, but I remember him being a very nice man. I genuinely felt like he was happy to meet me.
I think he waited till we left to tuck into the chicken.