A tongue-in-cheek but also painfully earnest look at pop culture and anything else that deserves to be ridiculed while at the same time regarded with the utmost respect. It is written by Matt Marrone and emailed to Stu Horvath and David Shimomura, who add any typos or factual errors that might appear within.
When Unwinnable forced me to watch Gremlins for the first time since I was a kid, I was surprised at how much I remembered. There’s the adorable/mischievous Mogwai, of course. The infectious theme music. And then there’s the Bathroom Buddy.
The Bathroom Buddy is . . . well, why not let its inventor, Rand Peltzer – the goofy dad who buys Mogwai Prime and renames him Gizmo for his son, Billy, in the first place – describe it.
“It’s the invention of the century, friends. It eliminates the need to carry heavy luggage and things when you travel. You got yourself your shaving mirror. You got yourself your toothbrush. You got yourself a toothpick. You got toenail clippers. You got [a] nail file. You got yourself a dental mirror. This is gonna revolutionize traveling.”
Peltzer’s products don’t end with the all-in-one, hand-held Bathroom Buddy. He’s a consummate salesman and amateur engineer who has filled his home with unique household innovations that, as his wife, Lynn, so kindly points out, work well . . . at first.
In honor of Rand Peltzer, we have decided to rank the unappreciated genius’ six greatest gizmos, from worst to first.
The Peltzer coffee maker: This unremarkable looking machine spits and sputters and eventually produces a thick sludge. What is perhaps most amazing about this machine is how close Peltzer’s aforementioned wife leans into it while it’s apparently brewing scalding hot liquid. Given the splattering explosions of his other kitchen aids, it’s a wonder she still has a face.
The Peltzer orange juicer: Speaking of splattering explosions, this thing may or may not produce any drinkable OJ, but its spraying power is quite impressive. When Billy tries to make a glass, the orange pulp ends up covering the cabinets from wall to wall. Not only is it a glorious mess, it’s foreshadowing for a different kind of muck that will cover the kitchen, thanks to a comically giant blender, which we’re also going to assume is a Peltzer original.
The Peltzer automatic egg cracker: Who doesn’t hate cracking eggs? If given the choice to do it ourselves in the sink or sit back and relax while an animatronic chicken appliance breaks them with its beak, the choice soon becomes clear: we should do it ourselves.
The Peltzer smokeless ashtray: This could rank higher for two reasons. The first is the sales pitch, given to a gas station attendant who for some reason has half-smoked cigarettes positively littering his desk. Forget smokeless; dude needs an ashtray – any ash tray. And the second reason: grandfather graciously accepts it as a parting gift when he comes to collect Gizmo at the end of the film. Dude doesn’t pull any punches while ragging on 1980s American culture, so if the smokeless ashtray somehow passes muster, however barely, for the old Chinese critic, who can argue?
The Peltzer cordless phone: From Wikipedia: “Cordless phones became widely used in home and workplaces during the early 1980s. According to The New York Times, the number of cordless phones sold in the United States grew from 50,000 in 1980 to 1 million in 1982.” In some ways, Peltzer was on the cutting edge of communications in 1984 with his remote-controlled whatchamacallit. How much worse could it have been, really, than some of the first few million models sold to the public? No need to answer that.
The Bathroom Buddy: The clear-cut No. 1. And it has to be No. 1, because, nearly 40 years later, the Swiss Army knife of self-grooming still captures the imagination. It’s garbage, yes, but it’s delightful garbage. Which could also be a succinct review for the film Gremlins.
So, what comes of Rand Peltzer? We know his son ends up with Phoebe Cates, so there’s at least one creation of his that succeeds. But the last word we hear of him comes in Gremlins 2, in which he doesn’t appear, and it’s . . . not exactly promising. Still, we’d like to give an honorable mention to “a reversible toilet paper or something,” which a visiting Mr. Futterman tells Billy his father is currently working on.
It’s heartening that he’s still plugging away six years later, at least. That being said, we hope Futterman’s facts were as mixed up as he is, and that Rand Peltzer wasn’t devising disgusting-sounding TP but was on his way to striking it big. And if he did, perhaps it was with something we now use every day. Something we take for granted, blissfully unaware of the minor problem it hilariously solved in the first place. Something that makes the illogical logical – even if the name Peltzer isn’t plastered on it.
Matt Marrone is a senior MLB editor at ESPN.com. He has been Unwinnable’s reigning Rookie of the Year since 2011. You can follow him on Twitter @thebigm.