Monday, January 29, 2007

A Sample of the Secular

It is no great surprise to people when the face of Jesus or the shape of Mary appears randomly on a tree or underneath a highway overpass. Let it be known, however, that while these religious sightings happen with greater frequency, there are plenty of secular sightings too. Originally, Madonna of the Toast was only going to focus on images of religious figures, but as research got under way, I found myself gravitating to the forms of celebrities and historical figures. The ability to see any of these manifestations is borne out of belief, and it is fair to say that some folks believe in Hollywood as much as they believe in any organized religion.

So for today’s dose of blog, I figured that I’d share a bit about Myrtle Young and her famous collection of potato chips. Pre-Internet, Young got famous touring around with her chips that resemble Bob Hope and Mickey Mouse. She’s been on every talk show you can imagine, and seen a good part of the world all because of potato chips she collected while working for the Seyfert Potato Chip Company in Fort Wayne, IN.

Young’s potato-chip induced celebrity has been furthered by the Simpsons. In the “Selma’s Choice” episode, Marge’s great-aunt Gladys bequeaths a collection of potato chips that resemble celebrities, which Homer eats during the reading of the will: You’ve made your mark when the Simpsons spoof you.

So, it seems, the secular has just as much power as religion when it comes to making an impact on culture at large. I’m lucky to have had the chance to speak with Myrtle Young at length about how potato chips changed her life. That story, as well as some excellent photographs of the collection by Tim Perroud, can be found in the book. Other secular sightings in the book include Rasputin, the Michelin Man and Jar Jar Binks (just to name a few).

You’ll have to get your hands on a copy to find out more . . .

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