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Tough Day? You Deserve a Cheerios Facial

An author's wacky tips would send Heloise packing.

October 10, 2000|BEVERLY BEYETTE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

In Joey Green's hands, A.1. sauce is as likely to wind up on a furniture scratch as on a grilled steak. And Cool Whip? Forget the strawberry shortcake. Think shoe polish and sunburn balm.

Green, 42, who's made something of a career out of finding offbeat uses for kitchen shelf staples, has written his fifth book on the subject, "Clean Your Clothes With Cheez Whiz" (Renaissance Books). And, no, that's not just a catchy title. He swears that you can, and he has.

Now, he's not advocating that you dump quarts of the stuff in your washing machine "like on the cover of the book," which takes a bit of artistic license. Rather, he suggests, "Rub a dollop into the grease stain and run through a regular cycle with detergent."

A onetime advertising copywriter for J. Walter Thompson in New York, he didn't just wake up one day and say, "Hey, think I'll polish the copper with Campbell's tomato soup!" (which he swears he does). It was at a mid-'80s brainstorming session at the ad agency, where everyone was asked to come up with alternative uses for client Nestea's ice tea mix, that inspiration struck.

"That meeting changed my life forever," says Green, who now lives in West Hills. The possibilities! Cleaning your toilet with Gatorade (yes, he has). Baiting your fishing pole with M&Ms! (Great, he swears, for catching mullet, bass and shad).

How does one find out that Avon Skin So Soft lotion removes lime deposits from shower doors, that Noxzema is a dandy furniture polish? "People write into these companies with their wacky uses for the products," Green says. "I contact the companies, get their secret files and test these things out."

And, he shops. "I pick out 30 or 40 products we all know and love. We've all heard rumors over the years about what these products can do. These are all things that Grandma told us, things that we think everybody knows, but not everybody does know."

Not all corporate giants are thrilled at the thought of Green telling the world that their products will clean bugs off your windshield as well as cleanse your palate or repel deer in your garden as well as get you squeaky-clean.

Indeed. Numerous calls to various companies either went unanswered or were bounced from marketing departments to legal departments to public relations people--with all concerned protesting that they were not qualified to comment. A spokesperson at Irish Spring, who asked not to be named, said "We do not endorse or have any comment" about Green's "amusing, or non-amusing, depending upon your perspective" uses for its soap. "I'm not sure anybody's really thought much about this."

But the makers of French's mustard--a product recommended by Green for painting on eggshells to keep hens from eating their own eggs, for rubbing on one's hands to relieve arthritis pain and for adding to warm water as a bath for aching feet--were quick to respond.

Elliott Penner, president of French's food division, Reckitt-Benckiser, said, "We have always thought that the most fun way to use French's mustard was on hot dogs, sandwiches and burgers, but Joey's introduced us to new uses . . . that are very funny, creative and historically interesting. Joey Green has found new ways to make you smile when you use French's, and since we're a company that values fun, we think Joey's great!"

"A lot of them just don't get it," says Green. "They're marketing people. They have trouble thinking outside the box. It usually takes me six months to get all the companies to give permission. I get into some wild conversations."

He mentions, "It took me three books to convince Kraft to let me say you can mousse your hair with Jell-O." Maybe, he muses, it was the lawyers who were skittish. "If somebody were to mousse their hair and have a bad hair day, they might sue Kraft."

When "Polish Your Furniture With Panty Hose," Green's first book of weird uses for common household items, came out in 1995, he wasn't expecting to clean up. "I just did it for the fun of it." But response was so good that four sequels have followed. He claims, "I'm still astonished."

The books have spawned a Web site, http://www.wackyuses.com, to which fans e-mail their own wild and wonderful tips. One of the most memorable was from a woman who advocated a Jell-O soak as a remedy for smelly feet. "I think she was using strawberry. She wrote that her husband seemed to like licking her feet." This is one he hasn't checked out.

Other suggestions via e-mail include these: Chun King soy sauce to relieve burn pain, a dollop of Jif peanut butter to squelch hiccups, Bounce dryer sheets to keep mice away. "A testament to American ingenuity," says Green.

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