It all started with this thing:
From 1989, it’s a promotional standee for Bonkers candy, celebrating their historic teaming with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I grew up loving everything on that standee, so when I had the chance to buy it, I jumped.
If you don’t remember Bonkers, the fruit chews were similar to Starburst, yet somehow a hundred times better than Starburst. Each two-toned “brick” of candy was pure fruity sex on the tongue, and I’ll never understand why they were discontinued. Didn’t every kid eat Bonkers? Hell, whenever one of my friends asked for a piece, I was like Elaine with her sponges.
Specifically, this standee promoted special packs of Bonkers that came with free Ninja Turtles stickers. (An awareness-drive for their first big screen movie, set to debut in early 1990.)
If not for recent developments, our story would end there.
Under the auspices of Luck and Fortune, I was able to obtain that exact pack of Bonkers. Like the standee, it’s from 1989. That makes it 25 years old, which I imagine is older than 30% of this site’s audience. I am handling food that’s been on this planet for longer than some of you. Senses of accomplishment take many forms: I am so PROUD of my old candy.
Preserving this in an airtight chamber would be the smart thing to do, but for the sake of a better article, I’m gonna do the stupid thing. I’m gonna open this baby up.
Wow! The wrappers! I’d almost forgotten how they looked, and I’d completely forgotten how Bonkers weren’t quite as thick as their supporting ad materials suggested. Maybe it’s just that I have bigger hands, now?
The candy shows its age with liver spots and the sweet scents of fermentation, but back in the day, this was THE SHIT. Each piece had a soft outer shell and a deeper, sweeter middle — sort of like a bone and its marrow, but better because everything tasted like artificial watermelon.
I’m not going to eat these, but I remember the way they tasted. I mentioned Starburst earlier, but the similarity was mostly in the mouthfeel. The flavor of Bonkers candy wasn’t nearly so “on the nose.” There were subtle touches, and every piece had impressive complexity. It was like highfalutin boardwalk taffy masquerading as too-sweet supermarket candy.
Every generation believes it grew up with the best junk food. I get that we’re in subjective territory, but I feel like only the people who subsisted on Bonkers can say it with total conviction. We know we’re right.
Oh, and there really was a Ninja Turtles sticker in the pack, just like the standee promised. It’s far cooler than it needed to be, too. I was expecting something the size of a thumbnail (a literal thumbnail), but this sticker is half the length of the pack, and even taller than it. A small consolation prize for no longer owning the world’s last sealed pack of 1989 Ninja Turtles Bonkers?
(But I probably own the last half-used pack. So there’s that.)