Here’s the second edition of Dino Drac’s new series, OLD NEWS!
This time, I’ll be examining a bunch newspaper ads & articles concerning A Nightmare on Elm Street, from an era when Freddy Krueger was — for lack of a better term — hot shit.
Really, he was! Don’t pay attention to that shitty caption.
As the following clippings will show, Freddy Krueger’s celebrity status extended far past horror circles. Spanning more than a decade, several of these articles had no reason to mention Freddy Krueger, but did anyway. Dude had serious name value!
All of the Elm Street movies were heavily advertised in newspapers, of course.
Beyond them, I was floored by just how many horror movies got fairly big spreads in various papers. Between the imagery and the often crude layouts, you couldn’t read those ad pages without dreaming about some gritty metropolitan movie theater, filled with unseemly punks in the wee hours of the night.
(Special shout-out to the third ad, which mentions the free 3D glasses that came with every ticket to Freddy’s Dead!)
Freddy, obviously, was a major player during the Halloween season. He still is today, but the difference then was in the quality of the costumes. Today’s Freddy costumes are generally high quality, and mostly made for adults. Back then, they were predominantly of the “pharmacy” variety, crafted for kids who had 15 dollar costume budgets and very low expectations.
While the first ad promotes the awesome full-body Collegeville costume, the other two stuck with Freddy’s glove. That glove was a huuuuge deal! Simple, shoddy and ill-fitting, it was nonetheless a major component in so many Halloween costumes, even if some of those costumes didn’t represent Freddy Krueger!
(I can’t be the only one who ran with a crowd that mixed Freddy gloves with Jason masks and Dracula capes. For three or four years, me and my friends trick-or-treated as horrific collages, built from whatever CVS had left on October 29th.)
…in fact, here’s an article from 1987 detailing Freddy’s success in the costume market. (His closest competitors were Spuds MacKenzie and ALF, and I can attest to that. Trying to locate one single ALF mask in 1987 almost drove me to an early grave.)
Despite Freddy’s many successes, it wasn’t all a bed of roses. Even ignoring the hundreds of hyperbolically negative movie reviews, Freddy’s dual status as child-murdering villain and beloved pop culture icon would occasionally leave him in hot water.
In this 1989 article, much fuss was made over “Freddy Krueger fingernails” — presumably a nickname for the same costume gloves mentioned earlier — being one of that year’s “worst toys.” The article doesn’t argue on moral grounds, but rather for the fact that the gloves were simply dangerous.
And I… kind of agree. I had those gloves as a kid. They were loose and cumbersome, and even dull plastic blades can damage the hell out of eyeballs.
On the other hand, one might theorize that the complaints had less to do with the gloves’ potential for injury, and more to do with the fact that they were just tied to Freddy Krueger.
Sound like a reach? It won’t after you read this next section…
(September 1989 & October 1989)
Well! According to the second article up above, the famous Talking Freddy Krueger doll from Matchbox had its production prematurely halted, thanks to pressure from groups who simply didn’t want children to be exposed to Freddy Krueger!
These articles were published only a month apart, and reading them back to back comes with many mental sad trombones. As much as I hate it, I have to admit that Freddy’s kid-targeted retail products were a little strange. Here was this brutal child killer, made and marketed in the same fashion as Ed Grimley and Pee-wee Herman. If I was some historically terrible reverend who really liked TV cameras, I might’ve complained, too.
Since 40000 dolls made it to stores before Matchbox pulled the plug, they haven’t grown very expensive on the collectors’ market.
Freddy’s name value is proven by the two articles shown above, which arguably had no right nor reason to include him.
The first is a simple list of Halloween safety tips — the same batch of nonsense that most papers still run around Halloween — joined to a random shot of a guy in a Freddy Krueger costume.
The second brings back many fond memories. It promotes a Jaycees Halloween fundraiser, wherein some rented barn was turned into an Elm Street-themed spooky walkthrough. (Not licensed, of course!)
This was the real life version of the time the Conners walked through Dan’s web-filled lodge on that old Roseanne episode. The article mentions a costumed Freddy and a custom-built boiler room, and I don’t think I need firsthand experience to tell you that it was both completely bootleggy and completely AMAZING. I live for haunts like that!
Here’s a rather famous article by the Associated Press, from 1990. Totally remember this one!
This very article — which was repeated verbatim in sooo many papers across the country — encouraged me and my friends to do the exact thing that it spent 500 words admonishing.
It’s about men named Fred Krueger being prank called around Halloween. This, apparently, happened often enough to merit a nationally-syndicated Associated Press article. My friends and I never could find an actual Fred Krueger in the phone book, but that didn’t stop us from pranking somebody. Kids did that a lot back then.
Oof, here’s a heartbreaker. A promotional stunt turned sour after Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley called for a special “Freddy Krueger Day” — apparently at the behest of New Line, who wanted some on-the-street advertising for Freddy’s Dead.
Many found the stunt embarrassing, and poor Robert Englund had to spend much of his appearance defending the very thing he was there to promote! I don’t know if the event was quite as disastrous as the article suggests, but given that Tom Bradley decided not to appear, it doesn’t read like a very happy day for Robert Englund!
…and here’s then-president George Bush knocking Bill Clinton for his “Freddy Krueger tactics,” allegedly involving the use of scares over truth to sway the public. Freddy Krueger, mentioned by our nation’s president! You made it, man!
(Clinton won the election two months later, so I guess “Freddy Krueger tactics” work.)
This puff piece promoted The Horror Hall of Fame, a goofy awards show from 1990. If you haven’t seen this, I strongly encourage you to look it up on YouTube.
Hosted by Robert Englund, it’s such a great mix of cheesy nostalgia and genuine genre enthusiasm. The kind of cheeky sincerity that would never fly today. I miss it badly!
Finally, here’s an advertisement from an old video store. In one of the weirdest promotions ever, kids could go in, scream “I LOVE FREDDY KRUEGER,” and walk out with a free Elm Street book cover. (You’ll note that this ad appeared during September, when kids needed school supplies.)
Since the ad is from 1987, I can only assume that it was referring to the official Dream Warriors book cover, shown below the article. (That photo is from a recently-ended eBay auction.) Personally, I think it’d work better as a framed poster!
Thanks for reading this incredibly long edition of Old News! (Sorry, but I think you’ll agree that all of these clippings needed to be shared!)
Have an excellent weekend, and check back on Saturday night for the latest episode of The Purple Stuff Podcast!