For the last episode of our show, you told us stories about a first love, fitting in, family trips, and how brands played an unexpected role in all of it. Plus, the team who made Brought to you by… takes a minute to say goodbye. Thank you for listening.
Listen on: Apple Podcasts | Stitcher | Spotify | and more.
Produced by Charlie Herman, Julia Press, and Sarah Wyman.
Note: This transcript may contain errors.
JULIA PRESS: Do we feel like I’m loud enough?
SARAH WYMAN: I think you’re quieter than Charlie and I am in general.
JP: Yeah, I would agree. (laughs)
VOICE ONE: Says it’s running, I’ve got little lines on the screen.
VOICE TWO: Yeah it is officially rolling.
CH: Hi, I’m Charlie Herman, and this is Brought to you by… brands you know, stories you don’t.
This is the final episode of Brought to you by… and for our last hoorah, we wanted to do something a little different. We’re gonna go out with a special “product misplacement” episode with stories from you, our listeners, about the brands that have had an impact on your lives.
We asked you to tell us about brands that marked a rite of passage for you, and we got a huge response. There were favorite gadgets, forbidden foods, even brands that launched careers.
ASHLEY: Hey Charlie, how hot diggity dog are ya?
DOROTHY: I was an Oscar Mayer hot dogger.
CH: Seriously, you would not believe how many Oscar Mayer Wienermobile drivers we heard from.
So today, we’re going to share with you three stories about the brands that marked a coming of age moment for a few of our listeners. It was actually hard to pick just three, so before we dive in, here’s a sample of some of the great stories we heard.
First up, there’s Aleeza, who told us about going to her first ever high school party:
ALEEZA: And that usually involves some kind of alcohol. So we thought that we should drink before. And while getting ready (laughs) the four of us split one Corona bottle.
CH: For Mike, he remembers the travel-sized, Old Spice deodorant he got in his middle school sex-ed class.
MIKE: The only person I knew that used that brand was my grandfather. So it kinda came off to me as, why are they giving fifth, sixth graders old man brand deodorant to use?
CH: For Keith it was the Aiwa brand, a portable music player he received as a gift at his bar mitzvah — and it was a big deal.
KEITH: Let’s be honest, I was, am a nerd about certain things including electronics so it was always a thing where I would read catalogues and read electronics reviews and be like ‘I want the best’ so even when I was 13 years old, I was doing that, and I was like ‘Oh my God, this thing is amazing, it has all the things that I want on it.’
CH: And there’s Marilyn, who remembers tasting her first Twinkie at a friend’s house.
MARILYN: I told her my Twinkie was defective because it didn’t have a prize inside as had been advertised. She laughed and laughed. She said ‘What did you expect?’ And I said, ‘I expected something like Cracker Jack! You know, a little magic trick or a set of miniature playing cards or anything!’ She said, ‘No, the prize wasn’t a prize. It was a surprise. It was the cream filling.’ Oh, I was crushed. And never again did I trust any advertising. Particularly from the evil people at Hostess.
CH: We listened to every voicemail, we read every email. And today, three members of the Brought to you by … team are going to bring you their favorite stories from you, our listeners.
Stay with us.
JP: Hi, I’m Julia Press and I’m a producer of Brought to you by…
When we first put out a call for product misplacement stories, we asked you to tell us about a brand that marked a rite of passage for you. But what we got back was actually a ton of stories about social pressures and the awkwardness and loneliness of childhood, and how brands are with us every step of the way. And what we realized is that oftentimes, a brand that feels like it’s the key to fitting in is actually just the thing that’s making us feel awkward or lonely in the first place.
Like I remember in third grade, two of my best friends told me they couldn’t be friends with me anymore unless I bought the new Pokemon Ruby Nintendo DS game. Which in hindsight is super nerdy and totally immature, but in the moment it felt so important to get that video game, like my entire social life depended on it.
One of the listeners we heard from told a story about that same feeling. Her name is Renee Clancy, she later became a teacher, but when she was growing up in the ’80s, she had a tough time connecting with other kids in her elementary school class. Here’s Renee:
RENEE CLANCY: I think I was just the quintessential odd duck. I really just, played in my head a lot and I didn’t have any friends and I mean, zero. (laughs) So I would go to school and hope that someone would talk to me and maybe I would say something odd or off, but whatever. And so that’s why people probably didn’t talk to me. And um, the kindest people that tend to take me under their wing were the custodians and at lunch Manuel would let me wash the tables with him so that I wouldn’t have to sit alone at lunch, you know?
I would pretend that my stuffed animals at home were my friends. And I would pretend to give them a walkie talkie and I would talk to them around lunchtime, walk around so that, so that I can have someone to talk to. I like to say I was imaginative, right? But who wants to play with that kid?
My mom, you know, having been a single mom, you know, we didn’t have a lot of money and, buying a Guess skirt in my mind was the ultimate like pathway and door into popularity because all of the girls around me wore Guess. It was that little red triangle on their jackets and jeans and bags and all of the popular girls wore it.
And so I just begged and begged my mom, I was sure that I would be popular once I wore a Guess outfit. That was my gateway. And, you know, I’m sure she saved and saved for a long, long time to be able to get me that one Guess skirt. And I got it for Christmas and I was ecstatic and I walked in to school just in my mind, the wind blowing through my hair, the doors opening for me, you know, and people just rushing up to me, ready to speak to me now.
And when they, that didn’t happen, I, I really was kind of shocked like ‘What? This wasn’t my passport to popularity?’ (laughs) And so me and my creative mind thought, ‘Well, obviously the problem is not the Guess skirt, it’s that all of my clothes are not Guess.’
So I, every single night, would get my mom’s seam ripper and rip that little red triangle off of my Guess skirt, and I sewed it on another item of clothing and so the next day I walked in, in my mind with another Guess outfit. And that night I seam ripped it off and the next morning sewed it on whatever my next outfit was. Now I’m sure it was hideous. Cause it still was a fifth grade seamstress quality. Right? I’m sure I was sewing it right next to something that clearly was not Guess. Right? But in my mind it was perfection. It was like as if I had purchased the entire Guess outlet or store. Right? And I was, again, after weeks of this, just shocked that I didn’t have friends overflowing and wanting to hang out with me every day.
I eventually gave up sewing that little red triangle on everything. And eventually, a year later, I got a friend, (laughs) you know, two actually two! Two of the nicest girls that stayed my friend for years. And they were just so kind. And then becoming a teacher I would tell my students this story because I wanted them to know the experience, what it’s like for someone who doesn’t get picked, you know, for group work or is the last one picked for that sports team. You know?
And what I’ve learned working with students over the years is that that feeling of being alone, everyone feels like that. That’s normal. So I wish I had known that maybe that popular girl, you know, that she felt like that too. She sure didn’t look like it. She looked amazing. She walked around with some kind of confidence and I don’t know what happened to her. (laughs) But I still, I’ve never been able to purchase another Guess item since then. I don’t see, ‘Oh, I can afford this now.’ I see my pain and anguish from elementary school and I don’t want to revisit that anymore. I can’t, I can’t walk past a Guess store without thinking about elementary school.
MICAELA BLEI: Hi, I’m Micaela Blei, and I’m the story editor for Brought to You By…
I am in that generation between X and millennial, and I’m the kind of x-ennial who is nostalgic for the 90s to an unfortunate degree. I talk about it more than anyone really wants me to. And I know that adolescence was actually pretty traumatic, it wasn’t all Doc Martens and Drakkar Noir. But maybe why I keep going back is I love remembering that thrill of feeling grown up doing something for the first time. Wearing a bra under your t-shirt, or your first real concert, or boy-girl party. I remember my best friend in 7th grade teaching me how to shave my legs in her bathroom sink with a special razor for women, it was a pink Gillette, and she explained how you always have to go up, and I biked home with bare legs and just felt like I had crossed this line into my future. I was never going back to childhood.
Our next story is from Gina Voskov and she told us about one of those absolutely grown-up moments that you have when you’re 13. Hers involved boxer shorts.
GINA VOSKOV: It was kind of like a huge marker of a relationship that when you were official, you would buy a pair of Gap boxer shorts for your boyfriend. Right? So I’m 13, I think at this time. I don’t know how much you need to know about my boyfriend, but his name was Andy. He was very popular. I had just gotten my braces off. Like it was the first like relationship of my eighth grade year. It was a big deal. He was blonde. I was not. Right? Like, it was a humongous deal. (laughs)
And my school goes on the kind of obligatory field trip to the nation’s capital. He did not go. And I was like, ‘I need to bring back a souvenir.’ And like souvenirs in my family are very important anyway. That’s like a marker that you had been somewhere and you’re bringing something back with a whole lot of love. And so like, there were magnets in Washington, DC and mugs and like tee shirts and all sorts of things from Washington. And then I was like, ‘No, this is the time I’m going to get my boyfriend the boxer shorts.’
And so of course, like I go into some mall. I make a beeline for the Gap because that’s the thing that you have to do, right? That it’s only Gap boxer shorts. So I, I’m in the Gap. And I’m like, ‘This is it. I’m in a relationship. I’m buying Andy these things.’ And that’s when I realized like I get to the boxer short area, you know, like they’re like folded up in a little package.
Frankly, if I’m being honest, I didn’t know what boxer shorts were I think I knew that they needed, they were underwear, but I didn’t know what that meant, because they didn’t look like my underwear. And they certainly didn’t look like my dad’s underwear which I’d only seen in the laundry.
And I didn’t know what they meant by sizes. What am I measuring? Like what, what is small? What is medium? (laughs) Is it a waist thing? Is it a, what’s an inseam and also like, what, how else do they measure underwear? I don’t know! So I think I just figured medium, right? Because if I got a small, is that an insult? I don’t know. So I think I got medium and I very proudly went to the cash register.
I mean, I can’t tell you the thrill of buying a pair of boxer shorts for a boy. It was like ownership. It was like, ‘I’ve arrived.’ There were, I was looking at the other eighth graders, like, ‘Oh, they’re just coming away with magnets. And I’m like, I’ve got something special tucked away in my suitcase.’
So anyway, I bought the boxer shorts and very proudly returned to Vermont and presented them to my boyfriend. And I think actually he was just like, ‘Oh, thanks?’ Because they were underwear.
It’s so strange, I think Andy or I see Andy, or I just remember Andy and I just get this kind of little, aw, little excitement about this popular soccer boy, who one day kissed me by a river and for whom I bought Gap boxers.
SARAH WYMAN: Hey, I’m Sarah Wyman. The executive producer of Brought to you by…
Here’s a fact about me: if anything bad happens to a toy in a movie, I will cry. Like, you know that scene in the Pursuit of Happyness where the kid is crossing the street and he drops his Captain America action figure and he can’t go back for it? Oh my goodness, that one got me. Or, Toy Story? Honestly, it’s hard for me to even talk about.
And this happens in real life too. Like, my mom has this story about how when she was a kid she had this teddy bear that she really loved, so much that she couldn’t sleep without it. And one time, she was playing with it outside in the yard, and she went inside to eat dinner or something, and then when she came back, somebody had stolen him.
I don’t totally know what it is that gets me about these stories, but it’s like an emotional gut punch. And there are things I feel that way about in my own life too. Like objects that have this disproportionate sentimental value to me. On one hand, I know it’s just stuff, but on the other hand, I would totally put my life on the line to protect it.
And that brings us to our next story, which comes to us from Parth Chauhan. Parth grew up in India, and when he was a teenager, he went on an epic midnight quest to recover a lost Sony cybershot camera.
PARTHY CHAUHAN: On my 15th birthday, I got this Sony Cybershot camera that I really wanted. There’s this a creative element of it that you can do a lot of things from that product, but also at the same time, it’s the value. That it’s an expensive thing that has been given to you. So more than the actual product, it’s also the fact that your parents are finally going to trust you with this expensive device in your hands. (laughs)
I think it was purple in color. And, uh, the beautiful thing about the camera was then when you switch it on, the sound that comes out, like the shutter opens and the sound that comes, it’s so nice. Like you, I used to skip a heartbeat every time I used to open the camera, I was so in love with this process of opening up and the shutter coming like that and the sound… the look of the product and everything. Like, it was the contours of the camera. Everything was like, perfect.
We used to have this inter-school kind of a competition somewhere in another town. So I took my camera and my parents trusted me to give it to me for the trip and so we had a school bus that took us and we had a school bus that got us back. And, uh, we were returning back to my hometown. And I remember this very, very distinctly that I still had my camera at that point. And, uh, it was quite late. I guess we reached around at 12 or 1:30 in the night and I came back home. T
hen I was like, let, let me just transfer the pictures, uh, right away before I forget. And I was like, I opened my bag and I cannot find it. So when I am searching those pockets again and again, like, you know, I’m thinking that maybe somewhere it is hidden behind this thing, but no. How did it vanish? I’m also scared, of course, that I have to tell my parents now that I’ve lost the camera and my photos are gone.
I decided that I will go right now, like at 2:30 or three o’clock in the night to check this bus. And the crazy part is I live at one end, and the school is at another end of the city. So we have a scooter, a motor scooter kind of thing. So I, silently I stepped out. Didn’t start the engine, took it like for some distance. Just dragged it by my hand so that they don’t hear the noise of the engine. And after a point, like I began my, this excursion. And I think, I don’t remember, but I think I was crying also. (laughs) So I’m riding the scooter and I’m crying. Like it was, it’s such a melodramatic scene at that point.
So anyway, somehow after one hour of riding continuously, I reached that place. That, uh, school. I woke up the guards and if they were asleep or something like that, I asked them, ‘Can you point point me towards this bus that got us?’ He’s like, ‘The bus is not here. It’s in a different area altogether. It’s like 10 kilometers away from here.’ I’m like, ‘Okay.’
So I like went there now. By, I think 4:20, I reached at the second place, I found the bus. I couldn’t see the driver or the conductor of the bus or anybody, I couldn’t, but then I just looked, they were sleeping on the top of the bus and I was so desperate like, I climbed on the bus and I woke him up. And he’s like, ‘I don’t know. I have no idea about your camera. I’m so sorry.’
Obviously it was heartbreak at that point after doing all that. In my mind, I was thinking that I would just get the camera, get back, sleep. Nobody would ever know that this happened. That kind of a thing. You know?
On my way back, I got lost. Like very lost. It was, it was some kind of a, like, no man’s land. Nothing is there, just farms across there’s a river. I never knew that there was a river. I’m like, ‘What? Where am I? What is happening?’ Trucks are going by and I’m like, I’m done. Like, super scared at that point. I was just looking at the horizon and it was just getting a little light. Eventually, like I rode for, I don’t know how long this was such a long ride. I found some, something familiar, like, ‘Okay, this is near my house. I’ll make it.’ And finally, I reached my home. I switched off the engine much before at my house, dragged it, parked it. And then I’m just thinking what to do, how to tell them that the camera is gone. I’m super scared. And also embarrassed.
I don’t know what came to my mind. I told them that I actually, I just, uh, went out in the middle of the night to look for it. And my mom started crying. She was like, ‘Is a camera more than us for you?’ She was at like that at that moment. Then I am genuinely, that was the thing that I was so desperate that I didn’t think about their love and their thing. But, but with this experience, like when I saw my parents’ reaction, that then I understood that nothing can be bigger than that. Like yes, tools and products and brands and gadgets make you happy. They are very nice to have. But it’s just stuff by the end of the day.
People think that I make a story, I make a drama out of everything, but that memory, (laughs) that memory from 15 years back is still there in me. Sony cybershot and how I lost it is like a thing that is going to be always there with me, I think.
BILL MOSS: Not so fast. Hi, I’m Bill Moss, I’m the sound designer here at Brought to you by… And we were only planning on sharing three stories in this episode, but as we were putting the finishing touches on the show, we received one more call from a listener that we just had to include. It’s so moving and a perfect note to end on. It’s from a listener named Victoria.
VICTORIA: My story starts before I was even born. In 1975, my dad was 39 years old and he had a series of strokes. The first stroke was somewhat minor and actually happened while he was driving. He had a massive stroke several days later that put him in a coma. Um, once he came out of the coma, he had years of physical therapy and speech therapy and occupational therapy to get his health to the place where I came to know him after I was born. He could get around by dragging his paralyzed right side. He could communicate, um, in a way that some people struggled to understand because of his aphasia.
I was born about eight years after my dad’s stroke. So this was in the early eighties. Whenever my parents wanted to take us on a vacation, we usually ended up just driving a couple of hours to go to Walt Disney World.
My dad’s life outside of Disney was marked by his disabilities. People were not always patient enough to listen to him speak through his aphasia or patient enough for him to slowly walk to where he was going. There were even some people who just assumed he was drunk. I couldn’t even tell you how old I was when I heard my first hurtful comment directed at my dad. And it killed me because my dad might have been the friendliest person I had ever met in my life. He loved to talk to people. He asked them insightful questions about themselves because he really wanted to get to know them. He told great stories about his adventures from before his strokes. He was so nice. Um, he did not deserve the way some people spoke to him.
So, that’s what life was like outside of Disney. But inside Disney? Disney has long had a reputation for being great for people with disabilities. And in my heart, they earned it. Even back then in the 80s, they had these vehicles called ECVs, electric convenience vehicles, although I think most people just call them electric scooters. And back then, that was the only place we ever saw them. And he loved them. He was probably too proud to ever be willing to use a wheelchair, but a scooter was kind of cool in his book. So thanks to Disney, he went from being the slowest person around to being the fastest. I am sure my mom has lots of stories about him putting me in his lap and zooming away from her, leaving her to catch up to us. Sorry, Mom.
We could also do things together at Disney. Nearly all the rides had accommodations for people with disabilities and there really wasn’t anything like that outside of Disney. You know, he couldn’t play sports with me. He couldn’t go on rides at county fairs and things like that, but he could do everything with me at the theme parks. And that gave us so many wonderful memories over the years.
If it wasn’t for my dad and his love of Disney and Disney’s effort to be a place where people with disabilities can experience the same joy as able-bodied people, I don’t know that my life would have taken the path that it has. I left Florida after high school, but eventually returned for the Disney college program. And once that ended, I kept my part-time job there for seven or eight years as I finished my bachelor’s degree and my master’s degree. And since then, we’ve spent many years as pass holders and I’ve ended up making many, many memories with my own kids at Disney over the years.
My dad, Ronald Patterson, died three months ago in July. Thanks to COVID and him being in a nursing home, we were not able to make many memories those last few months. So I will always be grateful to Disney. Thanks for letting me share my story.
SW: Ok, it’s time. This is the last episode of Brought to you by… And if you’ve listened to the credits of this show before, you know that there is an incredible team behind it. In fact there have been two teams — the team that made Household Name, and the team that made Brought to you by… Here they are, one more time:
AMY PEDULLA: I’m Amy Pedulla, and I was a senior producer for Household Name.
ANNA MAZARAKIS: I’m Anna Mazarakis, and I was a producer for Household Name.
JENNI SIGL: I’m Jenni and I was a fellow on the team that made Household Name.
CASEY HOLFORD: I’m Casey Holford. I co-wrote the theme song to Household Name back in the day with John DeLore and I made a bunch of other fun versions of the theme, including the Atari version, and I also did a bunch of mixing on the show.
JOHN DELORE: My name is John DeLore. I produced and co-wrote the theme song with Casey, and gave notes on early episode scripts, and just sort of helped figure out what the show was going to sound like, which was a lot of fun. Kudos to the team over at Business Insider, this was a great show to work on. Thanks for having me.
CLARE RAWLINSON: I’m Clare Rawlinson, I was the senior producer for Household Name.
PETER CLOWNEY: Hi, this is Peter Clowney, and I did story editing for the show back when it was called Household Name.
GIANNA PALMER: I’m Gianna Palmer. I was a story editor for Household Name.
CAROLYN DUBOL: I’m Carolyn Dubol, and I was a story editor for Brought to you by…
DAN BOBKOFF: Hey, I’m Dan Bobkoff. I created the show, and I used to host it. Household Name. Brands you know, stories you don’t.
MICAELA BLEI: I’m Micaela Blei, and I’m the story editor for Brought to you by…
BILL MOSS: I’m Bill Moss, and I’ve been the sound designer during the Brought to you by… era.
JULIA PRESS: I’m Julia Press, and I’m a producer for Brought to you by…
CHARLIE HERMAN: I’m your host, Charlie Herman. Thanks for listening.
SARAH WYMAN: And I’m Sarah Wyman. I got to be an intern, an associate producer, and an executive producer of this show. And now, I’m the one who gets to put it to bed.
Thank you for listening. I know we say this almost every week, but I want you to know that our team read every single email you sent us. Every Facebook message. Every review. Every tweet. And for me personally it’s been incredible to get to work on something that so many people enjoyed listening to — or cared enough about to send us feedback. So, sincerely, thank you.
Our team is still on Twitter @BTYBpod, and we’ll be hanging out in the Facebook group this week too. Stop by and tell us what this show meant to you. It means a lot to be able to say goodbye in person.
And with that, there’s really just one thing left to say:
ALL: Brought to you by… was a production of Insider Audio.