I idolized my cousin Merrie when I was a kid. The first time I ever took a plane by myself was to visit her in LA. She lived in Studio City, and she took me out for Sushi. At the time she was working on Full House, so I had the opportunity to be an ice skating extra. I used my wages to buy my first pet rat, Willie. But I digress.
Before Full House, Merrie worked on the iconic children’s program Punky Brewster. I remember going to visit her at the studio with my parents and getting an opportunity to shake Brandon the dog’s hand backstage. He was well trained. I might have even had a brush with a pre-breast reduction Soleil Moon Frye.
After meeting Brandon and Punky, I remember a very formative coming of age experience I lived through the show back home. It was the first time I had ever seen drugs. Punky makes friends with a group of mean, popular mall rats, who call themselves the “chicklets.” Because of Punky’s cool style, the chicklets try to recruit her and her African American friend into their girl gang clique.
But after Punky invites the gang into her illustrious tree house, they attempt to initiate her with a cocktail of illegal drugs. I vividly remember seeing the stash and thinking, “Drugs look a lot like candy. What if somebody gives me candy and it’s actually drugs and I get high.”
The chicklet says to Punky, “It’s just some grass, a few uppers, and some nose candy. You know, cocaine! It’s not a big deal. It makes you feel happy and relaxed.”
Punky did what I would do. She just says no, and promises to start a club that “makes us feel good about ourselves.” Naturally it’s called the “Just Say No Club.” Punky proceeds to be the Grand Marshal of various large-scale anti-drug parades, and leads thousands of protesters in the chant, “Just Say No.” This was of course at the height of the crack wars in America.
So lesson learned… watch out for the nose candy, and also keep an eye out for sugar candy that looks like uppers. Peace.