Clara Peller

August 4th Celebrates Clara Peller

Who remembers the little old lady from the Wendy’s commercial saying, “Where’s the Beef?”

Born August 4th 1902, in Illinois, Clara Peller lived for most of her early life in Chicago, although she later moved to the suburban North Shore area to be near her daughter. Married at age 20 to a local jeweler, she was divorced eight years later, with two children, a boy and a girl. She worked for 35 years as a manicurist at a local Chicago beauty salon.

At age 80, Peller was hired as a temporary manicurist for a television commercial set in a Chicago barbershop. Impressed by her no-nonsense manners and unique voice, the agency later asked her to sign a contract as an actress for the agency.

Though hard of hearing and suffering from emphysema, which limited her ability to speak long lines of dialogue, Peller was quickly utilized in a number of TV spot advertisements, including a new commercial for the Wendy’s Restaurant chain.

First airing on January 10, 1984, the Wendy’s commercial portrayed a fictional fast-food competitor entitled “Big Bun”, where three elderly ladies are served an enormous hamburger bun containing a minuscule hamburger patty.

While two of the women are so engaged, they are interrupted by an irascible Peller, who searches in vain for customer assistance while making the outraged demand: “Where’s the beef!”

Today’s YouTube video brought to you by, GarfieldFco is Clara Peller starring in her famous role in Wendy’s TV commerical in 1984.

Peller’s “Where’s the beef” line instantly became a catchphrase across the United States. The diminutive octogenarian actress made the three-word phrase a cultural phenomenon as Wendy’s, sales jumped 31% to $945 million in 1985 worldwide.

Per the terms of her Screen Actors Guild union contract, the actress was free to participate in any commercials for products, goods or services, which did not directly compete with Wendy’s hamburgers. She subsequently signed a contract with the Campbell Soup Company to appear in an advertisement for Prego Pasta Plus spaghetti sauce. In the Prego commercial, Peller examines the Prego sauce and after wondering “Where’s the beef?” declares, “I found it! I really found it”. However, after the Prego commercial aired on television in 1985, Wendy’s management decided to terminate her contract, contending that the Prego commercial implies “that Clara found the beef at somewhere other than Wendy’s restaurants”.

Despite the setback with Wendy’s, Peller continued to make the most of her new-found fame, granting numerous press interviews and making several guest TV appearances. She regularly amused interviewers and friends by claiming not to know exactly how old she was, once telling a frustrated Social Security clerk (who was given three different ages by Ms. Peller) that she was “whichever one will get me Social Security”.

Peller died on August 11, 1987, in Chicago, one week after her 85th birthday. She is buried in Waldheim Jewish Cemetery.

Written & Designed by JD Mitchell

J.D Mitchell Design Studio


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