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Grumpy Old Fan | What the Twinkie teaches

That's a big metaphor

Consider the Twinkie. A relic of a more indulgent age, lately almost an afterthought, and most recently the latest symbol of vanished childhoods everywhere, it is once more in the spotlight due to the apparent end of the Hostess company.

While I have my own thoughts on the specifics of that particular corporate conclusion, suffice it to say that my sympathies are more with the soon-to-be-displaced workers than with either Hostess’ management or the Twinkies’ fans. Still, the reaction to Hostess’ demise demonstrates that there’s still a demand for the indestructible yellow creme-torpedoes — perhaps even more so now — and as long as people want ‘em, the Twinkies will be there.

The most important thing about a Twinkie is that it’s a Twinkie. Specifically, it’s made according to a particular recipe, and it has a particular name. Those two pieces of intellectual property will most likely be sold as part of Hostess’ liquidation, thereby giving their new owner the ability to make “genuine” Twinkies. In my estimation, it’s only a matter of time before Twinkies, Ho-Hos, Ding-Dongs, and all their confectionery cousins find their way back to stores near you.

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Hostess, a little piece of comics history, is going out of business

Hostess Brands, the long-struggling wholesale baker whose offbeat ads for Twinkies, CupCakes and Fruit Pies were a staple of American comics from 1975 to 1982, will close for good next week in the wake of a crippling nationwide strike.

The Irving, Texas-based company, which filed for bankruptcy protection in January, announced this morning it will sell off all of its assets because not enough striking workers met its Thursday deadline to return to work. Plant operations already have been suspended, but Hostess retail stores will remain open for several more days to sell already-baked products.

“We deeply regret the necessity of today’s decision, but we do not have the financial resources to weather an extended nationwide strike,” CEO Gregory F. Rayburn said in a statement. “Hostess Brands will move promptly to lay off most of its 18,500-member workforce and focus on selling its assets to the highest bidders.”

The Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union went on strike Nov. 9 after the company imposed a contract that would cut wages by 8 percent and benefits by 27 to 32 percent, leading Hostess to permanently close three plants on Nov. 12. Executives warned that if a sufficient number of employees didn’t return to work by Thursday at 5 p.m. ET, it would seek permission from the U.S. Bankruptcy Court to liquidate the company. ABC News reports that if the motion is approved, the shutdown could begin as early as Tuesday.

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Hostess, offbeat staple of ’70s and ’80s comics, to file for bankruptcy

Wonder Woman in Cooky La Moo on Broadway

Hostess Brands, whose quirky full-page ads for Twinkies, CupCakes and Fruit Pies were a hallmark of American comic books from 1975 to 1982, is expected to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection as early as this week.

The Wall Street Journal reports the move will be the second significant court restructuring for the wholesale baker and distributor, which employs about 19,000 people and carries more than $860 million in debt. The Irving, Texas-based Hostess, formerly Interstate Bakeries Corporation, has been struggling since it emerged in February 2009 from four years of bankruptcy proceedings. High labor costs and rising prices of sugar, flour and other ingredients are being blamed for its financial woes, which include more than $50 million owed to anxious vendors.

Although the company’s brands include Drake’s, Dolly Madison and Wonder Bread, it’s perhaps best known — certainly to comic readers of a certain age — for its Hostess line. The snack cakes became a staple of American comics during a seven-year advertising campaign that featured such characters as Aquaman, Archie, Batman, Bugs Bunny, Iron Man and Spider-Man in one-page adventures in which Hostess products played a key role.

In the aptly named “Fruit Pies for Magpies,” three would-be thieves are distracted by (you guessed it!) Fruit Pies, providing Batgirl with an opportunity to lasso them. In another installment, Captain America saves Nick Fury from the steely grip of “the Trapster’s goon” by hurling his Fruit Pie-covered shield at the criminal. And then there was that time Captain Marvel lured a giant flea market-eating flea — let that soak in — into a net by using Twinkies as bait.

Tomorrow’s Heroes has an archive of 204 Hostess ads, if you’re looking to kill a little time.

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