Lucky Charms Leprechaun: 'I'm Not Irish'

Cereal Mascot and Other Green-for-a-Day Revelers Celebrate St. Patrick's Day


March 15, 2005 — First, I hear rumors about SpongeBob's sexuality. Now, I learn the truth about another Saturday morning TV legend: The Lucky Charms leprechaun is not Irish. Someone get my shillelagh!

Cynic that I am, I never should have trusted a mischievous little man in less-than-masculine attire who dances a merry jig and tells kids that he's on the run because "they're always after me Lucky Charms!"

Let us just pray that when he extolled Lucky Charms he wasn't referring to anything but a "magically delicious" frosted cereal. You can't even trust a leprechaun anymore.

Not that Arthur Anderson, the voice of Lucky the Leprechaun for 29 years, ever claimed to hail from the Emerald Isle. People just assumed.

"People have expectations," says Anderson, 83. "I just have an Irish-sounding name."

That chuckling Irish brogue — one of the many voices Anderson honed on old-time radio shows such as the 1940s series "Let's Pretend" — turned out to be the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, providing a steady income for nearly 30 years.

Nobody asked for Anderson's nationality in 1963 when he auditioned, not even the president of General Mills. He was so perfect, it was either assumed he had a touch of the Blarney — or it didn't matter.

Now, after six decades in show business, with credits in radio, TV and film, Anderson has good reason to pull on a green tie, like so many New Yorkers who head off to the St. Patrick's Day Parade. It's an annual event that draws more than a million spectators, many of whom, like Anderson, have no ethnic ties to Erin.

"I have reason to celebrate," Anderson says. "I had the luck of the Irish to get that part."

Being a TV leprechaun up until 1992 helped pull the actor through some lean years. After radio theater, he worked on stage and took small parts in episodes of "Law & Order" and such films as "I'm Not Rappaport" and "Green Card."

"I never got free cereal," he says. "But they gave me lots of green money. And it was a fun character to play. Hardly a day goes by when somebody doesn't ask me to sing the Lucky Charms jingle, and I'm proud of that."

These days, Anderson directs and performs with Friends of Old Time Radio, a group that revives classic audio broadcasts. At the group's convention in Newark, N.J., this October, it will perform "The Lone Ranger."

Perhaps Anderson best underscores a simple fact: Anyone can go green on St. Paddy's Day. There are about 37 million people of Irish descent in the United States, and yet the National Retail Federation estimates that 111 million celebrate the holiday. Some will go green for the day simply by wearing shamrock-shaded clothing to work.

But the retail group also estimates that more than 19 million revelers will head off to bars and restaurants, a number that suggests St. Paddy's Day is an all-inclusive celebration.

In another example of overzealous multiculturalism, Bruegger's bakeries are offering green bagels all across the country.

If you're looking for a nontraditional St. Patrick's Day experience, here are a few suggestions:

1. Adopt an Irish Ghost
Having trouble getting into the spirit of St. Patrick's Day? Perhaps all you need is to open your home to an Irish ghost — and, luckily, they're for sale.

My Adopted Ghost — a "ghost adoption service" that launched last month — is letting mere mortals share their homes and lives with supernatural spirits. You just fill out an adoption application to see if you're a suitable ghost dad or mom, and your home may soon be happily haunted.

An adopted spook is the perfect companion for your pet rock, especially if your pet rock is the malicious sort that keeps manipulating you into blowing money on more novelty items.

In honor of St. Patrick's Day, the company is offering a series of Irish spirits, such as the Ghost of Liam Bryan, to its list of "pending adoptions." Mr. Bryan is said to have lived in Dublin and died after jumping off a train bound for Shannon. The details of his life and death are told in his biography, which you get as part of the Ghost Adoption Kit. Prices start at $24.

Of course, not everyone is a suitable ghost parent, especially if you've got a lot of pets and very little free time. Ghosts are inherently jealous, the company's Web site warns. But my guess is that if you pay $24, it's yours. And you can start living your own Irish ghost story.

2. Another Saint, Another Reason to Drink
If you can't raise a toast with the Irish on March 17, maybe you can revel a day earlier with Finnish-Americans who dress in purple and head to pubs to celebrate St. Urho's Day.

The March 16 celebration began nearly 50 years ago in Virginia, Minn., when department store manager Richard Mattson rued the fact that Finnish folks didn't have their own St. Patrick's Day — so he started his own.

Mattson convinced his employer to throw an office party to honor Finland's Saint Urho Kekkonen, who supposedly rid his homeland's vineyards of locusts.

It turned out to be a great party. Co-workers gathered around and drank heartily as Mattson recounted how the saintly man stood on a rock shouting, "Heinasirkka, heinasirkka, menetaalta hiiteen," which is Finnish for "Grasshopper, grasshopper, go away!"

There was only one problem: St. Urho never existed.

But is that really a reason to stop partying? The ersatz holiday is still celebrated in Minnesota towns like Menahga and Finland, where you'll find statues honoring the fictitious saint.

You can even head over to Butte, Mont., for the St. Urho's Day Parade, where participants are encouraged to pelt each other with grapes. The event is highlighted by the "Changing of the Guards" ceremony in which St. Urho Knights mark the end of winter by removing their green and purple long underwear.

Let's just hope no marriages are ruined and no one is arrested.

3. Space Leprechaun on the Loose
Just because you see some little green men on St. Patrick's Day doesn't mean they're all leprechauns. Two years ago, UFO researcher Donald Johnson of New Hampshire explained that studies of UFO sightings spike on 42-day cycles that have coincided with the Irish holiday in recent years.

Even if you don't believe in the UFO phenomenon, you must admit that it'd be fiendishly clever for space aliens to pass themselves off as St. Patrick's Day partygoers. It would explain their green skin and strange ways. What about the antennae sprouting from their foreheads? After enough beers, doesn't everyone seem to have antennae?

Of course, attendance at certain St. Patrick's Day parties might lead anyone from any galaxy to report back to the mother ship: "No sign of intelligent life."

Buck Wolf is entertainment producer at "The Wolf Files" is published Tuesdays.