CHICAGO- Earlier today, a hero of America's youth confessed on NBC's 'Today' show that he's just another sufferer in what looks like a national epidemic.
The Kool-Aid Man, a 35 year old commercial actor from New York City, told NBC's Meredith Vieira that his years of running into brick walls have finally taken its toll.
"I'm just here to say that when you're young you feel like you can do anything. You don't think of the consequences. Today, I'm feeling the consequences.'"
The Kool-Aid Man spent most of his formidable years dancing and laughing his way into the hearts of millions worldwide. But as the years progressed, one action seemed to take its toll on the fragile pitcher.
"We were doing a shoot in LA...and, well...I was backstage...you have to understand, it was the 70's. It was LA. So, needless to say, there was a lot of blow going around. So, me and Cap'n Crunch were partying with Mrs. Butterworth...yeah, I know, trust me, Mrs. Butterworth was off the chain back then...I know, weird, right? Like I said, it was the 70's, it was LA, it
was a different time. Well, anyway...The three of us are rockin' out, listening to some Fleetwood Mac, and when they were ready for me to come on set, I busted through this brick wall and shouted 'Oh, Yeah!' First, people were scared shitless, but as a couple of seconds wore off, people started to laugh. You have to understand, I was the life of the party back then. Well, at the post-shoot cast parties, they'd want me to do the same thing..."Hey, Kool-Aid Man, do that thing where you jump through the brick wall and scream!", "Hey, Kool-Aid guy, let's get this party started with an explosion, buddy!" Well, this guy from corporate was at one of these parties, and he gets this grand idea... So, he shuffles the idea to our advertising and marketing group that I should start doing these for commercials. That's when the shit hit the fan. Now, pretty much every day for the next ump-teen years, I was running through brick walls, signing autographs, meeting ladies...it was amazing. I was making mad cash...I started getting new flavors, I started getting digitally manipulated, you know...all done up and stuff. Then...well...things just started to change."
Those 'things' were mainly concussions. Kool Aid-Man estimates that he suffered multiple concussions on an annual basis from 1981 to present day. Neurologists state that the toll it has created on his mental well-being has been devastating.
"Sometimes, I walk into a room and I don't know why I'm there."
The Kool-Aid Man struggled throughout the interview, pausing to wipe away the dripping condensation from his face.
"You have to understand...I've been a fighter my whole life. I never complained. I never asked to be taken out of a commercial. Back in the 70s, you didn't ask to get out of a commercial. You got banged up, you just got back on your feet and kept going until the shoot was over. We didn't have stunt doubles back then. We did it all on our own. Now, these digitally enhanced actors today have three backups ready to go in at any time. A part of me wants the new guys to suck it up every once in a while...but I know that's stupid. Nobody should end up like me."
Vieira asked the Kool-Aid Man what specific roadblocks his concussions have created in his daily life.
"It starts with breakfast. I'll crack open some eggs and I'll just stare at them. Before you know it, the toast is burnt and the eggs are overdone. I'll walk the streets through the day...I'll have nowhere to go...Somebody will point to me and say, 'Hey, Kool-Aid Man, you forgot your ice!' They'll tell me this, and it's already 1 p.m....and I still won't realize that I don't have ice in my body! Imagine waking up in the morning and forgetting to put on your pants!"
The news of Kool-Aid Man's trials comes at a time of massive re-evaluation of how concussions are being treated with America's youth.
Thousands of young adults across America are learning more about concussions and the consequences of head injuries. Many parents are pulling their children from football fields and opting for them to play in less contact sports.
The Kool-Aid Man agrees with this change.
"When you're young, you think you can do anything. The fact is, the contact you make is with you for the rest of your life."
These days, The Kool-Aid Man is in the hands of a new agency. He is completely computer-generated and wears a shirt and jeans. He's keeping kids happy, and imploring them to make healthy choices.
For the retired Kool-Aid Man, it's bittersweet.
"Time goes on. New kids come in. These kids are smarter than I was. They take care of themselves. Hopefully, they'll learn from my lessons."
The Kool-Aid Man has made a couple positive changes. His cocaine usage ended in 1994, and now he's a counselor at a local drug rehab center.
"I can help people now. Doing lots of cocaine and running through brick walls is no way to live a life. It only leads to misery."
While the interview was a troubling sight for most that followed the American superstar, the ending was an insight to the troubling world in which he lives.
Meredith Vieira tried to close the interview, but Kool-Aid Man kept interrupting to ask where his wallet was. In a moment of sad realization, Vieira pointed out that the Kool-Aid Man had the wallet in his hand the whole time.
"In my hand? What do you mean? (pause) Oh......yeah."