Though practically unrecognized (at least by name) for the length of his television career, it's impossible to ignore his influence on the medium. During the '60s and '70s, you couldn't swing a dead cat without hitting one of his numerous guest appearances in such shows as Hogan's Heroes, I Dream of Jeannie, and Bewitched (where he invariably played the drunk who would witness Samantha's magic, blink incredulously, and then pour his booze out on the street). Though his acting stints were legion, he's still primarily remembered from the commercials for Charmin bathroom tissue, and by the name of his most famous character--Mr. Whipple.
After the commercial debuted in 1964, "Don't squeeze the Charmin!" became one of the most recognizable commercial catch-phrases in advertising history. And though the name of Dick Wilson was virtually unknown, by 1978, Mr. Whipple was awarded third place in a poll of "best-known Americans," behind Reverend Billy Graham and former president Nixon. And one look at those old Charmin commercials proves why! The ads spoke on a deep, primal level to a class of Americans that had been virtually ignored. As it turned out, Mr. Whipple and his toilet paper display were perfect metaphors for the sexual repression of middle-aged women.
Sure, during the "sexually liberated" '60s and '70s, men (and in particular, dirty, stinking, lice-infested hippies) were sticking their genitalia in whatever hole happened to be available--but what about older American women? They wanted to be liberated too, but since sex was portrayed as being only for promiscuous youth and the men-folk, middle-aged women were forced to abstain and "stew in their own juices"... so to speak.
Then along came Whipple. In these famous Charmin commercials, middle-aged women would gather at the toilet paper displays and longingly squeeeeeeeeze those big fat rolls (even though a large sign forbade them from doing so). The ladies forged a bond by confessing to one another their deepest, most secret desires: "Charmin is so squeeezably soft... I just can't help myself!" But just as these unfulfilled horny housewives squeezed themselves into a sexual frenzy, Mr. Whipple (representing the threatened American male) would pop out, nipping their orgasms in the bud. "Ladies, please!" he would scold, "Don't squeeze the Charmin!" (i.e., "Don't indulge in your own sexuality!").
Formally chastised and embarrassed, the women would slink away--leaving Mr. Whipple alone to furiously squeeze the Charmin in secret, partaking in the very sin he denied others. And then... revolution! The women would return, and after catching Mr. Whipple in the act of succumbing to his baser instincts, they would turn the tables on his hypocrisy: "Uh, Uh, Uh, Mr. Whipple!" they would say with a wag of the finger. "Don't squeeze the Charmin." Everyone would have a good laugh, even Mr. Whipple who, though embarrassed, learned a valuable lesson in human sexuality: Nature ultimately defies regulation.
Though Mr. Whipple hasn't been seen since his last Charmin commercial in 1990, viewers will rejoice in learning that Dick Wilson (now a sprightly 82-year-old) will be recreating his most famous role. Starting July 1, he'll be trumpeting the merits of a new and improved Charmin; one that's stronger and more absorbent than ever before--yet, still squeezably soft! So, on behalf of his fans, I would like to congratulate and salute the brilliant Dick Wilson: an actor who devoted his entire career to teaching others that you shouldn't have to say "please" just to get a little "squeeze."