by The Big Snake
Have you ever had a childhood memory hit you out of the blue? Vivid and clear like it just happened yesterday? This happened to me the other day, while I was thinking about Denny’s (not a rare activity for me) and I have not been able to shake it since. The memory was that of a big-ass sandwich, piled high with all sorts of flavorful breakfast meats and cheeses, smack-dab in between a hardy sourdough roll. This sandwich that emerged out of the murky depths of my mind, so vividly that I could even taste it, was none other than the Breakfast Dagwood that Denny’s once proudly served at all 1,593 of their locations across the country. In case you missed out on the magnum opus of breakfast sandwiches–maybe because you weren’t born yet, you’re too rich to eat at a Denny’s, or you’re just plain ignorant–here is a delicious picture:
Slap some gravy on those hash browns and you’re living like me at 9 years old! Inside a Denny’s!
Despite this being one of the best things anyone could get at a Denny’s, somewhere down the line they scrapped it from their menu. One could not even be ordered upon special request. No warning, no reason, just there one day and gone the next. The sudden disappearance of the Dagwood obviously has haunted me to this day, so I finally had to reach out for some answers. First, I decided I would go straight to the horse’s mouth; Denny’s itself. I sent the following message to them via their official website.
So there, I put it all out there for you Denny’s. I spread it out on the table just like one of your signature Grand-Slam breakfast platters, with my only hope being to get an honest answer as to the demise of a beloved favorite. I waited nervously for days (2 days to be exact), then finally got a response while I was at work one day. I took my break early, very early, about 15 minutes after I got there early, just so I could take a look at my long awaited response. When I opened up the email, this is what I saw:
Customer Service agent GCT0000436971 has let me down, yet again.
… “Item/side/entree”? Really Denny’s?! I spend a full hour on a Saturday night sharing my bittersweet story with you and ask for one simple thing, and you can’t even select ONE of the three options you have in your pre-made email template before sending a response?! I could have spent my Saturday night doing something much more productive, like continuing to cyber-bully Carrot Top on Twitter.
Okay, so we went to the horse’s mouth and they said what every horse says: nothing. Not really a surprise, it is a horse after all. Now to a certain extent I get it, Denny’s must get all kinds of emails like this. Between The Breakfast Dagwood and the Fried Cheese Melt alone (the latter being returned to the menu), I imagine thousands of angry people with downright savage drinking habits must lash out, demanding an old favorite to make a come back. If they thought that this email was going to stop my search, however, they were wrong. Denny’s was hiding something… and I was going to find out what it was.
It was time for me to take a step back here, perhaps I got a bit too ahead of myself. There was clearly more to this than meets the eye. Me going straight to the top and expecting answers was the investigative equivalent of crashing a convertible car right through the rotating doors of Denny’s Corporate and drunkenly screaming “Where’s my Dagwood?!” I knew I needed to go back and discover the origins of The Breakfast Dagwood, where it came from and why. I spent the next few days feverishly researching on the internet, as no libraries around me had a Denny’s Reference Section, as they so rudely pointed out to me when asked. Despite the rude and probably overpaid librarian’s lack of help, I started to get some answers.
As it turns out, a “Dagwood” sandwich is actually a common term for any large sandwich. The name is an ode to the beloved cartoon character “Dagwood Bumstead” from one of the longest running, most popular American comic series of all time: “Blondie”. Blonde’s heyday was during a simpler time in America, when all you needed to have a nationally beloved and syndicated cartoon series was a voluptuous blonde and a blundering, sandwich loving-idiot as the main characters. Dagwood was Blondie’s doofy, incompetent, lazy husband who was basically a useless moron. But damn it, did he made one hell of a comically over-sized sandwich. Here is a classic example:
Haha, Dagwood you idiot! That sandwich is not a reasonable portion!
Funny, right? So funny that it even earned a ten-year serial movie deal that everyone ate up with the same vigor and downright stupidity with which dumb old Dagwood would eat his sandwiches. My personal feelings about the “Blondie” series aside, something told me I should start doing some research into the history of this comic. Once again, I skipped my court date and receded into the world-wide-web. This is when I found my smoking gun.
The Blondie comic was originally launched on September 8, 1930. It was created by an already popular cartoonist at the time, a man by the name of Chic Young. Ol’ Chic continued to draw and write the comic until his death in 1973, at which time creative control was passed on to his son Dean Young. While you couldn’t push the rights to Blondie on most of us now without bribing us or giving us one heck of a sob story, inheriting the rights to Blondie in 1973 would have been like inheriting the rights to The Simpson’s now. Presumably being much less talented than his father, and with a much crappier work ethic, this little 35 year old trust-fund baby teamed up with a few illustrators and continues to beat this dead horse further into the ground til this day. Once I found this out, I knew this guy must have had something to do with it. People who are born into the lavish lap of luxury have been making simple pleasures less accessible for the layman since the dawn of civilization. First it was exotic spices, then music, art, movies, sports, abusing prescription pills, the list goes on. An affordable breakfast sandwich is certainly not safe from that list, especially if he had some right to claim it was his own. If you think this smoking gun is a bit presumptuous, how about if this gun walked right up to the other one, asked for a cigarette, lit it up and started smoking harder and faster than his friend?
In 2006, a Mr. Dean Young opened up a franchise of official “Blondie” themed eateries called “Dagwood Sandwich Shoppes”. Wow, way to strike while the iron is hot, Dean! I can’t imagine why the chain never became as profitable as projected… Putting aside the miserable failure of this franchise, the advent of this endeavor appears to be around the same time that the Breakfast Dagwood mysteriously “disappeared” from the Denny’s menu. Would Dean Young really sink low enough as to sue/intimidate Denny’s into getting rid of their wildly popular Breakfast Dagwood sandwich in a pathetic attempt to be the only Dagwood in town? If you still find my accusations about Mr. Dean Young’s character unfounded, maybe I should introduce you to the gun that walked up to my other two smoking guns, picked them both up, lit them on fire and turned into one big gun smoking two smaller smoking guns.
Here is an article I found after a quick google search entitled “Developers of Dagwood’s Sandwich sue for Fraud”, in which the good people at Franchise Times describe the ongoing lawsuit the developers who bought into the Dagwood franchise have with the founders since they filed for bankruptcy.
“Okay, so he cooked up a little franchise scheme with some friends and fudged the numbers to skim a few million off the top. Do I think he would threaten Denny’s with a lawsuit to get rid of that silly breakfast sandwich? No way.” – Dean Young’s lawyer, probably.
Is that gun smoking or what?! I’ll leave the link to the rest of that article later, but right now I’m getting so steaming mad at the thought of letting that 80 year-old rich kid get away with this that I can’t steady my hand enough to copy and paste. Sure, he might lose money on his pending lawsuit, but he should fry for ripping The Breakfast Dagwood right out of childhood me’s hands. The only way I could find to contact Dean was through sending an email to someone named Dianne, who apparently runs the official Blondie Facebook page. I did, and I went all in.
Nothing personal, Dianne. You just picked the wrong Facebook fan page to moderate.
After sending this email I waited days, then weeks. No response from Dianne. I began to think perhaps I should try another approach, like maybe make a fake Facebook profile posing as a lawyer and send a message like “Hey this is for Dean, remember when we stuck it to those jerks at Denny’s? Haha, good times. Respond if you remember any of this. ” However, just as I was about to take a more drastic step, I received this heart warming email from an employee from the Middletown Denny’s. My Denny’s.
Far from the Dagwood indeed, my friend.
Sam must have seen my original email from corporate, and decided to respond to it himself! This is the kind of the human response that I craved from the start, and how nice it felt to know that he remembered and missed the Dagwood as well! Although I know he was probably kept in the dark on the real reason of the demise of the Dagwood, I think he knows just as well as I that it wasn’t because “It didn’t do well.”
What now? Could I have shared with this employee the truth about what really happened to the Breakfast Dagwood? Sure, but it would do him no good. He is but one employee in a global franchise, in a world full of global franchises, that are waging a never ending war with each other over who gets to harvest the most of the cash-crop that is mankind. Neither of us could have stopped Dean Young from opening his lame-ass franchise, nor Denny’s from getting rid of the Breakfast Dagwood for that matter (although here is an online petition to bring it back, please e-sign and continue reading). All we can do in this life is enjoy what we have while it’s there. I appreciate the years I got to eat that Breakfast Dagwood when it was around, and if Denny’s did keep it around all these years maybe it wouldn’t have felt as special anymore. It might have ended up sticking around way too long and getting shittier and shittier, just like the horrible “Blondie” cartoon that lead to it’s demise.
Anyways, I’m off to try one of those Grand-slamwiches at the Middletown Denny’s. I’ll leave you with the most recent picture I could find of Dean Young, so if you run into him you can really give him a piece of my mind. Thank you.