The California Raisins are in the middle of a mild rhubarb, and the ad-celebrities won't be marching in President-elect George Bush's inaugural parade.
The wrinkled television stars were billed last week by parade coordinators as prominent characters in the 78-float parade, following the swearing-in on Jan. 20.But the people who run the California Raisin Advisory Board, which bankrolls the famous corrugated crowd of TV ad fame, said it was news to them.
The inaugural procession would include attractions "from bell-ringers to bagpipes . . . California raisins to rodeo queens," said the announcements on parade plans.
"I was surprised to read it," said Robert Phinney, the board's director of advertising.
Phinney denied that Bush's "damned dancing raisins" crack had anything to do with the board's refusal to have people in California Raisin costumes march.
For more than two years, the board has promoted its product with the help of animated figures shaped like raisins, dancing to the 1960s song, "I Heard it Through The Grapevine."
Since then, raisin sales shot up 11 percent and more than 300 raisin dolls, shirts and other items have gone on store shelves.
The human version of the California Raisins, people in black tights under costumes, occasionally make public appearances, and during Christmastime first lady Nancy Reagan invited the furrowed fellows to help entertain children of foreign diplomats at a White House party. But the parade presented some new wrinkles.
Ed Cassidy, spokesman for the Bush inaugural committee, said the raisin marchers were selected by the Council on Physical Fitness to accompany its float, but that the raisin advisory board but the kibosh on the plans.
Phinney said the hangup was the council's plan for the raisins to walk 21/2 miles. Such a walk, he said, would be too tough on the raisins.