David Keeler/Getty
Stephen M. Silverman
April 09, 2013 02:20 PM

In the 1970s, after McDonald’s introduced Ronald but before Wendy’s introduced the elderly “Where’s the Beef?” lady, the Jack in the Box fast-food chain featured commercials with a cherubic Rodney Allen Rippy, no more than 4, attempting to bite into a Jumbo Jack.

“It’s too big to eat!” says the tot, barely distinguishable because of the food in his mouth. (See commercial in video below.)

How famous did cute little Rodney become? Enough for Tonight Show host Johnny Carson to mention him in monologues. Enough for Michael Jackson, who was 10 years Rodney’s senior, to befriend him at the time.

Cut to 40 years later, and a 44-year-old Rippy is no longer cherubic and no longer hawking burgers.

A 1995 graduate of California State University-Dominguez Hills, according to his Linked In profile, Rippy has operated his own public relations firm, Ripped Marketing Group. But now he has political ambitions.

Running for mayor of the Los Angeles County city of Compton (pop. 96,000-plus), Rippy has a campaign website and a Facebook page (1,678 like it as of midday Tuesday), as well as a slogan: “Investing in me is an investment in Compton’s future.”

In comments to Los Angeles station KABC, Rippy said of his campaign, “A lot of people initially thought this was something that wasn’t true, but it is really true, and so I’m excited.”

And he’s serious. As promised on his flier, “Things I will bring to Compton: • Job Creation • Green & BioTech development • Re-think Education Enhancements • Health & Wellness • Financial Education Benefits.”

According to the Los Angeles Times, Compton stands at a crossroads, and the primary election on April 16 is a critical one.

The newspaper reports that although once riddled with violence, Compton’s crime rate has plummeted in the past decade, especially where homicides are concerned. But the promise of economic advancement, as evidenced by the opening of chain stores, is being threatened by a financial meltdown at City Hall.

As it stands, Rippy faces some formidable competition. Jacquelyn Deloatch, a bail bondswoman who is but one mayoral candidate in the very crowded field – besides Rippy and Deloatch, the Times lists at least six other contenders – has announced: “I am the Moses that God sent to this community. I am saying to the leadership that thought they were leading us, let my people go.”

But can she beat a once-beloved TV personality?

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