It glides over the streets of Capitol Hill like an unidentified frying object. The famous "Wiener Jingle" blares from a loudspeaker on the roof. "Oh, I wish I were an Oscar Mayer wiener," recorded voices chorus over and over -- country western, then classical, then rhythm and blues, then jazz.
The Wienermobile itself fits no category.
On the road again this summer for the first time in a decade, for what Oscar Mayer has dubbed "A 50 Year Celebration," it stopped in Washington yesterday on its way to -- what else? -- Liberty Weekend. Thus the company has provided "50 Fact and Story Ideas From 50 Fun Years of the Wienermobile":
1. Hot Dogs on Parade . . . History of the Wienermobiles!
2. Wienermobiles -- the personal approach to advertising
3. The brains behind the Wienermobile: Carl G. Mayer, 1936 Advertising Manager
Sharing the wheel are Steve Pierce, 22, a recent graduate of the University of Wisconsin, and Jeff Cook, 21, a senior at the University of Iowa.
"Weeniesw,-2 sk,2 ld,10 driving is my job," says Pierce.
As to how one obtains such a job, suffice it to say that Pierce's sister does Wienermobile public relations, and Cook's father is an executive at Oscar Mayer.
5. Why the Wienermobile was built (1936)
Their days begin early, and run late. They started in May from Charlotte, N.C. Before their mission can be considered accomplished sometime in September, they will travel the length and breadth of the eastern and southern United States, visiting children's hospitals, riding in parades and, to hear them tell it, just wandering aimlessly.
"Some people say they get paid peanuts," Cook says. "We get paid wieners."
Don't they ever feel silly?
"For the first couple of days I did," Cook says. "I still do sometimes."
8. Would a Wienerscooter or a Wienercopter have been better? (Both were considered)
The Wienermobile pulls up to the Capitol and parks at the West Front. A couple of Capitol police officers quickly assess the situation.
"If that's the color of their hot dogs," says Officer W.J. Hawkins, noting the faded wiener-brown, "that ain't very appealing."
"How would you write that up in an accident report?" wonders Officer Ray Blodgett. A hefty colleague drives up in his cruiser. "Al," Blodgett tells the gaping newcomer, "I know you're always attracted by the smell of food, but this is ridiculous."
A concerned tourist approaches. "Are you sure that thing isn't filled with TNT?" he asks. Not to worry, he is told. "It'd be a good cover, though."
WIENERMOBILE OF DEATH!
20. Hazards of driving a Wienermobile (warning, the bun's wider than the wiener!)
"It drives just like a big Corvette," says Pierce.
"Harder than a Smokey Link, easier than a bacon slab," says Cook.
25. 1975 Wienermobile standard features: air conditioning, heating, and hatch for Little Oscar
Pierce says the current Little Oscar, George Molchan, is semiretired after 35 years as the company's "Lilliputian chef."
"He is just funny. He's just a great guy," Pierce adds.
"I'll tell you a story," says a 36-year-old tourist from Chicago, waxing nostalgic. "About five years ago, I went out of my way to one of the local food stores with my daughter because I heard Little Oscar and the Wienermobile were going to be there. And you know what? Little Oscar didn't show up."
"Maybe he wasn't feeling well," Pierce ventures.
29. Diameter of 1969 Wienermobile's hot dog: 5 feet
This particular Wienermobile, one of 10 produced, is 22 feet long. Built in 1969 in Madison, Wis., at a cost of $60,000, it boasts a Chevy van frame, Ford taillights, Corvette turn signals, fiberglass hot dog and bun, and a top speed of 55 mph. The first model was only 13 feet long and all metal. Times have changed.
34. Current homes of Wienermobiles: museums, garages, Spain, Hot Dog Heaven
At the Mall, a swarm of teen-age girls beseeches Pierce and Cook for a ride.
"PLEEEZE, PLEEEZE!" they howl. Cook shakes his head. Pierce smiles and shrugs.
"If you don't give us a ride," says Becky Katz of Rockville, "we'll never eat another Oscar Mayer product."
"Omigosh!" says Pierce. "Not that!"
*Finally the girls leave.
"Happy wieners!" he says, which is what he says to everybody.
36. The story of some famous people and the Wienermobile
Some people point and laugh, others just grin goofily. Some mutter to themselves. Others pointedly look the other way, still others look confused. A New York Times reporter, offered a ride to work, recoils in horror.
A German tourist, one of a group debarking from a bus on the Mall, exclaims, "Look, a wurstmobile!"
38. Why the Wienermobile works: Hot Dogs are Fun! (Or . . . would anyone visit a meatloafmobile?)
Conversation in heavy traffic:
"How do you get to the FBI building?"
"Take a right at the first wiener."
41. Second Verse of the Wiener Jingle: "Oh I'm Glad I'm Not an Oscar Mayer Wiener"
When their assignment is completed, Cook will return to school for his marketing degree. Pierce, whose specialty is geology and geophysics, says he doesn't know what he'll do.
"Probably go through the help-wanted ads in the paper, looking for listings that say 'Wienermobile driving experience preferred.' "