Five hours, two hostages and a standoff with police later, the 1989 incident had become an example of a bizarre misunderstanding gone outrageously wrong. The subject: the devilish, bucktoothed, rabbit-eared mascot of Domino’s, which coincidentally shared the gunman’s last name.
Kenneth Lamar Noid, 22, was “having an ongoing feud in his mind with the owner of Domino’s Pizza about the ‘Noid’ commercials,” Chamblee, Ga., police sergeant Mark Bender told reporters at the time. “Apparently, he thinks they’re aimed at him.”
Now the Noid — the red-clad claymation character, not the real person — has returned to Domino’s commercials nearly three decades after the multinational chain phased him out, the company announced last week. The Noid’s rebound, which will include appearances in the “Crash Bandicoot” gaming series, coincides with a Domino’s marketing push around its testing of driverless cars meant to streamline pizza delivery.
“The Noid is Domino’s oldest and most famous villain, and the pizza delivery testing we’re doing with Nuro’s autonomous vehicle is exactly the kind of technology innovation that could provoke the Noid to return,” Kate Trumbull, Domino’s vice president of advertising, said in a statement. “However, after 35 years of practice in avoiding the Noid, we’re pretty confident we know how to defeat it.”
The Noid was born in the mid-1980s out of an intense competition between the delivery-focused Domino’s and fellow thick-crust purveyor Pizza Hut, where customers mostly ate in the restaurants. Domino’s needed a way to combat customers’ worry that their pies would arrive cold and reeking of cigarette smoke from the delivery cars, Ernie Perich, the creative director behind the Noid campaign, told radio show “Studio 360” in 2018.
So the advertising executives created a bad guy, named after Domino’s employees’ nickname of “Dominoids,” who would try to thwart the company’s attempts to fill each delivery order in less than 30 minutes. In commercials, the mischievous character unsuccessfully tries to freeze, dissect and pogo-stick on pizza boxes before they get to their destinations.
“At Domino’s Pizza, we avoid the Noid!” the company says in one voice-over.
The Noid grew into a phenomenon, appearing on T-shirts, in his own computer game and in Michael Jackson’s musical film “Moonwalker,” before Domino’s stopped promoting the character in the early 1990s. Since then, the Noid has made only periodic appearances in Domino’s advertising. Jenny Fouracre, a spokeswoman for the company, denied that the hostage incident played a role in the decision.
Burnsed, the pizza maker, recalled to “Studio 360” the incident that had made the Noid such a fraught character. Then 21, Burnsed was tasked with opening the store on the January afternoon that devolved into fracas. Kenneth Noid, who appeared to be over 6 feet tall, came to the door around noon with a .357 Magnum.
Noid explained that he felt Domino’s owed him money for the Noid character, and he wanted Burnsed to get the company’s founder, Tom Monaghan, on the phone. Burnsed told “Studio 360” that he called the only Domino’s number that he knew would get answered, the safety hotline, and told the woman on the other end what was happening.
“I’m pretty sure she thought it was a joke,” Burnsed told “Studio 360.” “About a second or two later, Kenneth pulled the trigger on his gun and fired a couple of shots into the ceiling, and the lady’s demeanor immediately changed.”
In the background, Noid stated loudly that he would kill Burnsed if police arrived at the store in a northeast suburb of Atlanta. Then, Burnsed said, Noid hung up the phone.
All of the restaurant’s phones started ringing off the hook. On the end of one call was a hostage negotiator, who tried to get Noid to release Burnsed and another employee in the store.
When police arrived, Noid fired four warning shots into the ceiling, United Press International reported. Officers did not shoot back.
Alternating between rational and irrational statements, Noid said something about wanting a private plane to take him to Mexico. He offered at one point to exchange a hostage for a copy of the science fiction book “The Widow’s Son,” but reneged on the proposition when a police officer brought the novel, the Detroit Free Press reported at the time.
Back at Domino’s headquarters in Ann Arbor, Mich., senior executives were frantic. Monaghan offered use of his private plane to evacuate employees from the restaurant, Tim McIntyre, a Domino’s executive who has worked at the company since 1985, told “Studio 360.” The executives bit their nails in anticipation of each update from the store.
In an attempt to calm down Noid, Burnsed said he expressed sympathy for him. Noid asked for an “ExtravaganZZa” pizza — with four kinds of meat, several vegetables and extra mozzarella — and Burnsed obliged. But perhaps expressing a fear that Burnsed would attack him with a pizza cutter, Noid would not let his hostage cut the pie, Burnsed told “Studio 360.”
Finally, Noid let an officer into the restaurant to talk with him. He chose Burnsed to open the door.
“He was probably eight feet from me,” Burnsed told “Studio 360.” “He could have shot me, for sure. I just, finally just grabbed the door, opened it up, ran out.”
The other employee followed Burnsed out the door when Noid had his back turned. Around 5 p.m., Noid surrendered.
Noid was charged with kidnapping, aggravated assault and theft by extortion. Reed Miller, then Chamblee’s police chief, described Noid as “paranoid” and said Noid believed that Monaghan, the Domino’s owner, was entering his apartment and snooping around.
A judge later ruled Noid not guilty of the charges against him by reason of insanity. Although Noid received psychiatric care, he died by suicide in 1995.
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