Dear Frito-Lay CEO
Ann Lewis Hamilton
Dear Frito-Lay CEO:
I invented Flamin’ Hot Cheetos. Not the janitor at your company who says he pitched you the idea back in the 1980s and now he’s a motivational speaker and wrote a book that’s going to be a TV movie. Not the lady in the Frito-Lay product department who was assigned the job developing a spicy snack to compete with local products in urban corner stores in the Midwest.
It was me, Trevor McFilbert, of Castle Springs, Florida and I’m going to hire an attorney, my father’s friend Mr. Harold M. Craswell, Esq. who he knows from the car wash after the time Mr. Craswell left his window down and the back seat of his Lexus RX Hybrid got soaked through, but my father gave Mr. Craswell six months of free car washes and now they’re tight. Mr. Craswell says my case sounds like “a slam dunk.”
I was in high school in 1978 and Scotty Demott and I used to hang out in my kitchen listening to Cheap Trick and we’d take Cheetos (Crunchy, never the Puffs) and add different toppings like hot fudge or Diet Pepsi and one time we ground up Milk Bone dog biscuits because Scotty, he thought it could be a money maker if both people and pets could eat Cheetos. Scotty had a lot of good ideas. (Jumping off a diving board at night into an empty swimming pool after drinking a bottle of Yukon Jack wasn’t one of his best ideas, R.I.P. Scotty.) But it was the two of us together who came up with adding chili powder and cayenne to Cheetos and I’ll be honest, yes, copious amounts of marijuana were involved to assist in our creativity. Voila! Our masterpiece was destined to be a cultural phenomenon, an irresistible tasty snack that’s hot, but not hot enough to blow your head off hot.
I wrote you a letter back then – I wish I still had a copy, but Mr. Craswell says that won’t be a problem. I remember because I had to track down the address of Frito-Lay and it was in Plano, Texas. I gave you the recipe Scotty and I came up with and said we’d be happy to split the profits down the middle, fifty-fifty. That seemed fair since we were just high school kids and you’re a ginormous global snack food corporation.
We waited to hear back, but never did and that was a bummer, but one day we saw Flamin’ Hot Cheetos in the supermarket and – wow, awesome, they used our idea! Except we never saw our names mentioned. Or got any credit. Or got any money. At all. (Although I understand how you might not have liked our original name, They Burn the Hell Out of Your Mouth, Ow!)
I sent you letters at least once a week and tried to stay optimistic that you’d come through, but… nada. (My father hadn’t met Mr. Craswell, Esq. yet.) And then life got in the way. Work and marriage and kids. Who has time for letter writing when you have carpool and a car wash franchise to run? My twins love Flamin’ Hot Cheetos, by the way. I told them who the real inventor is, but they don’t believe me.
I’ll be honest, I lost a little faith in the Frito-Lay Corporation. But a week ago I read the story about the janitor. And I thought, this is my chance. At last Frito-Lay will come through and finally acknowledge the true FHC creators, the late Scotty and me. Mr. Craswell will handle the financials. And you could throw in a lifetime supply of Flamin’ Hot Cheetos and other Frito-Lay products. Except for pork rinds, the wife hates them.
In spite of my disappointment, I never turned my back on you. I’ve stayed loyal. Everybody says that about me, Trevor is loyal to a fault. I’ve got a Chester the Cheetah tattoo on my ankle, talk about loyalty!
Maybe the tattoo could be on the cover of my autobiography. What do you think?
Sincerely and yours in crunchy flamin’ deliciousness,
Ann Lewis Hamilton is a writer living in California.