Contestants pen Cheeri-odes to a fruity cereal.

A Star Is Burst 

Contestants pen Cheeri-odes to a fruity cereal.

The Duet With David contest rolled into Independence Center on April 5 to celebrate new Berry Burst Cheerios, which combine the traditional life-preserver-shaped cereal with freeze-dried fruit. They come in both Strawberry Berry Burst Cheerios and Triple Berry Berry Burst Cheerios, two more spin-offs for what's become the Wu-Tang Clan of breakfast foods.

Contest entrants are required to write their own fruit-and-cereal-related lyrics to the tune of the Partridge Family's "I Think I Love You," because that's Duet With David as in David Cassidy. The winner gets to sing his or her song with the dude at the finals. Now, the list of Davids with whom I'd rather sing includes David Bowie, Whitesnake's David Coverdale, and David Hasselhoff, but the prize package also includes a red Chrysler Sebring LX, which sweetens the deal much like a berry in a bowl of oats. The lucky songsmith and two runners-up each earn a free flight to Minnesota's Mall of America for the finals as well as scoring $1,000 and a year's supply of Berry Burst Cheerios.

Wanting to ensure the best possible jingle, I enlisted ex-Danger Bob guitarist Andy Morton, the former Big Jeter (who now goes by the supermarket-fantasy alias Ronnie James Deodorant), and Pitch writer Scott Wilson. Morton's narrator becomes obsessed with the nutritious snack, a predicament I pushed even further with lines such as Oh, why not have another bowl?/I've had, like, six already/This addiction makes me wary/It's berry, berry scary. Deodorant skewered Cassidy (I was once the toy surprise/Now I'm the face/On your milk carton's side), so to preserve my chances of winning like a dehydrated blueberry, I didn't incorporate any of his barbs. Wilson saluted the cereal's aesthetic qualities: I don't know/Who came up with the red dream/For this cereal's color scheme/But it was a great idea for my shelf/And my cholesterol's down, so it's saving my health/It tastes almost like the real thing/You've made me a fruity king/I'm eating berries!

All very amusing, but if I had only known the truth behind the creation of Berry Burst Cheerios, I could have written an appropriately romantic sonnet instead of relying on a hybrid of the verses above. I can be sensitive when needed -- so very, very sensitive. When I arrived at Independence Center on Saturday morning, bright and early to beat the nonexistent masses of people looking for a shot at singing with the eldest Partridge sibling, I was greeted by a 7-foot-tall Cheerio and a 6-foot-tall strawberry. The on-site Berry Burst expert told me all about their newlywed bliss.

"David actually was master of ceremonies, and he married them on February 27 at the world's largest strawberry festival in Florida," she informed me with an impossibly straight face. "The Cheerio had its tux on, and the strawberry had her veil on, and David pronounced them Cheerio and strawberry, and they rode off in a convertible together that said 'just married' on it. Everyone threw confetti."

This raised a few questions. From where did Cassidy get the authority to perform a marriage and pronounce them Cheerio and strawberry, even if that's what they were already? "Um, from General Mills, I guess," she replied. This left me even more confused. Never before had I realized that the ties between the cereal industry and the military run so deep.

Also, she declined to comment on whether the bride and groom roles would have been flip-flopped had the Cheerio been getting hitched, for instance, to a banana. Furthermore, because raspberries and blueberries share a box with Cheerios and strawberries, does this make Triple Berry Berry Burst the kinkiest cereal on the market?

There was precious little time to ponder such matters, because the moment had arrived for me to rock the mall. With the Cheerio in place beside me, filling much the same function as the superfluous Mighty Mighty Bosstone that does nothing but dance, I greeted the sparse population of the Berry Burst Cheerios booth. "Hello, Independence Center," I shouted to the scattered parents and children who were sampling this intriguing new breakfast option. I sang my song masterfully and sans accompaniment, going so far as to kick it into falsetto gear to echo myself at the end of each verse. During the chorus, the Cheerio and I pogoed. After the big finish, I addressed the awestruck consumers: "You may now resume shopping!"

The Berry Burst Cheerios spokeswoman gave me a copy of Then and Now, Cassidy's best of compilation, and told me I did well, somehow oblivious to the fact that I had done better than well. The Cheerio then said to me, "I'm hot and sweaty" in a muffled, mobsteresque voice, which was disturbing not only because a 7-foot-tall Cheerio was addressing me but also because Cheerios don't have mouths. Unfortunately, there was nary a swimming-pool-sized bowl of milk in which he could cool off.

Would-be jingle rockers who failed to show up in person can still enter the contest by mail until April 27 and will be judged on the criteria of lyrical creativity, appropriateness to theme and performance. Contest rules and the rest of the skinny are online at www.berryburstcheerios.com. But fellow contestants, I regret to inform you that visions of victory are futile. I remain confident that I'll get the phone call on or around April 28 informing me that I've made the finals and will be going to the Mall of America on May 29.

David Cassidy, I'll be seeing you soon. You bring Susan Dey, I'll bring the rock.

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