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Remembering Seussapalooza

March 31st, 2021 by dk

You may have heard some things recently about Dr. Seuss. Much being said is untrue. Set aside the spurious perfomative outrage. There’s one person who would not be displeased by it all. And that’s Theodor Seuss Geisel, whose birthday spurred all the sudden attention.

Dr. Seuss was a consummate salesperson, for both products and ideas. Those entrusted with the empire he left behind have followed very clearly in his footsteps. Whatever else the current imbroglio represents, it’s also marketing genius.

First the facts — though they won’t prove very important. To mark Geisel’s 117th birthday on March 2, Dr. Seuss Enterprises announced that they were pulling six lesser titles from the 60-plus books that bear his name. They removed them voluntarily — out of the blue, even — to remove caricatures that are out of step with modern sensibilities.

A private enterprise, started by Geisel’s wife after his death in 1991, made a business decision and announced it on his birthday. For two weeks since, Dr. Seuss has been all anyone can talk about.

Far from being canceled, Dr. Seuss Enterprises pulled off the marketing coup of the year. A few titles were pulled, but dozens of others are selling at more than triple their usual pace. Ebay is offering many first edition titles for $10,000 or more.

The National Republican Congressional Committee is sending a copy of “Cat in the Hat” to donors who give $25 or more to the GOP. Republican Senator Ted Cruz will send you a signed copy of “Green Eggs and Ham” for $60 or more.

Tall red-and-white striped hats off to Dr. Seuss and his brand’s keepers, for seizing the zeitgeist and reaping a bonanza. They left just enough room for performative outrage to promote their business interests.

Disney and Michael Jackson used this “two bites of the apple” marketing strategy over and over in the 1990s. A film or an album would be released to great fanfare. After sales began to decline, a “controversy” would pop up over a princess’s underwear or a background voice murmur, boosting a second sales surge.

I’m watching this faux-controversy with special interest because I was part of a Dr. Seuss ruse in Eugene about 25 years ago. My family and I were still newcomers, still discovering the area’s hidden treasures. One deficiency stuck in our craw. The library was cramped and outdated, but repeated efforts to replace it had failed.

A group of us concocted and promoted an event we called Seussapolooza, to mark Geisel’s birthday. We invited movers and shakers to read their favorite Dr. Seuss title to assembled children inside our cramped library. We wanted to run it for 24 hours, but that proved too ambitious. And unnecessary. 

Once the town’s decision-makers were inside the library, they could see for themselves how behind the times the facility had gotten. That was the real goal, and it worked. Not long after, they settled on a feasible strategy to replace the library, using urban renewal funding. We can all thank Dr. Seuss, because he may have played a role in that.


Don Kahle ( writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and archives past columns at

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