Bizarre local commercials are an American cultural institution. But for every Eagleman or Norton Furniture, there is a piece of small-business outsider art waiting to boggle the minds of the wider public. To wit: Seafood City, whose commercials were a staple of local television in New Orleans from the late 1970s to the early 1990s. Seafood City specialized in crawfish (also known as crawdads, crayfish, and, more disgustingly, mudbugs), the freshwater crustaceans that resemble little, defenseless lobsters. More specifically, it specialized in selling crawfish in the weirdest way possible—say, through the persona of a little girl begging you to come eat her friends.
The commercials were all created by Seafood City’s mustachioed, polyester-suited owner, Al Scramuzza, who would frequently appear as “Dr. Scramuzza,” a heavily accented doctor who would prescribe crawfish as a cure for everything from back aches to infertility. Scramuzza’s children and employees played the other roles. The local seafood magnate—who had been in the crawfish business since the 1950s—had a reputation for buying cheap commercial slots in bulk, sometimes for as little as $10 apiece, allowing him to saturate a late-night broadcast with dozens of ads, drilling his address (”1826 North Broad”) into minds of the insomniacs of New Orleans. One can only imagine that their dreams were troubled by sacrificial crawfish girls and mad crawfish doctors, burned in like the lingering after-image in an old video camera tube.
Outside of New Orleanians of a certain age, Scramuzza’s name is mostly familiar to crate-diggers and hip-hop sample-hounds. In addition to running Seafood City, he was also the owner of the small New Orleans funk and soul label Scram Records, also headquartered at—say it with us—1826 North Broad. Among the records he produced was Eddie Bo’s immortal “Hook & Sling,” a classic breakbeat sampled on Justin Timberlake’s “SexyBack,” LL Cool J’s “Mama Said Knock You Out,” and the My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy closer “Lost In The World,” among others. Of course, Scramuzza also wrote and produced Seafood City’s bafflingly memorable theme song, which you currently have stuck in your head.
We’re not exactly sure why Scramuzza closed Seafood City—so called because it took up almost an entire of block—but he’s still around, popping up every few years for a catch-up on local newscasts. All together now: “Sing it with us: “Seafood City is-a very pretty / Down at Broad and St. Bernard…”