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Geedis: An Internet Mystery For The Ages... Gets Solved!43:07
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Geedis (Courtesy Stacen Goldman/Framingham History Center)
Geedis (Courtesy Stacen Goldman/Framingham History Center)

TL;DL (Too Long; Didn’t Listen)

What is Geedis? This is the question that thousands of internet sleuths have been trying to answer for more than two years. The Endless Thread team joins in on the hunt…and makes a discovery.

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Full Transcript:

This content was originally created for audio. The transcript has been edited from our original script for clarity. Heads up that some elements (i.e. music, sound effects, tone) are harder to translate to text. 

Amory Sivertson: Once upon a time, in 2017, there was a comedian.

Stand-up Clip: So one thing about me, I was a bit of a late bloomer. I didn’t lose my virginity until college, was paid off so...

Nate Fernald: I'm Nate Fernald. I live in Los Angeles by way of Boston, New York and Chicago. I currently write for The Late Late Show With James Corden.

Ben Brock Johnson: And in 2017, Nate was about to embark on a quest. Like all great quests, our protagonist had no idea his quest was about to begin. He just knew that he liked to collect enamel pins of his favorite bands. Which brought him, naturally, to the legendary treasure trove of enamel pins: eBay.

Nate: I found this one user who had a couple of these very old 70s or 80s enamel pins. And I clicked over to their profile to see what else they had and there were just thousands and thousands of vintage pins. I bought one that said, “I'm so horny even the crack of dawn looks good,” because it was just so strange. I got one that says, “Work sucks but I need the bucks.” There’s just all sorts of just random slogans on pins and then I'm scrolling through and I see this little critter. And it says "Geedis" on it. 

Amory: Geedis. G-E-E-D-I-S.

Ben: Can you describe what it looks like for us? 

Nate: It's a four-legged creature. The front legs are longer than the back legs. He's kind of in a sitting position and has a very big smiley face on him, a little bear-like, a little ewok-like. Green eyes too.

Amory: An ewok-bear, says Nate. A warthog-gremlin says I. Ben?

Ben: Geedis is obviously a combination of Alf from the show ALF, Mr. Snuffleupagus from Sesame Street, and Snarf from the show ThunderCats. Basically just amalgamated pop culture references from my childhood.

Ben: I'm really pushing this Snarf comparison but nobody else is old enough. 

Nate: Oh Geedis definitely has a very Snarf-like qualities. 

Ben: Oh thank god.  

Amory: Ok the point is, at first glance Geedis looks kinda dopey. But there’s also something captivating about him. He's a little mischievous, like maybe his big, goofy smile is all a ruse. Nate needed to know more.

Nate: In my head, my first reaction was , “Oh a Geedis pin, cool.” And I keep scrolling. And then I just keep thinking of Geedis and I was like wait, what is Geedis? So I typed it into Google and not a single result came up for Geedis.

Ben: Nothing on the internet, which never happens. Also, nothing on the internet about a character as weird and oddly nostalgic as this one?

Nate: I couldn't stop thinking about Geedis. Because it's just such a stark image looking at it. The eyes, they just go right through you.

Ben: So, obviously, Nate bought the Geedis pin. For about six bucks.

Nate: And then after I bought it the user put another one up on eBay. And then I bought that one too. And then I messaged him and I asked him if he knew what Geedis was. And he said he had no idea. And then I asked him if he had any more Geedis pins. He said he had about 75 or 80 of them. And I don't know why, but I requested to buy them in bulk. 

Ben: You’re trying to corner the Geedis market! I get it. 

Nate: You know, for some reason I thought that if I bought them it would help me find answers.

Amory: But it didn’t. The eBay seller was just selling a bunch of stuff they’d acquired from someone they didn’t really know who had died. A couple of other Geedis pins popped up and Nate bought those too. But he got no answers. Finally, Nate started yelling into the void.

Nate: So I just posted on Twitter a picture of the pin and said, "What the f word is Geedis." And then my life has changed from there, so…

Ben: Yelling into the void also didn’t get answers at first. But it did something important. It got Nate some fellow questers. His maddening search went viral. And this is the strange part. There is nothing that makes the discovery of the origins of Geedis a pressing issue. Geedis won’t save the world. Geedis isn’t an unsolved murder. But it’s weird that the internet can’t solve this mystery.

Amory: Which makes this whole thing a little disturbing and enticing to a large and growing community of investigators — thousands and thousands of people, including us, who are also mesmerized by the strange gaze of Geedis, all working together to answer the question: What is Geedis?

Nate: I just want to know. I need to know, and I don't know.

Ben: I’m Ben Geedis Johnson.

Amory: I’m Amory Geedis Sivertson, and you’re listening to Endless Geedis Thread.

Ben: The show featuring stories found in the vast ecosystem of online communities called Geedis.

Amory: We’re coming to you from WBUR, Boston’s NPR Geedis station. Today’s episode…

Ben & Amory: GEEEEEEDISSSSSSSS!

Ben: In August of 2017, about a month after Nate Fernald’s first tweet about Geedis, there was a break in the case. Someone replied to his tweet with a picture of a whole sheet of stickers.

The Land of Ta sticker sheet from the Framingham History Center's Dennison collection (Ben Brock Johnson/WBUR)
The Land of Ta sticker sheet from the Framingham History Center's Dennison collection (Ben Brock Johnson/WBUR)

Amory: Imagine one of those sheets of stickers that’s all woodland creatures, or jack-o-lanterns, or trucks. Only this one is full of sci-fi, fantasy-esque creatures.

Ben: There’s a green, winged gargoyle-like monster named Zoltan. A warrior-looking dude named Erik who’s rocking a staff and an outfit somewhere between Roman legionary and one of the bird men from the 80s sci-fi movie Flash Gordon. He has a beak instead of a nose. Very nostalgic for a fantasy Dungeons & Dragons fan like me. But this sticker sheet also features an evil-looking C3PO-esque robot named Tokar. So Star Wars-ish? Amory, I’m realizing this is a perfect combination of our nerdy interests. Me with the fantasy, you with the space operas.

Amory: It’s almost like it was made for us! And at the bottom of this sheet of stickers, right in the center, there he is. Our Geedis. In all his goofy, slightly unsettling glory.

Ben: The title of the sticker sheet? The Land of Ta.

Nate: And I was like, "Oh excellent, we figured it out. Geedis is from the Land of Ta." And then I Googled the Land of Ta, quotation marks and everything, and not a single thing on the internet once again. 

Amory: Alright, so nothing more about the Land of Ta, but there are a couple more clues on the sticker sheet itself. On the far right side, it read: Copyright Dennison, 1981.

Ben: Dennison, as in the Dennison Manufacturing Company, a hugely successful paper and branding products business based in Framingham, Massachusetts. Presumably, all we needed to do was find someone at Dennison who would know more about this sticker sheet. No big deal!

Amory: Ohh yes big deal. Because Dennison merged with the Avery Corporation in 1990. It’s now Avery Dennison and according to a spokeswoman I talked to there, they’re just as puzzled about Geedis and the Land of Ta as we are! So we pursued another line of questioning, you know, the important stuff.

Ben: If you could choose the voice of Geedis, Nate, can we hear some of it? 

Nate: So I picture Geedis almost like a Pokémon where he only says his name. And that's that's how Geedis communicates, just by saying Geedis. 

Amory: I have a voice for Geedis in my head. It’s just like geeeedissss. It's like that. 

Nate: Yeah yeah. I think I would hear it a little more high-pitched. 

Ben: Geedis! 

Nate: Kind of halfway between what the both of you did. Somewhere in the middle. 

Ben: Geedis. 

Nate: Now we're talking. 

Ben: Voices are fun. But joining Nate’s quest, lending our brains and our swords to the effort (because, you know, he has a day job working for The Late Late Show)? That’s even more fun.

Ben: We’re definitely on the case. 

Nate: Awesome. Well, thanks for your all your work. Keep me posted on whatever you find and I'll do the same. 

Ben: Sounds good. 

Amory: Thank you, Nate. 

Nate: Geedspeed, as we say.

Amory: Geedspeed! 

Ben: Geedspeed! 

Amory: You know who else was on the case? Our fellow Redditors. Way ahead of us on this one.

Redditor: I don't know how I got there, probably through some some other rabbit hole, but I ended up on the Mandela Effect subreddit and the top post was about Geedis. And I was like, what's going on here? What is this?

Amory: This is Clint, AKA RowdyWrongdoer on Reddit.

Clint: I'm just a guy. I'm nobody special in particular to be honest with you.

Ben: Lies! Clint is very special to the Geedis quest. And by the way, when he says he was on the Mandela Effect subreddit, he is referencing this weird idea that our collective use of the internet hath wrought.

Amory: It’s called The Mandela Effect, because of a bunch of people who could have sworn activist Nelson Mandela died in prison, instead of being released and becoming the president of South Africa. There’s another one involving the actor Sinbad. Another one involving the BerenSTAIN Bears.

Ben: Mandela Effect believers think large groups of people with these kinds of wrong memories are accessing alternate timelines from the multiverse. Non-believers say that these collective hallucinations are made possible by the internet’s amazing power to connect people who are not great at remembering things correctly.

Amory: But Clint, who we might call a Mandela Effect agnostic, says Geedis was gaining popularity fast, collective hallucination or not. And a new Geedis subreddit was gaining followers like gangbusters.

Clint: I stumbled on it because I guess it was getting posted everywhere because it was just going "Reddit viral." That would be the best way to put it. 

Ben: The Geedis community now has more than 16,000 subscribers. People share theories, make spin-off art and memes, lead discussions. Clint has become one of the organizers-in-chief of this community, culling all of the updates and tips to help Geedis sleuths stay up-to-date. Just the other day, he posted flyers for members of the community to print out and post around. They read, “Join the most fun mystery on the planet.”

Amory: But Clint has also advanced the story. He learned that there was an archive of old Dennison products at the Framingham History Center.

Clint: I reached out to them via email and got the follow-up information, which gave us a catalog featuring the Geedis sheet, which actually told us the name of that sheet is the Land of Ta Erik. It's how it's referred to internally in Dennison. 

Land of Ta sticker sheet included in an old Dennison catalogue at the Framingham History Center (Ben Brock Johnson/WBUR)
Land of Ta sticker sheet included in an old Dennison catalogue at the Framingham History Center (Ben Brock Johnson/WBUR)

Ben: The Framingham History Center knew something about the Land of Ta sticker sheet. And we were only a 40-to 60-minute drive in terrible Boston traffic from the Framingham History Center.

Amory: So we got in the car. We had a need for Geed!

Ben: Are you Stacen? 

Stacen: I am! 

Ben:  Nice to meet you. Thank you so much for having us.

Amory: Stacen Goldman is the curator of the Framingham History Center, which is partly housed in a very old-looking stone building. Their air conditioning was broken, hence the whooshing dehumidifier sound, and things were a bit disheveled.

Ben: This was in part because they’re in the process of mounting their next exhibit, which Stacen said is going to include our buddy Geedis, along with a bunch of other Dennison products.

Stacen: I mean [Dennison] was the biggest employer in Framingham for about 100 hundred years and so it was really an integral part of the community. 

Ben: Not only is the Dennison portfolio huge, it is also iconic. You may think you’ve never seen their work…

Stacen: You have though. 

Ben: Well, OK. Tell me more. 

Stacen: Well I mean did you get stars in school? Shiny blue, red, gold, silver stars? Those are Dennison products. 

Amory: I don’t covet gold stars, I covet Geedis. So Stacen led us back to a small, hot storage room.

Ben: I feel like we're in right now we're in the sequel to The Da Vinci Code or any of the National Treasure movies...and you're Nicolas Cage.

Amory: The room was full of artifacts, an old toy baby carriage, a side saddle, a lap organ, and boxes upon boxes of archival papers and stickers.

Stacen: Do you guys want to see Geedis first? 

Amory: Hell yeah. 

Ben: Geedis my goodness. 

Amory: He’s beautiful! I'm just kidding. 

Ben: Oh my goddddd. 

Ben: The sticker sheet is…smaller than you might expect, maybe six inches by eight inches. But it is oddly thrilling to see it in person. It makes it feel all the more real that someone dreamed up these characters, someone who has no idea that thousands of people are searching for answers.

Amory (left) Stacen Goldman (center) and Ben (right), with the Land of Ta sticker sheet in the Framingham History Center's Dennison collection (Ben Brock Johnson/WBUR)
Amory (left) Stacen Goldman (center) and Ben (right), with the Land of Ta sticker sheet in the Framingham History Center's Dennison collection (Ben Brock Johnson/WBUR)

Stacen: So that's the Land of Ta sticker set. We of course have all kinds of sticker sets, some of which are from the same time period. We've got these shiny butterflies. This is the spaceset that I was talking about. 

Ben: Yeah the spaceset looks very Star Wars. 

Stacen:It’s definitely like knockoff sci-fi. 

Amory: This is giving me ideas guys, because maybe this Geedis-Land of Ta is a ripoff of some other Dungeons & Dragons-esque...

Ben: ...or maybe not a rip off but just like... 

Amory: ...building on the momentum of… 

Ben: ...yeah exactly. 

Stacen: Oh definitely. It definitely is. They're clearly trying to tap into something here in the early '80s, into this rising Dungeons & Dragons culture and the sci-fi culture that's coming up so that they can stay relevant as a business. Because they used to set the culture. And now they're they're basically trying to follow it. 

A space-themed sticker sheet from the Framingham History Center's Dennison collection (Ben Brock Johnson/WBUR)
A space-themed sticker sheet from the Framingham History Center's Dennison collection (Ben Brock Johnson/WBUR)

Ben: Stacen also showed us the Dennison ordering catalogue and two other Land of Ta sticker sets, one of which is the Women of Ta from 1982. But those images don't look like any of the other characters really. A different artist, maybe?

Amory: Maybe. Dennison was a big company. And they made a lot of stuff: boxes, crepe paper, even gas mask repair kits during World War I.

Ben: Stacen has been in touch with a Dennison Alumni Facebook group to confirm a bunch of things, including double checking on something that the company supposedly did not make.

Stacen: Everybody there was very insistent that they're sure they made no enamel pins. And I believe them because they were the ones who were there at the time and some of them were pretty high up executives who would know one way or the other.

Ben: OK. 

Stacen: I know some and I can reach out to them if you guys are interested in talking to any of them. 

Ben: That would be awesome. 

Amory: Whoever you've spoken to, we'd love to excavate whatever corners of their mind they might not be thinking of in connection to this, you know.

Ben: That sounds very invasive. 

Amory: I know that was gross. That was really gross, I’m sorry. 

Ben: We'd love to kidnap them, and then record their brain functions. 

(Stacen laughs) 

Amory: We excavate some brains in the name of Geedis in a minute.

[Sponsor Break]

(Phone ring then an answering *click*)  

Lou D'Amaro: Hello? 

Ben: Is that Lou? 

Amory: Is this Lou? 

Lou: Yes it is. 

Amory: Clearly we were eager to talk to our next Geed Lead.

Ben: And fortunately, he had a sense of humor about it.

Amory: Hi Lou. This is Amory--

Ben: And Ben! 

Amory: I was emailing with you. 

Lou: So you guys are ganging up on me. 

Amory: No! 

Ben: That's right. 

Amory: No no no no. 

Ben: Lou D’Amaro is the former General Manager of Dennison. He started as a product manager back in 1972 and worked his way up.

Amory: A little too high up, in fact, to remember The Land of Ta stickers specifically. Then again, none of his former Dennison colleagues did either!

Ben: This is sounding more and more like a collective hallucination, Amory. Mandela Effect!

Lou: All I remember was that they used a lot of outside sources in addition to doing our own artwork. But our own artwork were things like flowers and cats and I mean we have lots and lots of stickers.

Amory: And with that, our job got a lot harder. The Land of Ta was likely not the work of a Dennison employee, but a freelancer.

Ben: But Lou did remember something very interesting. One former coworker’s term for cash.

Lou: We were rolling in the Geedis at that time and the problem is that became so popular...

Amory: Hold up. Rolling in the Geedis?

Lou: He would always use that word! Why should we do it? Well, you know, you get a little more Geedis. I can always remember he used that terminology. And Geedis, when I heard the word Geedis, that's the only place I’ve ever heard that word or that name.

Ben: There may not be any Geedis in it for us, but this was a nice little break in the case. A step forward on our quest.

Amory: So maybe the Land of Ta creator was a freelancer, who spent enough time in the Dennison offices to hear the term “Geedis” get thrown around? Maybe they’d done other work for Dennison? Maybe it was worth trying to reach out to one more Dennison alum for more info?

Tom Manguso: This is Tom.

Ben: Tom Manguso was the Art Director at Dennison when The Land of Ta stickers were made.

Amory: Did you have a chance to look at my email by any chance? 

Tom: No I did not. I went up and my computer told me that I need a 45-watt something connector. I don't know, it's on the brink. 

Amory: Tom is 92. He was having some trouble with his email, which was making me antsy because I’d sent him pictures of Geedis and the Land of Ta sticker sheet. He was the best shot we had of someone recognizing them.

Amory: Do you have a smartphone? Do you have a phone that can receive pictures, like a cellphone that can receive pictures? 

Tom: I don't know, what I have isn’t a smartphone but it's got a lot of smart stuff on it. 

(Amory Laughs)

Tom: I remember when we didn't even have copier machines and we would keep all our drawings on tracings just in the file. 

Ben: Tom, do you have a fax machine? We could probably find a fax machine. Or a fax machine app.

Amory: Well, without an immediate way of showing Tom the stickers, I asked if he remembered any of the freelance artists that used to work for Dennison.

Tom: Let me think about it. We had some local artists. The guy was from Massachusetts and then... (off mic, to son) Hey man, do you remember the freelance artist that we met up in New Hampshire? The guy who was from England? 

(in the background “Dobson Broadhead.”) 

Tom: That’s it, OK. My son says Dobson Broadhead, that’s him. 

Amory: Dobson Broadhead?

Ben: Dobson Broadhead is an amazing name. Like, I would change my name to Dobson Broadhead if it got us to Geedis.

Amory: We may resort to that, Dobson. But you know what I realized in this part of the phone conversation?

Ben: He has a son?

Amory: He has a son! With a smartphone! A few minutes later, Tom’s son Bill had a picture of the Land of Ta stickers pulled up to show his dad.

Bill (in background): I’ve seen those before. 

Tom: I do not recognize them. 

Amory: No? Did Bill just say he's seen those before? 

Tom: Bill, have you ever seen these before? 

Ben: I think you showed them to me. 

Tom: Really? OK. Here's another name. 

Amory: OK. 

Tom: I went to school with a guy named Sam Petrucci. And he worked for Gunn Studio where my son worked. 

Amory: Gunn Studio? 

Tom: While I was Art Director for Dennison, I used Sam Petrucci. And Billy thinks that Sam did those. 

Amory: OK!

Ben: This is huge! Potentially. Here’s Tom’s son Bill again, talking about this person, Sam Petrucci.

Bill: The green guy, Zoltan, looks familiar. And, you know, he had a way of drawing figures and faces and he did kind of the heavy eyes and stuff like that. 

Amory: But what about our buddy, Geedis? Surely his goofy smile and haunting eyes would’ve stayed with Bill, right?

Bill: Yeah I don’t really remember him that much. 

Amory: Hmm... 

Bill: All I know is I've seen Zoltan before. If you could find Sam Petrucci, he kind of had that method of working. 

Ben: Next step in our epic Geedis quest? Find. Sam. Petrucci.

Amory: Which we did very quickly, online, in the form of an obituary. Sam died in 2013. But he left behind five children, so I started making some cold calls.

Ben: While we waited for calls back from the kids, we started exploring another tip we had gotten from a Redditor named groovyorangealien.

Amory: Or in real life, Rob.

Amory: Thanks for making time to do this. 

Rob: No problem. I'm still surprised anybody cares. 

Amory: Why are you surprised? 

Rob: Even though there's 15,000 people it just seems like such a strange endeavor that it's so odd to me. I guess that's what the internet is for, that we've managed to find so many people who actually want to hunt this furry creature down.

Ben: By the way, Rob’s boyfriend Petey was with him when we called, and Petey has a Geedis impression that puts ours to shame!

Petey: (Geedis impression) 

Amory: Hahaha that’s excellent! You got the mumbles and everything. 

Petey: Yeah. He can only say Geedis, but there are variations of it. 

Amory: Petey has been living the Land of Ta mystery vicariously through Rob, who’s become a little obsessed.

Amory: Have you had any Geedis-related dreams or nightmares? 

Rob: I wish I would have a lead come to me in a dream or something.

Amory: One can hope. Keep dreaming, as they say.

Ben: Rob’s not just dreaming though. He’s also doing. He bought a Geedis pin from another Redditor named SadTacoBell. It’s like the ones that comedian Nate Fernald has, but it’s just different enough with some little details to be weird.

Amory: SadTacoBell says she got the Geedis pin from a shop in Cherokee, North Carolina when she was visiting a relative. But she doesn’t remember the name of the shop.

Ben: Damnit.

Amory: Which means that this side quest, and the trail that Rob illuminated for us is cold. For now.

Amory: Do you think we're gonna solve this thing? 

Rob: I hate to say that hope is dwindling. I think someone must know. But every day your odds of finding that person go down. 

Amory: Well, what’s it going to take?

Rob: It might it might even be a family member that needs to say, “Oh! My dad made this and he had all the pins. I remember he put them away back in the day or something,” you know.

Amory: Well. Speaking of family members…

Linda Petrucci: Hi, I’m Linda Petrucci, I live in Queens, New York. 

Lisa Petrucci: Hi, I’m Lisa Petrucci, I live in Seattle, Washington and my dad is Sam Petrucci. 

Amory: We actually heard back from all 5 of the Petrucci children, but we were told that Linda and Lisa were the most familiar with their dad’s work.

Ben: We're so excited — I mean, I'm definitely excited. Amory has been like freaking out for a week.

Amory: I had talked to Linda on the phone about a week earlier. She said the Land of Ta characters, just by the description, sounded like something her dad may have done but she wasn’t sure. I sent her a picture of the stickers and I didn’t hear back for days. I thought she was ghosting me. But then. Finally. I got a response that read, “Yes, my dad definitely did those stickers, and I have the original artwork.”

Ben: This is like in the quest when you beat a fantastical monster and then you realize that behind the fantastical monster’s carcass there’s a door to a secret chamber, which houses a magical scroll. And in this case the magic scroll tells us that Geedis was the creation of Sam Petrucci. This is awesome.

Amory: This ... is the highlight of my summer.

Sam Petrucci drawing at his desk (Courtesy Petrucci family)
Sam Petrucci drawing at his desk (Courtesy Petrucci family)

Lisa: I was around at his office when he was working on these things and I definitely remember them.

A character from one of Sam Petrucci's instant rub-down picture transfers (Ben Brock Johnson/WBUR)
A character from one of Sam Petrucci's instant rub-down picture transfers (Ben Brock Johnson/WBUR)

Lisa: At the same time he was doing those stickers, he was doing some work for hire for another company in Massachusetts. They were these rubbed down picture transfers of some Dungeons and Dragons characters. So they’re all kind of the same family. 

Amory: But one of the things that sets the Land of Ta apart from Sam’s other work is the names of the characters: Zoltan, Tokar, Geedis. If the names were a product of Sam Petrucci’s imagination as well as the images, then maybe he was trying to construct a world beyond a sheet of stickers.

Linda: So I told you that the original artwork didn't have any of that wording on it and it doesn't have the Land of Ta. It's doesn’t have the character names. But I just found the original pencil sketches and those actually do have those names on them. 

Amory: (gasp) What?! Thats huge! Linda! 

Linda: Yeah, I couldn't believe that. I was just going through files and boom there it was. 

Close-ups of the handwritten names for Land of Ta characters Geedis and Erik (Ben Brock Johnson/WBUR)
Close-ups of the handwritten names for Land of Ta characters Geedis and Erik (Ben Brock Johnson/WBUR)

Amory: That is wonderful. 

Ben: Geedis my goodness, as we like to say. 

Amory: Lisa and Linda say that yes, their dad made a lot of imaginative stickers for kids, but he mostly worked in the world of brand marketing. Like legit brand marketing.

Lisa: Well a lot of famous ones. T.J. Maxx logo that I think they still use now was one that he did. Friendly's the ice cream chain.

Ben: What!? He did The Friendly's cursive? 

Lisa: Yes. 

Ben: He also did the World Wildlife Fund’s iconic panda and the logos for Ocean Spray, Marshmallow Fluff, and so many more. Sam’s work is hella famous in Logo Land. Which clearly is a region neighboring the Land of Ta.

Amory: Clearly. But Sam Petrucci is probably best known as the original artist of G.I. Joe.

[G.I. Joe theme music plays]

John Filosi: And that came about because he was sick and tired of watching his son play with Barbie dolls because there was no doll option for boys.

Ben: This is John Filosi. He worked with Sam Petrucci at Gunn Associates for 25 years.

Sam Petrucci (left) and colleague John Filosi (right) smoking together (Courtesy Petrucci family)
Sam Petrucci (left) and colleague John Filosi (right) smoking together (Courtesy Petrucci family)

John: I consider him one of the best graphic designers, illustrators, that I've ever worked with. He'll always be in my heart. That’s it. 

Amory: OK, that is definitely not it. John says that Sam pitched the idea of a doll for boys to Hasbro, the toy manufacturer, long before they commissioned him to do the box artwork for it.

Ben: But John says Sam never got credit for this idea, which was just one of many stories John told us about the creator of Geedis.

John: Sam was always late. It could have been the president of the United States that wanted a new lapel pin designed and Sam would have been late to that meeting.Sam was also a world class billiard and pool player. 

Amory: Here’s another one the Petrucci kids grew up hearing.

John: Alright this is something that you can throw on your blog. 

Amory: Ok. 

John: When Sam did all the artwork for G.I. Joe, they wanted to work on a royalty. So usually if a product like that didn't hit the royalty ended after a while.

Ben: It was actually stock, not royalties, that Hasbro offered Sam and his business partner in lieu of a flat payment for the art. But Sam needed the money. So he turned down the stock offer. If he hadn’t?

John: Sam would have made 40 million dollars...a year!

Amory: That’s what he told his family and friends, at least. It’s hard to know the exact figure, but we can imagine it was a lot.

Ben: Kids, let this be a lesson. If you’ve got a choice between a quick payout and a stock deal, take the stock deal!

Amory: G.I. Joe, of course, went on to become an international sensation — comic books, movies, a TV series. It was a total coup for Hasbro, and it got all the fame and fortune that another design of Sam Petrucci’s did not.

John: What was his name again? 

Amory: Geedis. 

John: Geedis is Sam. 

Amory: Say more about that. 

John: Well, Sam had a lot of similarities to me: short in stature, highly competitive. And I think he was a little mischievous. And when I said [Geedis] was Sam, that’s from his personality. 

Ben (left), Linda Petrucci (middle), and Amory (right) posing with the original designs for the Land of Ta sticker sheets (Ben Brock Johnson/WBUR)
Ben (left), Linda Petrucci (middle), and Amory (right) posing with the original designs for the Land of Ta sticker sheets (Ben Brock Johnson/WBUR)

Ben: Now this is all just speculation, clearly. But it’s a fun idea, right? That maybe Geedis, had a little bit of Sam Petrucci in him. Or vice versa?

Amory: We may never know. But we did get some proof to back up the Petrucci’s story. Just last week we mounted our mighty steed and journeyed to see another one of Sam Petrucci’s designs, the family lake house in New Hampshire, where Linda Petrucci agreed to meet us.

Ben: There were boxes of Sam’s work on every table, countertop and flat surface. It was a Redditor Geedis mystery detective’s dream.

Sam Petrucci's original pencil sketches of characters from the Land of Ta (Ben Brock Johnson/WBUR)
Sam Petrucci's original pencil sketches of characters from the Land of Ta (Ben Brock Johnson/WBUR)

Linda: I was hoping to have it a little more organized before you guys got here. But... 

Ben: Please. 

Linda: Anyways, the big organization project is underway thanks to you! So that's good. 

Ben: Is your dad on the fridge? 

L: Yeah. This was my dad. This is him posing for G.I. Joe. 

Sam Petrucci posing for G.I. Joe (Courtesy Petrucci family)
Sam Petrucci posing for G.I. Joe (Courtesy Petrucci family)

Amory: Oh wow. 

L: So. Yeah. You can see that the original box actually was you know a version of him.

Amory: And then…

Linda: I came across his Dennison folder. 

Ben: Ooooo Dennison folder! Dun dun dun. 

Amory: Jackpot!

Amory: As we flipped through pieces in various stages of completion, we started to recognize a lot of the work from our trip to the Framingham History Center...

Ben: Ohhh he did the pizza and the hot dogs! 

L: (laughs) Yeah. 

Ben: We’ve seen these in the Dennison archive! 

L: You have, ok so yeah, so this is ‘79.

Ben: We saw those Star Wars-lookin’ spaceships, cartoonish baby animals with big heads, holiday stickers, an awesome spaceman with an old computer cord plugged into the space suit brain hole.

Sam Petrucci's original designs for Dennison's cartoon animal sticker sheet (Ben Brock Johnson/WBUR)
Sam Petrucci's original designs for Dennison's cartoon animal sticker sheet (Ben Brock Johnson/WBUR)
Sam Petrucci's spaceman design (Ben Brock Johnson/WBUR)
Sam Petrucci's spaceman design (Ben Brock Johnson/WBUR)

Amory: But we also saw a side of Sam Petrucci’s work, Dennison and otherwise, that we hadn’t seen before. Hyper-realistic paintings of birds and insects, hand-drawn calligraphy and other company logos, medical illustrations, wedding portraits. There was seemingly nothing that Sam Petrucci couldn’t draw, which made it all the more exciting to see for ourselves that he definitely di draw The Land of Ta.

Ben: This is the OG content. 

Amory: We are staring at a pencil drawing of the Land of Ta sticker sheet, the OG Land of Ta sticker sheet, before it was colored in. 

"The Fantasy Land" written in Sam Petrucci's handwriting above original Land of Ta character sketches (Ben Brock Johnson/WBUR)
"The Fantasy Land" written in Sam Petrucci's handwriting above original Land of Ta character sketches (Ben Brock Johnson/WBUR)

Linda: And then up here, I don’t know if that says the fantasy land. Or... 

Ben: Yes. 

Linda: I mean it also looks like the farterly something to me. 

Ben: Each character appears to have been cut from a sketchbook and positioned jussssst so to make what became The Land of Ta sticker sheet.

Amory: The names of each character are in blue pencil, suggesting that they must have been added after the fact.

Ben: A lot of Redditors in the Geedis community have compared The Land of Ta art to the work of other fantasy sci-fi artists. Erol Otus, Boris Vallejo, Clyde Caldwell. But there’s one name that’s been popping up a lot lately.

Linda: These were three books in his library. 

Ben: Ohhhhh Frazetta! 

Amory: OK so we have Frank Frazetta Book Three. Frank Frazetta book two. And then this is presumably book one The Fantastic Art Of Frank Frazetta. 

Ben: Frazetta is a legend in the fantasy world. He did Dungeons and Dragons artwork, and his singular fantasy imagination is echoed in most fantasy stuff you see today, from Conan the Barbarian to the Lord of the Rings movies. And Frazetta clearly inspired Sam. But Geedis appears to have been a true Sam Petrucci original.

Legendary fantasy artist Frank Frazetta's books found in the Petrucci family home (Ben Brock Johnson/WBUR)
Legendary fantasy artist Frank Frazetta's books found in the Petrucci family home (Ben Brock Johnson/WBUR)

Amory: Which became all the more apparent when we finally saw the completed Land of Ta artwork, in full color.

Amory: Oh my gosh... 

Ben: Amazing. Amazing. 

Linda: So here they are.

Ben: This version of Sam’s work is super detailed. Tiny brush strokes you can see up close. It’s the kindof beautiful handmade art that pictures on the internet don’t rarely do justice to. And unlike most of the other work in the family collection, The Land of Ta work is mounted, as if Sam intended for it to be framed.

Linda Petrucci presenting the mounted Land of Ta sticker sheet designs (Ben Brock Johnson/WBUR)
Linda Petrucci presenting the mounted Land of Ta sticker sheet designs (Ben Brock Johnson/WBUR)

Amory: Oh look! Look look look. 

Ben: What? 

Amory: It says his name really tiny here. 

Ben: Yeah Sam Petrucci. 

Linda: He signed these, yeah. And he didn't sign all of them. So he must have been proud of these. 

Sam Petrucci's signature under Stefan, one of the Land of Ta characters (Ben Brock Johnson/WBUR)
Sam Petrucci's signature under Stefan, one of the Land of Ta characters (Ben Brock Johnson/WBUR)

Ben: Yeah. I would be.  

Amory: They’re beautiful!

Amory: We started to realize that not only had Geedis and the Land of Ta been lost to fantasy fans all these years, they’d been lost even to the Petrucci family.

Linda: Definitely these will probably be utilized in some way now. They won't be hiding in this pile as just the weird ones at the bottom.

Ben: They'll be the weird ones at the top. 

Linda: Yes, the weird ones at the top or the weird ones on the wall or something. I don't know what we'll do with them, honestly. I hope maybe it'll spark some interest in some of these other things. If Nate hadn't found those pins, these would just be sitting there. 

Ben: Yeah. 

Linda: Nobody would care about the Land of Ta. It's pretty funny. 

Amory: The Land of Ta, the land that Lisa, Linda’s older sister, thinks their dad did dream up on his own.

Ben: And where’d the pins come from?

Amory: Where did the pins come from? It's driving me crazy. 

Lisa: And why are there just Geedis pins? 

Amory: Ahhhh the questions of our time. What is the meaning of life? Who really killed JFK? And why are there so many Geedis pins being sold on eBay?

Ben: We are not giving up.

Amory: I will not rest. In the names of Geedis and Sam Petrucci.

Linda: I mean, I think he would think this is just like the coolest. He would love this. 

Ben: Good. 

Linda: Anything that gave him a little notoriety he just loved. 

Ben: That's cool. 

Linda: He was very quiet like I said, but the second he got into a G.I. Joe convention he just lit up like he was the mayor of the place. I don't know if he’d understand Reddit and the whole thing because he would have been in his 90s now, but he would have thought that this was very cool for sure. 

Ben: He’d probably be thrilled to know that there are 16,000 of us...

Amory: ...And counting!

Ben: ...who love it too. And, you know what else? This has been one heckovah quest. Amory, we made a lot of friends along the way!

Amory: We sure did! And it's not over! We really hope to be able to help uncover the origin of the pins, which started this whole thing. But for now, there's someone we have to check in with.

Ben: Nate, how are you feeling right now?

Nate: I'm very nervous. I'm extremely nervous.

Amory: Why?

Nate: If it gets solved in front of my eyes today maybe I might just evaporate. I spent my whole life, the last two years, searching for this. And now, what do I do with my time? Do I read a book? Do I talk to my family? I don't know. We'll find out.

Ben: So we have some news, obviously.

Nate: Yeah.

Amory: We found the Geedfather.

Nate: Wow.

Amory: We know who created the Land of Ta.

Nate: Oh my god.

Amory: So his name is Sam Petrucci, or it was Sam Petrucci... 

Ben: We told Nate the whole story. We showed him all the photos. We told Nate about how Sam did the GI Joe box designs, the TJ Maxx Logo, the cursive writing on that family restaurant chain Friendly’s. Nate was, of course, blown away. Because all of these things were things he grew up with, before leaving Massachusetts in search of comedy fame and fortune.

Nate: He was a big presence in my childhood in Massachusetts and when I moved to California his presence followed me there in the form of Geedis. He's my guardian angel! Did Mr. Petrucci do any writing, do you know? Is there a chance there is a Land of Ta manuscript hiding around that house out there?

Ben: I don't think there is any evidence of any real storyline.

Nate: You shut your mouth! If they don't exist, I will make them.

Ben: Yes!

Nate: It's a twelve volume series.

Amory: You heard it here!

Ben: I'd read the hell out of that, or watch it. So clearly there are some unsolved parts of this mystery still.

Amory: We know who the artist is, but we don't know who created the pins. So there's still some mystery left for you to work on.

Nate: Okay. Well for caring and for all your hard work, I would actually like to reward the both of you with an original Geedis pin.

B: Ohhh yes!

A: Ahhhh!

N: I hope I did'nt forget them. Oh no, I have them.

Ben: Nate!

Nate: I brought a few, here we go.

Amory: I'll lose my mind.

Ben: Nate, a true gem.

Amory: They're in a case! He has them in a case!

Nate: Gotta protect 'em.

Amory: Alright.

Ben: Nate, thank you.

Nate: Thank you! I think I just need to lay down for a while if that's okay.

Amory: Geedspeed, everyone.

Amory Sivertson Twitter Co-Host and Producer for New Programming
Amory Sivertson is the co-host and producer of Endless Thread.

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James Lindberg Production Assistant

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