In the news: Her­cules the big softy

Classic Car Weekly (UK) - - The Way We Were -

Prob­a­bly the most fa­mous bear since Baloo or Gen­tle Ben went missing dur­ing pro­duc­tion of a Kleenex advert in the Outer He­brides dur­ing Au­gust 1980. Her­cules, born in 1975, had be­come a star with his wrestling owner Andy Robin on World of Sport. While film­ing the Kleenex com­mer­cial, Her­cules legged it on the is­land of Ben­bec­ula. The search for him was called off af­ter three days, but then, 24 days af­ter he’d dis­ap­peared, Her­cules was spot­ted, tran­quilised and re­cap­tured. Be­ing a do­mes­ti­cated and quiet gi­ant used to cooked meat, he had ig­nored all the wildlife on the is­land and prac­ti­cally starved in­stead, los­ing 15 stone. Such good-na­tured­ness caused his pop­u­lar­ity to soar even more, es­pe­cially with is­lan­ders who had pre­vi­ously been afraid of him on the loose. The re­sul­tant ‘Big Softy’ Kleenex cam­paign was a ma­jor suc­cess. Her­cules went on to more TV and film roles – in­clud­ing 007 flick Oc­to­pussy – and met Mrs Thatcher. Pres­i­dent Ron­ald Rea­gan also sent him a tele­gram af­ter he was named Per­son­al­ity of the Year by the Scot­tish Tourist Board, al­though whether Ron­ald re­alised he was a bear or not is a moot point. Her­cules died of old age in 2000 and is re­mem­bered by a life-size statue on North Uist.

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