Pez man dead at age 87

Curtis Allina, a man who thrilled the world by helping to make the Pez dispenser a household item, died of heart failure Dec. 15 at age 87, according to his obituary in The New York Times.

Illustration Ryn Gargulinski

Illustration Ryn Gargulinski

Folks who don’t like Pez dispensers go into the same category as those who don’t like animals – you just can’t trust them.

They are probably crabby, too.

Actually, Allina is just one of a half-dozen possible people who may have come up with putting a head on the formerly boring plastic Pez dispenser, a hot point of debate among Pez historians.

Yes, Pez historians.

Even if the head itself was not Allina’s idea, he was the guy who convinced the Vienna-based candy company to transform their bland candies into fun-flavored fruity things and put them in a kid-friendly package.

The candy first appeared in 1927 in Vienna as mints, hence the name Pez, which is derived from the German pfefferminz, or peppermint. It was offered to consumers as an alternative to smoking and its thin, plastic dispenser was designed to resemble a lighter.

But that was boring and the stuff never really took off in America, where it arrived in the 1950s.

Allina, in his capacity of vice president of the candy company, was charged with convincing the honchos in Vienna that the candy should branch into fruity flavors and come out of the neck of fun figurines.

The first two dispensers were a Santa Claus and some robot called the Space Trooper. Hundreds, if not thousands, of dispensers are now on the market. They range from Elvis to Mickey Mouse, Wonder Woman to Garfield, zombies to panda bears.

Some are kitschy and cool while others, like new characters from many banal Disney movies, wholly work against the kitschy and cool.

An entire museum in the San Francisco Bay area is dedicated to the little plastic things: The Burlingame Museum of Pez Memorabilia.

Sounds more fun than places like the Kansas Barbed Wire Museum or the Cumberland Pencil Museum in England.

Born in Prague, Allina was the only member of his Sephardic Jewish family to survive the World War II concentration camps, his obit said. He moved to New York and got his candy job at Pez-Haas in 1953 after first working in a meat packing plant.

While we are tickled he helped create the Pez dispenser, we are still wholly curious as to how we’d be now eating hamburger if Allina would have stayed on in the meat packing business.


What do you think?

Do you have fond memories of Pez dispensers or did they start fights with your brother?

What is your favorite/least favorite Pez dispenser?

Do you even care about Pez dispensers or do you have more important things to fret about, like world peace?


About Rynski

Writer, artist, performer who specializes in the weird, wacky and sometimes creepy. Learn more at
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40 Responses to Pez man dead at age 87

  1. radmax says:

    Mornin’ Rynski! I know it is not packaging, but I vote wax lips…very effective at scaring the girls in grade school. 🙂 Shame to hear of the demise of the Pez guy. While the dispensers were fun, the candy tasted like flavored cardboard. PS-Dots? Like hard gummy worms…ugh! 🙂

    • Rynski says:

      mornin radmax!
      wax lips are a good one – except they taste kind of funny. you can also make weird and scary shapes with your mouth by inserting hard bread crusts, sliced orange peels or even your fist. but i’ll bet you knew about the orange peels – hahha.
      those dots have to be one of the worst candies on the market, i agree. every time you took a bite a half ton of paper would always come with it. yick!
      i don’t think pez are all too bad tasting – but then again i could be bias since i so enjoy the dispenser.
      not as addicting as altoids, however….

      • radmax says:

        Wax lips taste horrible! Used for shock purposes only…or if you are trying to look like Mick Jagger. Altoids are curiously too strong for me…

      • Rynski says:

        ha! if you want to look like keith richards instead, all you have to do is get hit by a bus.
        yes, altoids are curiously strong, aren’t they?

      • radmax says:

        “if you want to look like keith richards…” Rynski! I’d rather resemble Kieth Moon than Richards…he’s dead by the way… 😉
        Yes, curiously strong they be. They provide a smooch friendly environment though… 🙂

      • azmouse says:

        Keith Moon was the greatest, although he was a wack job.

      • radmax says:

        Hi az! Moonie was a wack job, but a damn good drummer and a great pick for Uncle Ernie in Tommy.

      • azmouse says:

        Yes, his insanity just shined right into the Uncle Ernie part. He was so believable and seemed to enjoy it immensely. I loved the Who…..
        Hope you have a wonderful Tuesday, Max!

      • radmax says:

        You too az. Moonie was a natural for that part. 😉

      • Andrew Ulanowski says:

        Did you know that Altoids are *NOT* vegetarian? They contain gelatin and guess where that comes from . . . and they do make for a smooch friendly Environment Radmax but personally I like cinnamon better . . . :))

      • Rynski says:

        i’ll vote altoids for smoochin’.
        cinnamon can be too cloying. and big red gum is always stale for some reason.

      • Andrew Ulanowski says:

        you just have to get the package that say “Cloy-Free”  Ryn . . .

      • radmax says:

        Howdy Andrew! Cinnamon is good, but I was informed recently that cinnamon can cause problems. Remember those cinnamon toothpicks? I heard they yanked ’em cause people were going into comas or something if they overdid it. Seems like all good things have a down side…BTW-your UFO Pez dispenser sounds cool as the other side of the pillow!

      • Rynski says:

        cloy free! hahahhahah

  2. azmouse says:

    Pez dispensers are part of our traditional stocking stuffers every year…that and the lifesaver books.
    This year each kid, well, they aren’t really kids any more, got a dispenser (one Santa, one reindeer, and one a polar bear) in a tube thingy and it came with multiple packs of pez in lemon, strawberry, raspberry, cherry, lemon and watermelon. How tantalizing.

    • Rynski says:

      yaay! glad to hear pez dispensers are stocking stuffer fare. can’t think of anything better.
      i don’t remember the last pez dispenser i had, but i almost bought a witch one from the halloween clearance rack this year.

      • azmouse says:

        They are cute and quirky for sure! Hey, they still bring a smile to peoples faces. I love nostalgia.

  3. azmouse says:

    (((((((((((((where are you out there))))))))))))

    • Jennatoolz says:

      Im here! I’m here!! I’m on vacation this week so I’ve been doing lots of random things and having random family members come visit me, lol.

  4. Andrew Ulanowski says:

    Morning Rynski!
    I have a small collection in my gear (somewhere) of about 100+ Pez dispensers. I love the little guys! The last one I bought was battery-operated, looked like a UFO. PEZ gets loaded and dispenses in a carousel-fashion . . . press a button and the inside of the UFO rotates, shooting a PEZ candy out the side!
    The Burlingame Museum . . . I used to live a 5-minute drive from there and was SOOO amazed that the PEZ museum was practically in my backyard! I like the little chalky PEZ candies . . .
    Good morning Azmouse and Radmax!
    Wax lips are fun and so are orange peels!
    captcha = amputate levels

    • Rynski says:

      hiya andrew!
      “small” collection? more than 100 of the gorgeous little contraptions doesn’t sound to small to me! the UFO dispenser sounds highly amusing, for sure.
      how cool you lived so close to the pez museum…what a thrill. although the barbed wire museum sounds snazzy, i think the pez one would be way more fun. also glad it’s not a wax museum as those tend to be somewhat creepy.
      orange peels are the best for funny faces, mr. amputate level.

      • Andrew Ulanowski says:

        the best creepy museum I ever saw was the “Civil War Medical Museum” on Lake Shore Drive in Chicago – 32,ooo sq feet of amputation kits (bone saws, knifes) as well as a spectacular assortment of *cast iron* (with the burrs still ON) vaginal and anal speculums . . . whoa Nelly! those guys had it ROUGH!

      • Rynski says:

        that sounds like a thrill-a-minute. next time i’m in chicago i’m there. can’t recall what museum i found most enthralling, although i know it wasn’t roswell’s alien museum.

      • azmouse says:

        I like the museum at Medieval Times. All sorts of medieval torture devises and old school prisoner torture stuff. The iron maiden was cool.

      • Rynski says:

        oohhh, the medieval museum sounds fab! also reminds me of a photo book of torture devices i got as christmas gift from my beau. awesome!!

      • radmax says:

        Cheese and crackas Rynski!…sure you’re not dating Charlie Rakowitz? 😉

      • Rynski says:

        who is charlie rakowitz?
        Or do you mean chicken man dan, daniel rakowitz. are you confusing him with mr. manson. shame, radmax – please get your killers right!
        hey! that’s what we need – serial killer pez dispensers!

      • radmax says:

        Maybe it’s Danny Mankowitzson…ugh! So damn hard to keep these psychotic maniacs straight… 😉

      • Rynski says:

        i can let you borrow my alphabetized card catalog of them if you’d like, radmax…

    • azmouse says:

      morning to you, Andrew!

  5. Jennatoolz says:

    Oh those PEZ dispensers! I was always fascinated with them and how they worked flawlessly each and every time….hahaha. I had many of them…too many to count! I think I had a Charlie Brown one at one point.
    RIP PEZ Guy. You brought much joy to this world by your simple, yet intriguing contraption. 🙂

    • Rynski says:

      glad to see ya round these parts, jennatoolz!
      we were gonna put out a search party – hahaha – enjoy your vacay time. and thanks for chiming in on dead pez guy.
      charlie brown dispenser is very fine, indeed. would also be cool in lucy van pelt.

      • Jennatoolz says:

        Yes! I finally get to sit home and do NOTHING! Just the way I like it! Maybe I’ll go out and buy a Pez for the fun of it. 🙂

      • Rynski says:

        get donald duck – or daniel rakowitz – whichever you find first.
        enjoy doing nothingness. can’t think of anything more sublime on a vacation!

  6. Ferraribubba says:

    My favorite candy packaging? Thats an easy one. A crisp, new $20 dollar bill.
    It was a dark and cold Friday night, and I was working undercover vice, busting massage parlors in Anaheim.
    Business was kinda slow, so I thought that I’d liven things up a little bit by using my rather kinky imagination to help keep Mr. amd Mrs. John Q. Public safe from crime.
    Did I mention that the parlor was right across from Disneyland?
    Anyway, I went in, paid my money, went to the  private massage room, got undressed and lay on the table with a towel covering me from my navel to my knees.
    Presently the masseuse came in, and after a few minutes of small talk. to break the ice, as it were, lifted the towel preparatory to giving me my massage.
    But what did she see when she looked down at me? Nothing but a crisp, new $20 dollar bill neatly wrapped around my (well, you know what!)
    With that, and saying not a word, she smiled as she took the money, before rubbing some warm body oil in all the right places before giving me a wonderful demonstration of her feminine dexterity.
    FYI: The Calif. Penal code defines prostitution as giving a sex act in exchange for momey. No words must be spoken,  just the act itself must take place.
    After the law had run it’s course, I showered back at the station, but when I got home, I still had so much oil on me that when I climbed into bed on my side, I slid all the way across, and fell out on the Little Ladie’s side.
    Book ’em Dano.  —  Yer pal, Ferrari Bubba

  7. Ferraribubba says:

    Last Add: $20 Dollar Bill Caper – The Last Act: I got so good at playing  word games with the hookers, that Anaheim started loaning me out to other So. Cal. police departments.
    So, one Saturday night I’m registerted in this nice hotel in Glendale, calling for out-call massages. I’m looking in the sex ad section of one of those smut tabloids, and an ad catches my eye that is advertising ‘the manager’s nautical suprise package.’  The Glendale vice officers that I was helping were in the adjoining room, and could hear everything.
    What the hell, it sounds kinda mysterious and interesting, so I give ’em a call. We agree on a price and I give the person the hotel name and my room number.
    About 45 minutes later I’m  in bed waiting, and I hear a knock on the door, and I say, “Come on in, it’s unlocked.”
    The door opens, and much to my suprise, in walks Sailor Bob, sailor suit and all. <g>
    It looks like I had phoned a gay out-call place by mistake.
    Well, boys and girls, that little shocker just about ended my career on the vice squad.
    From then on it was patrol for me.
    Yer pal, Ferrari Bubba

  8. radmax says:

    “nautical surprise package” Truth in advertising can be painful at times…

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