The man with the floating hat is none other than Pizza Hut Pete. As far as I can tell, he started making pies for the pizza giant around 1965 and virtually disappeared in the mid-1980s.
[While he was named Pete, I've also seen him referred to on Pizza Hut paper items simply as "Pizza Man".]
The bag puppet shown here was probably given away in the early 1970s. I love how he is simultaneously giving kids the "thumbs up" and the "OK" sign to assure us that all is well at his pizza joint.
Pete's design caught my attention at an early age; most notably his floating hat, which usually hovered just above his head, and of course the fact that he had two eyes on the same side of his nose. Yes, Pete was always a beacon for classy pizza and good times.
I fondly remember having family meals out at the Pizza Hut in the 1970s and working the activities on the back of the kids' placemats. Here is one such placemat in which Pete shows the steps to make the perfect pie.
Here is the second edition of the Pete bag puppet from the late 1970s. Pete has a more refined or cleaned-up look here.
I've tried to compile a list of Pizza Hut Pete premiums and collectibles that I've seen over the years. Here's what I've come up with so far:
- Bag puppets (2 different)
- Coleco toy oven
- Pizza Hut kids playhouse
- Pete plastic bank
- Stickers (at least 4 different)
- Matchbooks (at least 4 different designs)
- Server set (toy dishes)
- Key ring
- Playing cards
- Glasses & mugs
- Pinback buttons (2 different)
- Uniform patch
- Pete enameled pin (newer/retro)
- Pete plush doll
- Paper placemats (various, with activities on back)
- Postcards (Pete featured on store sign or roof)
- Swizzle stick
- Store "Closed" sign
- Pocket menu
Pete seems to be another advertising icon that is being lost to history, though he'll make an occasional appearance in an eBay auction. Pizza Hut doesn't seem to acknowledge him anymore, and there's not really anything written about him on the web... until now!
But Pete does live on, certainly in the memories of many kids of the '70s who, like me, remember gathering the family around a pepperoni pie, doodling on placemat activities and pondering the laws of gravity and that funny little pizza man under the hat.