Actors In TV Commercials

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Advertising takes many forms. And too often we forget how memorable these actors become. I recall listening to my favourite singer Jo Stafford's album "Ballad of the Blues." And I kept thinking to myself Frosted Flakes. And I figured out why after she was giving her interview on the CD. Turns out one of the backup singers was Thurl Ravenscroft better known to the masses as "Tony the Tiger."

Advertising can be fun as Coca Cola's catchy jingle which was made into a top 10 hit I'd Like To Teach The World To Sing. Or it can be a disaster. Think New Coke; hard to believe anyone would ask for THAT much bad publicity. Though some people believe to this day it was all part of the plan.

Other times the advertising itself drives you crazy. One guy I know still refuses to buy Scott towels because he couldn't stand the voice of Aunt Bluebell, played by Mae Questal.

I know young people that were frightened of Mother Nature in the Chiffon margarine ads or Cora, who played the "Wicked Witch" in The Wizard Of Oz who later advertised for Maxwell House Coffee. Not exactly the best way of finding new customers.

But for good or bad, here's my salute to these actors best known, not for their acting jobs but for their salesmanship, plus a couple of others, thrown in because they were hot, or local.

The Beloved

Mr Whipple

Mrs Olsen

Euell Gibbons


Aunt Bluebell
Mother Nature

Maytag Repairman

Sarah Tucker

The Hunks

Diet Coke Hunk

The Soloflex Guy
The Dell Dude

Don Lapre
Cingular Triplets

The Bowflex Guy

Chicago TV Pitchmen

Empire Carpets Guy

Homemakers Lady
Timmy The Newsboy Victory Auto Guy

whipple jpg Character: Mr Whipple

Sold: Charmin Toilet Paper

Catchphrase: "Please Don't Squeeze The Charmin"

Real Name: Dick Wilson (Born 1916 in England)

Probably best known outside of his commercials for being the drunk on the TV show Bewitched, I must say I love the hypocritical Mr Wilson. Always on the look out, not for shoplifters, but for people who would dare to squeeze this toilet paper. Yet always seizing any opportunity to squeeze this toilet paper himself.

It's pretty sad when the toilet paper is getting more action than you are. I guess the sexual innuendo was about as hot as it got in the 60s, at least on TV. I often wonder what Freud would say about it. Hmmm.

Mr Whipple was ranked the third most recognizable person of the 1970s, behind Billy Graham and former President Nixon. People didn't have a lot to do or many people to admire, obviously.

I hated at the end of the series run in 1989 when Mr Whipple gave up and said "Go ahead and squeeze the Charmin."

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olsen jpg Character: Mrs Olsen

Sold: Folgers Coffee

Catchphrase: "It's Mountain Grown"

Real Name: Virginia Christine (born 1920 in Stanton, IA / died 1996)

Mrs Olsen seemed to know every young couple that has a husband refusing a second cup of coffee. We also never saw what else she had in those bags. Groceries? I just wonder about that. After all it was Columbian coffee.

She appeared in High Noon (1952), The Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956), Judgment at Nuremberg (1961) and Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (1967).

olsen jpg olsen jpg Glamour shots of Virginia in her early days.

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cora jpg Character: Cora

Sold: Maxwell House Coffee

Catchphrase: "Good Till The Last Drop"

Real Name: Margaret Hamilton (born 1902 in Cleveland / Died 1985

OK I probably shouldn't put here in here because Hamilton hardly achieved great success here. But since she was Maxwell House's answer to the Folgers I put her in. As the Wicked Witch of the West," in the classic Wizard of Oz Ms Hamilton appears on screen for a total of only 12 minutes. Doesn't it seem a lot longer? I think this was a poor choice for a sales person as Ms Hamilton was scary in or or of her witch costume.

I recall an interview she gave on TV. Her agent came to Ms Hamilton and said "they are making the book The Wizard Of Oz into a movie and they have a part for you." Margaret says "Oh I love that book, which part is it?" Then she says, "Well my agent looked at me deadpan and said 'Well the witch,' as if to say 'What other part could it possibly be'?"

cora gif Margaret as the Wicked Witch Of The West.

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gibbons jpg Character: Himself

Sold: Post Grape Nuts

Catchphrase: "Ever eat a pine tree? Many parts are edible"

Real Name: Euell Gibbons (born 1911 in Clarksville, TX /died 1975)

He gained fame throughout the 60s as an outdoorsman and proponent of natural diets. After he published many books including his first successful book Stalking the Wild Asparagus he was recruited by Post to be their spokesman for this nearly impossible to chew food.

When he died in 1975 he was said to have died from "natural causes," which led to many a joke, saying he died from "natural causes" cause he ate too much "natural food." In reality he died from a heart attack, and he smoked as well.

gibbons gif gibbons1 jpg Glamour shot and book cover

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madge jpg Character: Madge

Sold: Palmolive Dishwashing Liquid

Catchphrase: "You're soaking in it"

Real Name: Jan Mine (born 1917 in Boston / Died 2004)

I always loved the way the women react when they found out they were soaking their hands in dishwashing liquid, as if they had their hand in a toilet. But then again, I wonder how much more profitable Madge was since she probably still charged them full price for the cheaper dishwashing liquid, then using expensive salon lotion.

The Madge character was very popular in ad campaigns around the world. The Germans called her Tilly; the French called her Francoise, and the Finnish called her Marissa. Jan Miner was quoted as saying "Where ever I am, When I get off the plane, it's always, 'Madge!'"

Jan Mine, was a character actress in Broadway, films and on the radio is where she found her biggest success prior to commercials. From 1945 to 1949 she appeared on the detective radio show Boston Blackie. Her other big role was Lenny Bruce's mother in the 1974 movie Lenny.

madge1 jpg Glamour shot of Jan Miner, early in her career.

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bluebell jpg Character: Aunt Bluebell

Sold: Scott Towels

Catchphrase: "Weigh it for yourself honey"

Real Name: Mae Questel (born 1908 in New York City / Died 1998)

God I hated Aunt Bluebell so much!. I just wanted to push her into a street of heavy traffic.

Probably best know to the world as the voice of Betty Boop, as Betty Boop she recorded the song On The Good Ship Lollipop and it sold over 2 million records, and that was during the depression. Questel also provided the voice of Olive Oyl, Lil' Audrey, and many of the minor characters in Popeye cartoons.

She was also a well known character actresses, her last role being Woody Allen's mother in New York Stories

bluebell gif bluebell1 jpg Mae with Betty Boop and glamour shot

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deitrich jpg Character: Mother Nature

Sold: Chiffon Margarine

Catchphrase: "It's not nice to fool Mother Nature."

Real Name: Dena Dietrich (born 1928 in Pittsburgh, PA)

These commercials ran throughout the 70s. The first in 1970 and the last in 1979 and a lot of TV shows spoofed the bit. I loved the dramatic pause they put: It's not nice to fool (pause -- then thunder clap) Mother Nature.

For those of you who were young margarine was just starting to take hold. For years and years the butter industry had successfully lobbied to keep margarine unavailable to Americans. Yes that is true. In some states it was even illegal to sell yellow margarine and the companies use to supply a packet of yellow food color to help consumers make their own yellow margarine.

She appeared as an minor character in scores of TV shows, the best known being the sister of Helen Roper in The Ropers. She also was a major "B" actress on Broadway and seen on TV right till this day.

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sarah jpg Character: Sarah Tucker

Sold: Cool Whip

Catchphrase: "Fresh taste of Cool Whip"

Real Name: Marge Redmond (born 1930 in Cleveland)

Best known for her role as Sister Jacqueline in The Flying Nun Marge spent the 70s as "The Cool Whip Lady," who owned a rural inn and was away heaping that stuff on food she served.

Why didn't she serve "REAL" whip cream is beyond me? I guess she was in a hurry to clog arteries.

Funny I can't stand cool whip. It's got to be real cream for me. I guess cause as a kid I used to eat a lot of it. It was still new for the times. The whip cream out of a tub was a new thing compared to the kind that squirted out of the can.

She was married to another character actor Jack Weston.

sarah1 jpg At left, with Sally Field, as Sister Katherine.

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white jpg Character: Maytag Repairman

Sold: Maytag Washers

Catchphrase: None: he was just lonely

Real Name: esse White (born 1917 in Buffalo NY / died 1997)

Jesse White, is the character best identified as this spokesman. What is not often known is he wasn't the first. That was Tom Pedi. In 1989 Jesse was replaced by Gordon Jump formerly of WKRP In Cincinnati

To me neither Gordon Jump nor Jump's replacement Hardy Rawls, were anywhere as good as Mr White. As a character actor in TV Jesse White's resume would take pages, but his reoccuring roles were as Oscar Pudney, on the Ann Sothern Show and Cagey Calhoun on Private Secretary. On both shows he played a nemesis to the Ann Sothern character.

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steve jpg Character: Steve (The Dell Dude)

Sold: Dell Computers

Catchphrase: "Dude, you're gettin' a Dell!"

Real Name: Ben Curtis (born in Chattanooga TN, in 1980)

The series of commercials where Steve played an elf, the best friend, the technical advisor among other roles. The irritating but ironically likeable Steve (or Steven) was phased out in favour of the much less successful "Dell interns." Who were all dogs by the way, not literally just well you get the point.

Arrested in February 2003 for trying to buy some marijuana, Dell orginally stood behind him, but later fired him to comply with corporate policy.

Ben, who's father is gay, and has a bisexual sister, has acted in off Broadway productions and lives in NYC. He has been in Joy and off Broadway production centered around gay themes. Asked if he's ever "experimented" like his character, Christian, Curtis says, "Absolutely, yeah. I appreciate men just as much as women, but I lean toward the female side." When asked if he's straight Curtis said "Umm I'd say I'm straight, but I'm open-minded."

This guy is a good example, of a guy that isn't very good looking but for some odd reason I find extremly attractive. You can click the two pics below for full size image.They open in a new window

steve2 jpg steve1 jpg Left: Ben in the play Joy

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lucky jpg Character: Diet Coke Hunk

Sold: Diet Coke

Catchphrase: None, Just took off shirt

Real Name: Lucky Vanous (born 1961 in Lincoln NE)

Ok he doesn't belong here. He wasn't reoccurring person in a commercial, but being gay, I like shirtless guys, and this was a good one to like. To me, this is about as good looking and as hot as a guy can get.

The commercial centers around a bunch of office girls running to take their break to watch a man, who for some reason feels he must take off his shirt in order to drink a Diet Coke. The lean yet muscular guy must know he's being watched, because at the commercial's end the girls all agree "Same time tomorrow?"

He has appeared in TV and movies in one time parts or walk ins and has his own workout video from 1994. He is also a former Black Beret in the armed forces. All three photos of Lucky when click will enlarge and open in another window.

lucky2 jpg lucky3 jpg Beefcake shots. Click to enlarge

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triplets jpg Character: Cingular Triplets

Sold: Cingular Cell Phone Service

Catchphrase: None, just hot guys

Real Name: Nick, Craig, Ryan Karshner (born 1982 in CA)

OK these guys are hot too. That is why they are here. They served the purpose to provide low level brother-sex fantasies of uptight homosexuals and teen age girls on Myspace. All the pictures of the triplets here are clickable and will open in another window.

The actual ad campaign turned out to be a bust for Cingular but the triplets seemed to have been able to market themselves in various form of pin-up boys. They continued to work as banquet servers at the Holiday Inn Select in Bakersfield CA, while they made their ads. They have also done layouts for Abercrombie and Fitch.

They currently run their own website, which is pay and features their pics and hope to get into action films or sit-coms.

triplets jpg triplets jpg Beefcake pics. Click to enlarge

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soloflex guy jpg Character: The Soloflex Guy

Sold: Soloflex Machines

Catchphrase: None

Real Name: Scott Madsen(Born: ?? If you know email me.)

While he isn't the original Soloflex model, he is the best known. Scott was a former Olympic gymnast, whatever that means. I have yet to been able to find out if he was just on the team or did compete. Of course being good looking in the mid 80s then disappearing Scott was the subject of the rumour right after he finished making the Soloflex ads he got AIDS and died. I doubt this is true.

I actually started working out on Soloflex and it is a great machine to have. Compact and gives you a good workout. I would recommend anyone who wants to go the home gym route to go with this.

I can't find any good pics of Scott online. These are scans of the brochure I had. The pics of him online are really dark. If anyone has better pics or accurate information about him let me know.

He also has a book he put around in 1985 called Peak Condition which you can get online used at and usually. It offers a variety of workout routines, and exercises, but it only has black and white photos though.

soloflex2 guy jpg soloflex1 guy jpg Shots of Scott from Soloflex Brochure

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lapre gif Character: Himself

Sold: Various Get Rich Quick Schemes

Catchphrase: "I Guarantee You'll Get Excited"

Real Name: Don Lapre(Born: ?? If you know email me.)

Phoenix, Arizona-based Don Lapre is easily recognizable with his enthusiam, and enough good looks to sell whatever product he's currently peddling. He has incredible on-screen appearance and charm and while most of his operations are "bordeline sleazy" he is pretty darn cute.

He's the kind of guy you want to cuddle up next to and make out with all night. He is kind of like a Ken doll brought to life.

From 900 numbers to tiny classified ads, to his current partnership selling vitamins. Lapre, who never even graduated high school, has reaped many millions of dollars doing business under a long list of company names, though in 1988 he declared chapter 7 bankruptcy and in 1999 declared chapter 11 bankruptcy. Though in fairness routine bankruptcy is not an uncommon business practice even in mainline businesses.

Like most get rich quick schemes Lapre's business center around selling information you could get anywhere if you put in a little effort. If you can't resist you can often fnd his books on eBay for sale really cheap by people who, obviously didn't like his programs. The brilliant thing about Don is he promises little. For instance on his informercials he yells "I guarantee you'll be excited." Sounds great till you stop and think about it. What the hell does it mean? It's nothing. But he guarantees THAT

And for some reason I get the feeling if he was ugly no one would ever buy anything he sells. Bottom line, keep the make out fantasy, don't waste your money.

lapre1 gif lapre2 gif lapre3 gif Don making an infomercial

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bowflext guy jpg Character: Himself

Sold: Bowflex Machines

Catchphrase: None

Real Name: Randy Potter(Born: ?? If you know email me.)

Randy Potter the second most famous Soloflex guy bolted from the company and joined up with Bowflex, eventually becoming a vice-president there. Soloflex also sued him and Bowflex for infringing on trademark and insider trading.

Potter has turned into quite an executive. In addition to his salary as Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer, reported his stock options in the company are worth between 2 and 2.5 million dollars. All the MORE reasons to droll over Randy eh?

There is very little information outside of this on the internet. If anyone has some facts about Randy they'd like to share with me, let me know.

bowflex2 guy jpg Randy from another angle

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hauldren jpg Character: Empire Carpet Guy

Sold: Empire Carpets

Catchphrase: "588-23-hundred EMPIRE"

Real Name: Lynn Hauldren (Born: ?? If you know email me.)

Hauldren, an advertising copywriter who created the character, first appeared in the ads in 1973. There have been more than a thousand of them since, and thanks to the magic of cable TV he is now a national celebrity. Hauldren is not an Empire employee,

Empire Carpet opened in Chicago in the late 1950's. In 1973, Hauldren created a "spokesman" character for the company, and legend has it that when the original actor didn't show up, Hauldren stepped in to take his place.

Mr. Hauldren has also appeared in some award-winning barbershop quartets. His most famous quartets were Chicago Natural Gas and Chordiac Arrest.

I wonder about his health now. He doesn't appear in commercials anymore and a cartoon character takes his place. He is doing the voice overs but his speech lisps and sounds slurred. I wonder if he had a stroke or something? Anyone know? Let me know

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victory auto wreckers jpg Character: Guy With A Beater

Sold: Victory Auto Wreckers, buys old cars

Catchphrase: None: Just a poor schmuck with a beater

Real Name: Bob Zajdel (Born: ?? If you know email me.)

This same commercial has been running virtually unchanged since 1981. On it Bob Zajdel barely escapes injury when the driver side door falls of his old beater. He then looks all disgusted as if to say, "What the hell else can go wrong?

A few seconds later the car is off to Victory Auto Wreckers in Bensenville, Illinois and Zajdel is a few bucks richer, with the bills placed ever so neatly in his hands.

Zajdel worked for Victory 25 years ago as a driver, when he was asked to do the one time shot. That remains his only acting gig but after 25 years. Zajdel says he received no extra money to appear in the commercial but does enjoy his "celebrity status," if only local.

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need pic jpg Character: Newspaper Boy (Timmy)

Sold:Long Chevrolet

Catchphrase: "Extra Extra"

Real Name: Tim Long (Born: ?? If you know email me.)

He started out as a Depression-era newsboy in knickers and floppy cap who screeched "Extra! Extra!", spouting off headlines selling cars for Long Chevrolet in Elmhurst, Illinois. Eventually he was promoted as he appeared in a suit as a salesman of sorts, still selling the dealership.

"There was such a dislike for the commercial that it worked, says Jim Long owner of Long Chevrolet, who now sells BMWs in Lemont, Illinois.

Long says he saw his nephew, actually named Timmy, who was 12 years old and living in Florida at the time, wearing an old time cap and had his jeans rolled up like knickers.

Timmy is now a mortgage broker in Minneapolis,

The favourite commercial for fans, came when Timmy was pitching a typical sales pitch and he looks at his newspaper and it reads "Kid gets pie in face." And of course Timmy does, get a pie right in his face. According to Timmy it was a compete surprise and not planned.

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long jpg Character: Lady at Homemakers (Part of John M Symthe)

Sold: Furniture

Catchphrase: "Not low price furniture but good furniture at low prices"

Real Name: Shelly Long (Born: 1949 in Ft Wayne, IN)

I put this here for two reasons, one because my brother used to have the biggest crush on her, he loved the Homemakers lady. Also few people realize what a big thrill it was to have a local actress from Chicago make good in Hollywood.

In her mid-20s and a rising local star on stage and television, Long was well-known in Chicago as the "Homemaker's Lady" -- the spokeswoman for John M. Smythe's furniture chain.

She enrolled at Northwestern University's drama department as an undergraduate in 1967. She left Northwestern, without graduating, to pursue a dual career in modeling and acting.

Long joined the Second City troupe -- which she once called "the best kind of acting" -- while simultaneously writing, producing and co-hosting WMAQ's (NBC owned station) "Sorting It Out," a Chicago magazine program in 1975. The show was such a hit that it ran for three years and won three local Emmy Awards for Best Entertainment Show.

In an interview with the Chicago Sun-Times in 1976, Long said, "I've enjoyed my television and commercial work, and it has been very lucrative, but I'd like to do more -- to be more than a vessel filled with someone else's words."

Much to her credit Ms Long continued to appear in ads for Homemakers even after her fame in Cheers, only stopping them when Homemakers declined to foot the bill for her to travel from Los Angeles to Chicago to film the ads.

If anyone has a pic of her in an actual Homemakers Commerical ad please let me know.

long2 jpg long1 jpg From her TV show "Sorting It Out"

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