Just ‘Round the Corner!

If you watch enough television where I live–Charlottesville, Virginia–you will probably see commercials for no less than four furniture stores.  There’s Kane Furniture (with a kicky cool-jazz-with-flute jingle: “At Kaaaaaaaaane furniture, you’ll have a home fashioned just for you”), Under the Roof (which is a montage of modern-looking furniture set to a ragin’ drum solo), Grand Furniture, and Schewels (who always is having a sale.  They had a Friday the 13th sale last month).  I swear they advertise more than car dealerships these days, although it is understandable because in a recession, buying furniture is one of the last purchases on a person’s mind.

The unfortunate thing about all this is that with the exception of Schewels’ Crazy Eddie-like tendencies (“WE’RE GIVING EVERYONE CREDIT!  WE’RE GIVING EVERYONE EMPLOYEE PRICES!  FOR GOD’S SAKE COME IN AND BUY AN ENDTABLE!”), the furniture store commercials in Charlottesville are kind of boring.  It’s like … yeah, there’s a couch with giant arms wider than most morbidly obese people.  Oh, and a glass table with a marble column for a pedestal just in case someone from New Jersey might shop here.  And a denim loveseat.  I’m so excited.

But hey, I consider myself spoiled when it comes to local television furniture store commercials (yes, you can be spoiled in this regard) because I grew up on Long Island and our local TV spots were nothing short of epic.

While I am sure that there were more stores advertising on television, when I think back to the late 1980s and early 1990s, I think of two stores:  Coronet and Room Plus

Coronet was a family owned baby furniture store located in Old Westbury, and probably did good business for quite a while when I was younger because those were the days before the baby superstores.  In fact, nowadays, I’m pretty sure that if you do not register yourself at Babies R Us or Buy Buy Baby, you get a visit from Child Protective Services.

Anyway, the commercials mostly starred the two owners–a couple of brothers with mustaches who looked like your uncle or older cousin–and they’d usually be doing some sort of gag while their mother (“The Coronet Mother”) did the pitch.  For instance, The Coronet Mother pitches with her two boys in cribs behind her:


All You Have to Bring is Your Love of Everything

It’s been a mild winter, so skiing is the last thing on my mind (granted, I’ve only been skiing twice in my life, so it’s not on my mind very often), and based on what I have been seeing on the local news, it’s been the last thing on everyone’s mind because ski resorts are struggling.  In the same vein, I find myself wondering if any other vacation spots are struggling.  The economy isn’t exactly doing the best, and airfares are insane, so travel to anywhere for a period of time longer than a weekend seems to be costing a year’s tuition at Harvard.

Still, I keep seeing commercials for those ever-popular destinations for people who don’t find hitting the slopes and then curling up in a snowflake sweater appealing–the Caribbean.  Specifically, resorts like Sandals and Beaches.  My son loves the latest commercial for Beaches because Cookie Monster is in it (although I’m not sure that he realizes that Cookie Monster might not be at Virginia Beach when we go in July).  But the Sandals commercials always amuse me because they make a vacation to that resort seem like the most epic romantic time ever imagined.

That’s the best example of a couple frolicking outside on an apparatus that’s not in a Cialis commercial.  And actually, it’s kind of appropriate that the ad agency used “(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life” by Bill Medley and Jennifer Warrens (but not the version sung by Bill Medley and Jennifer Warrens) in the commercial because the movie it comes from is Dirty Dancing, which takes place at a resort in the Catskills and mentions several times the decline of such resorts as popular family destinations.  Indeed Sandals and Beaches have sort of become the new Catskills or Poconos and the commercials are the perfect evidence of that because that Sandals commercial is very much like a commercial from my youth:

Ah, beautiful Mount Airy Lodge, which was, by the time this commercial was airing in the late 1980s and early 1990s, a deteriorating shell of its former self.  What was once a popular getaway for couples in the 1960s and 1970s was by this time (at least according to Wikipedia) hemorrhaging money and wound up going into foreclosure in 1999 before being bought by Harrah’s and turned into a casino.  But this commercial aired before the great decline and if you were watching one of the syndicated channels in the New York metropolitan area (WPIX or WWOR) during the day, you wound up seeing the Mount Airy Lodge commercial at least a few times, enough that you knew the “All you have to bring is your love of everything” slogan by heart. (more…)

Uncool as Ice

For a brief moment in the eighth grade, I thought this was cool.

When you’re unpopular in junior high, pop music can be as cruel as the people who seem to make it their mission to go out of their way to make your life a living hell.  I guess I should clarify that because music itself can’t be cruel–for the most part, anyway–but it, combined with the hormonal awkwardness that can only come from being an early adolescent can make you do pretty stupid things, like think you can dance.

The usual popular culture portrayal of a junior high dance is the image of an extremely awkward evening in a humid gym where girls spend most of their time as far away as possible from much shorter boys, who are too busy trying to gross one another out to notice those girls.  In those movies or television shows, two people eventually dance and it winds up being a rather chaste, sweet moment.

However, the dances I went to at Sayville Junior High between 1989 and 1991 were nothing like the ones we used to see on TV.  I may be exaggerating here, but I remember those dances feeling epic, as if each was one night in my young life when I was in the right place at the right time.  The student council and junior high staff certainly seemed to make it that way, at least by using the building’s architecture to its fullest advantage.  Our dances were never held in the junior high gymnasium; rather, the student council utilized the large commons area that rant the length of the building from the main entrance to the gym hallway.  The commons area floor was carpeted and the second floor was completely open save for a catwalk and a couple of balconies that looked over the rug.  Most importantly, the commons area had an extra-sized stairway that pivoted on a platform, which is where the deejay would set up.  When you break it down from the perspective of twenty years later, it’s a junior high dance, but to an awkward kid who didn’t get out much, turning off the lights in the commons area on a Friday night made the place a dance club.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t much of a dancer.  If you pressed me, I could probably move back and forth to the beat of whatever music was playing but I really didn’t know my way around a dance floor.  That wasn’t a problem in the seventh grade because I spent most of my time in the cafeteria, working the soda table with my friend Rich.  People would give us 50 cents and we would slide a cold C&C Cola to them.  We got a few breaks and were allowed to roam the dance floor, but the two of us were fiercely dedicated soda jockeys, so much so that when a girl whose name I think was Becky asked me to dance one time, I declined because I was going to be back on my soda-serving shift.

My social ineptitude wouldn’t improve much from twelve to thirteen.  I’d blame it on the terrible accident that I was in two days after my thirteenth birthday because it’s not easy to go through an entire year of junior high with two fake front teeth (that you could remove) and a scar under your nose that looked like a giant pimple, but I’d been walking the halls with comic books and once wore a Star Trek pin to school.  Scar or no scar, I wasn’t a superstar.

But I wanted to be, or at least I wanted a girlfriend, which meant that at some point I was going to have to talk to a girl and maybe even ask her out.  This wasn’t happening, though, because I spent most of the year (and pretty much half of high school as well) with a mind-numbing crush on a girl who was completely out of my league and while I am sure she’d engage me in conversation if I tried, I suffered from the typical thirteen-year-old boy issue of acting stupid whenever I was around her.

There was something different about dances, though.


The Yearbook Myth

One commercial that stuck with me from the time I first saw it as a kid until I became a teenager was an ad for McDonald’s entitled “Great Year!”  It features the antics of Central Junior High School’s yearbook staff as they attempt to cover all of the great and crazy things that happened during the course of the school year and then meet at McDonald’s to celebrate their success.

Watch the minute-long ad and you’ll see a portrait of a junior high school that in 1983 or whenever it was originally shot had to be the coolest place on Earth.  Everyone gets along, someone walks through the hallway dressed as a strawberry, and even the high pressure moments are filled with a goofiness that only comes when you are selling hamburgers.  I don’t have to do much to convince anyone that my junior high experience was not really like this.  Had “Great Year!” been a real reflection of what I remember, there would have been footage of a gym teacher cutting gum out of someone’s hair, two guys blowing snot rockets all over the school store while the people who worked there gagged and yelled at them to stop, and one kid looking scared out of his mind while another threatened to beat the ever-loving snot out of him if he did even the slightest thing wrong.  Or maybe that’s just my take.



One of my favorite things about looking at old commercials, especially those from when I was a kid, is how someone thought that their idea was what kids back then thought looked cool.  Granted, in 1988 this wasn’t very hard.  I mean, this was the decade where you could put a bunch of random cartoon characters on screen for thirty seconds and tell us there was a toy involved and parents would be beating one another down in parking lots for the toys.

But those were toys.  How did you sell something that wasn’t a toy, or say a movie that looked like it would have cool toys?  How did you sell, for instance, food?

A few weeks ago, I took a glance at an old McDonald’s commercial, which was this sappy brother-sister number where the brother is obviously stalking his sister but it’s supposed to be all cute because he offers her a french fry or something.  Phone company commercials from that era are noted for this type of syrupy fun, and soft drink commercials?  Well, I’ve already talked about the epic nature of Dr. Pepper’s early 1990s ad campaign and at some point I’m going to get around to Coke.

But a lot of those commercials weren’t specifically geared towards kids, mainly because kids weren’t the only people going to drink Coke or go to McDonald’s.  However, we were the people most likely to eat Chef Boyardee.

Canned pasta has been around for what seems like eons (I think that’s its shelf-life, too) and there have been quite a number of products geared towards kids, such as Franco-American’s Spaghetti-O’s and Chef Boyardee’s Tic Tac Toe’s (yeah, I know it’s a misused apostrophe … it was their mistake, not mine).  The former is somewhat of an American institution because even those of us who have never eaten a single Spaghetti-O know the jingle “Uh oh, Spaghetti-O’s!”  Tic Tac Toe’s, however, don’t enjoy the same iconic status.  In fact, they’re not even made anymore.

But back in the late 1980s, the pasta company tried to break Spaghetti-Os monopoly on kids’ pasta consciousness and unveiled one of those commercials that I have never been able to get out of my head since:


Heaven in a Can

I don’t have much for this week, except that after years of looking for this commercial on YouTube and various websites, I finally found the classic Franco-American turkey gravy commercial where a turkey gravy can actually has a turkey inside of it!  It’s one of my wife’s favorite commercials and a sure sign that it’s now time for the holidays.  A Happy Thanksgiving to all!

Just What the Dr. Ordered

1980s-1990s Dr. Pepper logo

If I were to say “Dr. Pepper commercial,” your first thought would probably be of David Naughton (star of American Werewolf in London and the horribly underrated Midnight Madness) singing “Wouldn’t you like to be a Pepper too?”  And that’s understandable because that ad campaign is right up there with the Big Mac ingredients commercial as one of the most memorable of the last 40 years.

But in the early 1990s, Dr. Pepper decided to revamp its image and by creating a sequel of sorts to its iconic “Be a Pepper” campaign.  I guess in an age of MTV, the old commercial was too friendly and not aggressive or cool enough, maybe even hokey.  So, we got “Just What the Dr. Ordered,” a series of commercials that like most sequels, pales in comparison to the original and has more or less been forgotten by everyone in my generation (except me, of course).

This was in an era where the soda being advertised in commercials seemed to bring about unbridled awesomeness and happiness, and the people who developed “Just What the Dr. Ordered” decided to find someone cool and awesome to lead us to the caffeinated promised land.  The guy they hired was some random dude wearing a white T-shirt and jeans who sang about the ills of the world and how Dr. Pepper cures them.  He was basic, he had common sense, and he knew exactly what to do. His name is Terry Gatens (thanks to Patty, who commented below and is Terry’s sister), and over the course of four commercials from about 1990-1992, Dr. Pepper made him go out of his way to get more cool points than Fonzie ever dreamed of having.  If I had to name the guy he’s playing in the commercials, it would be Nick (because Nick’s a real name. Nick’s your buddy. Nick’s the kind of guy you can trust, the kind of guy you can drink a beer with, the kind of guy who doesn’t mind if you puke in his car, Nick! … Oh, vomit. I’m sorry. Vomit.) but I don’t want to confuse the two people reading this, so I’ll call him Dr. Pepper Guy II, or DPII (out of respect for David Naughton, the original recipe Dr. Pepper Guy).  I don’t know the order in which these commercials aired, either, so I’m listing them in rank of DPII’s awesome effect on the world.