Saturday, September 09, 2006

Got it, Got it, Need it, Got it...

I collect commercials from the 70's and 80's. I mostly find them on eBay, either in commercials-only collections or as part of programs taped as originally broadcast. Old homemade tapes with commercials intact sometimes turn up at garage sales and thrift shops, too. Friends tend to think this hobby is a bit nutty, and they're right, because I wish I had every friggin' commercial aired between 1975 and 1983 and it makes me coo-coo that I don't. Having grown up on Long Island, I would especially like to have ones from local New York City stations.

So, why this particular fixation? I watched a lot of TV as a kid (as you may have surmised while browsing through this blog) and I think that commercials are often so evocative of their era that they become more memorable than the programs they interrupted. They are meant to be persuasive, and so they abound with stimuli intended to attract and arouse, usually in a style reflecting current trends. Of course, because of their succinct format, the opposite can also be true, with annoying or poorly-made ads sticking to the roof of your brain just as easily.

I own a number of the commercials I recall so fondly, with my favorite arguably being the public service announcement about prejudice from the Department of Health, Education and Welfare, featuring a boy and his grandfather in a rowboat out on a lake.

The boy asks what prejudice is, saying that his "Jewish friend" Jimmy accused him of it.

The grandfather gently admonishes the child, telling him he is indeed prejudiced if he calls Jimmy his Jewish friend and not just his friend.

The PSA ends there, but I imagine the boy is so shamed by the quiet disappointment of Pop-pop's reproach that he becomes resentful of Jimmy and Jews in general, thus growing into a virulent anti-Semite. Or maybe he pulls a Fredo on the old man right there. Or maybe they just go for clown cones at Baskin-Robbins.

I also love the animated Great Bear muffler shop ad, with its insanely catchy, jazzy, brushes-on-snare-drum jingle.
Hear it by clicking here! (Posted over the phone from my stereo speaker--talk about muffled...)
this is an audio post - click to play

So many others I was glad to find again...
-Phil Esposito and some other NY Rangers ice-dancing fruitily in Sasson jeans...

-The ghastly ghouls of the Haunted Mansion at Long Branch...

(For the record, this terrified me most.)

-Here's the hapless jaywalking bozo from the "cross at the green, not in-between" PSA...

-The befurred honey who doesn't need a million to look like a million at the Ritz Thrift Shop...

-The stiff-as-old-cheese Coronet brothers with their running "joke" about a talking orangutan...

-Here's a still from the bumper for the WABC 4:30 movie...

(and you can see the dramatic opening courtesy Mr. Lantern Fishworks, right here)...
-The Circle Line and Hudson Dayliner ads that ran for decades, showing the smog-smudged coastline of Manhattan...
-Tom Carvel grunting enthusiastically about Fudgie the Whale and Cupie the Chocolate Nut...

-Giorgio Chinaglia of the New York Cosmos soccer team appearing in a car dealership spot...

-Lots of Christmas ads that set my little heart aflutter...

(I always liked this ridiculously sparse TSS ad: presents arranged in a darkened room with one dim light shining on them. What can I say, I was always something of a melancholy kid. Look for lots more local Christmas commercial scenes as the season approaches...)
-And tons of Crazy Eddie, Korvette's, Two Guys and May's commercials showing whatever sales they were presently going into the red with... (If you're interested in seeing these again, go check out the seller Simio--that's Esperanto for "monkey"--on eBay.)

As for my wish list, well, as I've said, everything. But especially these...

-JGE, a long-gone appliance warehouse, had regular guy co-owner Jerry Rosenberg in a hard-hat telling you about the deals union members could get there. A voice would ask, "Is that the story, Jerry?" Jerry would throw his arms up, shirt lifting to reveal his big belly, and bellow, "Dat's the STAW-ree!"

-There was a summer day-camp program in the NYC area that had a long-running, badly-animated ad featuring a talking yellow balloon (not to be confused with the Lolliwinks' song "Yellow Balloon") and a bouncy ditty that haunts me still. Their website has pics of kids wearing t-shirts with that balloon on them...

-An ice cream ad about which I recall very little except that it had two goofs, one dressed as some variety of fruit and the other as a nut. They did a little Vaudeville-esque routine, singing "He's fruit, I'm nut!" My brother Dave and I would imitate it precisely, as kids are strangely wont to do.

-Not a commercial, but the grim opening to Chiller Theater on WPIX, with the six-fingered claymation hand reaching from the ground. That alone was guaranteed nightmare fuel for a week or so, never mind the horror movie it preceded (usually something like Black Sabbath or Mr. Sardonicus). You can see it in QuickTime on this great page devoted to Chiller Theatre. I swear, every time I played it, that hand reaching up sent an ice cube down my spine!

-Another open I liked, though it's much less interesting, was the cheap chyron intro to WPIX Saturday afternoon sci-fi flicks with Hot Butter's percolating "Popcorn" playing over it.

-Just off the top of my head: Charleston Chews' annoying all-pre-teen ragtime band; Wild West City with Uncle Floyd Vivino, seen here (with Oogie, natch) in an ad for his show...

(go to the WWC site to hear him sing the jingle!); the tolerance PSA with the little American girl lost in an airport where no one speaks English; Hairy, the spider hand puppet ("I'm just wild about Hairy..."); the Mickey Mouse talking phone (where the kid mutters "Mickey come ovah ferra potty"); and the movie ad for, I think, Suspiria. I don't think it's an actual scene from the movie--a woman with her back to the camera sings a creepy song and then turns to reveal a skull face. It scared the hot lemonade out of me so badly--I was about seven at the time--that I was reluctant to change channels for weeks, fearing I'd come face-to-face with her again (this of course was back when you had to actually turn the dial by hand so you were inches from the screen while doing it). The two-DVD set of the movie has the TV ads on it, but when I ordered it from Netflix they sent me the wrong disc. (Of course, I just now spent ten seconds searching for it and found the trailer here. It's certainly not as scary as I remembered, but I think it was the voice that got to me as much as the skullface. This is the full trailer, but I recall it just being that pre-title bit and then the announcer came on to tell you where it was playing. And I would have sworn the camera zoomed in on her bony visage, but I guess that's just how my terror-overloaded brain interpreted it.)

If you have anything I might be interested in (besides intensive therapy), let me know, I have tons of commercials and other weird stuff for trade...

Keywords (in hopes of other similarly troubled videophiles finding this): WCBS WNBC WNEW WABC WOR WNET WLIW


Blogger MO'SH said...

Since when is Jimmy a Jewish name?

Sat Sep 09, 06:20:00 PM 2006  
Blogger psaur said...

I thought that was a little strange too. Maybe they figured "Moshe's my Jewish friend" would be too obvious.

Sun Sep 10, 11:26:00 PM 2006  
Blogger psaur said...

I just looked it up. The Jewish equivalent of James is Jacob, so I guess they should have had the kid say "Jake's my Jewish friend." Alternatively, who the hell cares.

Sun Sep 10, 11:31:00 PM 2006  
Blogger MO'SH said...

What was that dope's name with the schnoz you used to do the impression of? "Socks! Underwear!" I'm drawing a blank. WHich might be a blessing...

Mon Sep 11, 12:45:00 AM 2006  
Blogger MO'SH said...

You're becoming the Bogdanovich of 70s-80s Local Commercials!


Yes, I'm throwing that word around again!

Tue Sep 12, 10:49:00 AM 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Two things I remember vividly by heart, verbatim are that stupid PSA and the entire beginning from Matinee at the Bijou which we used to relentlessly poke fun at, both the spoken part and the song ("The Hub Of Activity on a Saturday Afternoon").
Jeff G.

Fri Sep 15, 01:57:00 PM 2006  
Blogger psaur said...

Rudy Vallee (spoken):
"The movies were speaking
the market was peaking,
we lived off the fat of the land,
but the banquet was ending
a plague was descending,
the day of the locust at hand.
But at the bijou bitter gall
became as sweet as brandy,
and humble pie turned into cotton candy...
America was standing in breadlines
Dillinger was stealing all the headlines
but down at the bijou people said lines
like 'boop-oop-ee-doop,
in the dust bowl the black winds were wailing,
the rivers were rising, Ohio was bailing,
but little Shirley Temple always had bliss sailing
on board the Good Ship Lollipop,
Andy Hardy never had to go hungry,
there was no bank panic at Tarzan's branch,
Il Duce and Der Fuhrer
couldn't've been obscurer
on the planet Mongo or the Melody Ranch..."

"When popcorn was only a nickel, and soda pop only a dime, this old movie house was the hub of activity on a Saturday afternoon. Hi, I'm Scott DeVinney..."

That can be heard on the first sleepover tape we made in December 1980, but I would probably remember it verbatim anyway. I liked the cartoons and the shorts on MatB, usually skipped the main attraction. I remember once playing the theme song for my mom, thinking she'd dig it, that's her era and whatever. She listened patiently and then said, "I always hated Rudy Vallee."

Fri Sep 15, 06:46:00 PM 2006  
Blogger MO'SH said...

After reading that, I had to check my birth certificate. Nope, it still says "1969." Though, Christ, I wouldn't have been surprised if it said 1920!

Fri Sep 15, 09:54:00 PM 2006  
Anonymous Cathy Rosenberg said...

My husband was googling JGE for old articles and we came across your blog. Jerry Rosenberg was his father and we have an entire VHS tape of his commercials, including the flying carpet one which I LOVE. Would be happy to share with you if you're still looking! He passed away 7 or 8 years ago. But we all live in Florida. Let me know if you want to receive a copy and I'll make you one!
Cathy Rosenberg

Mon Sep 22, 09:39:00 AM 2008  
Blogger psaur said...

Hey Cathy,
I would kill for that tape! Yes, please, email me at
and I'll send you my info, and will gladly reimburse you for it (or send you a tape in return, if you're interested...) Man, I hope you see this soon!

BTW, I tried Googling you and got only one person by your name in Florida. While she was very nice, she of course had no idea what I was talking about. When I asked if she had been to my website, she chuckled, as if I may as well ask her if she'd been to the moon.

Much of the reason I'd love to see these again is that whenever these ads came on, my brothers and I would joke that Jerry reminded us of our own father, and dad would then do his impression of "That's the story!" which never failed to crack us up...

Tue Sep 23, 06:55:00 PM 2008  

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