It’s hard to imagine them anyplace other than your TV screen, hawking products in those ads everyone knows by heart. But while commercial characters remain static in our pop-culture consciousness, the actors move on and build lives beyond the 30-second spot. Mr. Whipple (a.k.a. Dick Wilson), for example, is spending his days in Henderson, Nev., squeezing the complimentary case of Charmin he receives from Procter & Gamble each month. Madge the Palmolive Lady (a.k.a. Jan Miner) now lives in Southbury, Conn., soaking up various film offers that come her way. And Mr. Clean and the Jolly Green Giant now share a condo in Palm Springs (kidding). Here’s what other favorite ad people are up to.
FED EX FAST TALKER
JOHN MOSCHITTA JR. took flight as the limber-lipped pitchman for Federal Express, whose 450-word-per-minute delivery — now 586 — helped bolster the nearly bankrupt company’s sales (1981).
Signature Shtick: ”Peteyou’redoingabangupjobI’mputtingyouin chargeofPittsburgh.”
Ad Tales: In 1980, the out-of-work actor sent out hundreds of fliers announcing an appearance on That’s Incredible!. ”The show aired on a Thursday, and by the following Tuesday I was negotiating with FedEx and booked on Johnny Carson, Mike Douglas, Toni Tennille, and Merv Griffin,” says the actor, now 42.
Life After FedEx: Moschitta’s speedy-speech empire included jobs for Minute Rice, the Micromachines Man for Galoob Toys, regular roles on numerous television shows (Matt Houston, Zorro and Son, Half Hour Comedy Hour), and two best-selling books-on-tape. He currently lives in L.A. and will appear in upcoming episodes of USA’s The Big Easy and Lifetime’s It Takes Two.
THE SNAPPLE LADY
WENDY KAUFMAN fulfilled the oddball requests of fans of the fruit drinks in a total of 36 commercials (1993-95).
Ad Tales: Kaufman, who parlayed her real job in Snapple’s order department into an on-air gig, traveled the country granting such wishes as attending a prom with a New Jersey fan and dancing with the Los Angeles Classical Ballet. ”It was thrilling,” she says of the latter. ”Although I almost killed my partner.”
Life After Snapple: Quaker Oats dismissed Kaufman after purchasing Snapple in 1994. Today she’s working on ”Ask Wendy,” a syndicated two-minute radio-advice spot that answers questions posted to her E-mail address (firstname.lastname@example.org). ”I just wanted everybody to know that I never left them,” says the New York City-based Kaufman, 38. ”Quaker left me.” Perhaps not for good: Now that Snapple is losing money, Quaker is talking to Kaufman about doing more ads.
DAVID LEISURE drove a hard-to-believe bargain as the fatuous car salesman prone to making outrageous claims about Isuzu vehicles, such as ”It has more seats than the Astrodome!” (1985-89)
Signature Shtick: ”You have my word on it!”
Ad Tales: Leisure filmed one of the spots with a broken leg. To make matters worse, he was chained to a Trooper parked atop Utah’s Castle Rock, 1,500 feet above ground. ”Every 15 minutes they’d go, ‘We’re going to have to get you down. There’s a big lightning storm coming,”’ he says.
Life After Isuzu: Leisure, 40, went straight to a seven-year stint as Richard Mulligan’s obnoxious neighbor, Charley, on NBC’s Empty Nest. The Los Angeles-based actor, soon to be married for a third time, appears in the upcoming independent films The Outsider and Hollywood Safari and the ABC-TV movie Dogmatic. Joe Isuzu continues to haunt him, however. Says Leisure, “People say, ‘Hey, aren’t you that a–hole liar?’”