The Ballad of the Local TV Ad

There is a dark and seedy underbelly to American existence. While we’re enjoying our purple mountain majesties and amber waves of grain, there is something disturbing happening on our television sets. Naturally, I’m referring to the pure awesomenocity of flaky local TV advertisement personalities. Every single community large enough to have TV affiliates has at least one- if not several- of these wacky people. Their slogans are quoted, their names are memorized, they live in some sort of schaudenfreude infamy throughout the U.S. Discovering these nutty people in each community is one of my favorite parts of traveling. Here are some examples, with a heavy slant towards places I’ve lived:

Dirt Cheap Cigarettes and Beer
St. Louis, Missouri
Dirt Cheap is a St. Louis-area chain that sells cigarettes and liquor (beer most certainly included) at rock-bottom prices. Their former owner was a gentleman known only as “Dirt Cheap Fred”. He and his wife co-owned the business until (I believe) a divorce split the King and Queen of Vice and the Queen won the business in the divorce. Say what you will about the chicanery of it all, but these people understand marketing. They have a very clear icon (a talking chicken), a very clear market (people looking for cheap crap to get them impaired), and a very clear message (their slogans often involve outrageous references to “the last refuge of the persecuted smoker”; “remember, size really does matter”; and “The more she drinks, the better you look”). Above all, the talking chicken utters “Cheap cheap, fun fun” again and again. Just in case you don’t believe me, here’s an actual ad from a few years back. If you watch none of these ads, please at least watch just this one:

Becky, Queen of Carpet
St. Louis, Missouri
When I was a kid, we’d make an annual pilgrimage to the state of Missouri. We’d go camping for a week in the scenic Ozarks, and then we’d invariably spend a few days in St. Louis so we could watch the baseball Cardinals. It was a great summer trip, one that I’m grateful to my parents for making. We’d end up in a hotel somewhere in suburban St. Louis and I’d turn on the television. Every single year, I was greeted by a fat woman espousing the amazing value of her flooring while floating on a flying rug above the St. Louis arch.

Crazy TV Lenny
Madison, Wisconsin
I grew up in suburban Madison. I moved there in 1986 at the age of 9. I was completely unaccustomed to Wisconsin accents and I’d lived in mostly rural areas. And so when I turned on the TV and saw a guy who looked like a college basketball coach who had a thick Wisconsin accent, it sort of blew my mind. This version of his ads doesn’t even begin to do him justice. After all, he was CRAZY! He practically GAVE THINGS AWAY!

Divine Rags
Memphis, Tennessee
Seeing their ad on the Jimmy Kimmel show a few weeks back is what prompted this whole list. I love how completely disinterested the girl on the far right is at the end of the commercial.

King Kong Fast Food
Omaha, Nebraska
My friend Marty turned me on to this. It features a bunch of guys in gorilla suits fighting over cheeseburgers and a woman mispronouncing the word “gyro”.

Goedeker’s Furniture
St. Louis, Missouri

There is a furniture store here in St. Louis who points out that they are closed on Sunday in every single TV ad. They go on to point out that they’re closed because it’s “the Lard’s day”. You see, in St. Louis, the letter o occasionally is pronounced as an a. This is most notable when people refer to “highway 44”, which is pronounced “farty far”. This accent isn’t always noticeable but it’s hard to ignore when you hear it. Goedeker’s is actually referencing “the Lord’s Day”. They close on Sunday to observe their Christian values. To each their own and all that. If that is their belief, then I give them a big thumbs up for following through on it. That said, do they really need Christ on the cross on their website?!?! How does that sell furniture? Unfortunately, I have no ad link here.

Eagleman Insurance
Chicago, Illinois
A friend of mine sent this to me a few years back. The ad pretty much speaks for itself. If you don’t want to click “play”, you’ll miss out on a male eagle crapping out an egg full of insurance rates on top of a car while surrounded by thick Chicago accents.


17 Comments

Filed under Humor, TV Shows

17 responses to “The Ballad of the Local TV Ad

  1. Snayke

    Great list of STL personalities, but I think you’re forgetting Vinson Mortgage and their use of TLR. those set a new standard for crap.

  2. Years ago, here in Baltimore…we had Mr. Ray’s Hairweave. This guy had the lowest-rent commercials and he had the THICKEST Baltimore accent. His accent was so intense and it so impressed John Waters that John actually asked him to be the narrator of “Pink Flamingos”. He turned him down, but if you watch PF, note the the narrator calls himself, “Mr Jay”. It’s actually John Waters himself, doing an homage to Mr. Ray.

  3. These are great, especially Dirt Cheap, though it’s sad that Fred’s gone. Another great one is Schweig Engel, who have some classic, including a Star Trek parody. They also have the infamous “Take my arm! Take my leg!” commercial. A true classic.

    We went to Goedeker’s once to buy a washer and dryer in hopes of supporting a local business (it had nothing to do with the Christian part of it). It was an awful experience. The sales guy hounded us around the store and even followed us to our car in the parking lot. We ended up buying them from a national chain.

  4. I wish New Zealand ads would be better; they lack the character of American ads.

    That Dirt Cheap ad is hilarious, although I think the line “the last refuge to persecuted smokers” is a bit desperate. I don’t smoke, but I know a lot of smokers, and none of them are persecuted for it. Nevertheless, any ad on earth could be made better by the inclusion of an alcoholic bird saying “cheap cheap, fun fun.”

    • Also, those girls in the Eagleman Insurance ad may be two of the worst actresses I have seen recently.

    • The whole smoking thing in general, in the States, is an odd beast. The whole notion of smokers being “persecuted” when they’re the ones doing the unhealthy thing in front of people cracks me up. And I’m a (shameful) smoker.

  5. Don’t forget Carkball, Marganferd, fark, pulled park sandwiches…

  6. One sees these kinds of commercials parodied all the time in movies, but it’s easy to forget that sometimes the real thing is funnier!

    Great post.

  7. During the 70s and 80s in St. Louis the ads for the New Deal appliance store with Steve Mizerany and Joe Farhatt were all over the place. I couldn’t find any of those commercials, but I found this: http://blogs.riverfronttimes.com/dailyrft/2011/04/rip_steve_mizerany_death_st_louis.php

  8. OMG. Obviously, I grew up watching Crazy TV Larry. I recognized his voice right away, you know, since American ads aired during every single commmercial break on every single Madison station. I haven’t seen one of those ads in so long… thanks!

    And I must say the Divine Rags ad was just so awful, it was awesome. One must be a very well-paid hooker to shop there.

  9. Wheelsdude

    I can’t believe you missed the most popular of them all: “Flea Market Montgomery”.

    Either way, this was amazing! I’ve seen the Eagleman one before, but the best from this set IMO was Divine Rags. That blew my mind by how bizarre it was.

  10. So, when I was a kid in STL, Becky Queen of Carpet ads also featured Wanda, Princess of Tile. What happened to Wanda? Nobody seems to know. My guess is the Queen feared that Princess Wanda was usurping her throne, and had her beheaded, and took over her tile business.

    When I was living in Houston during college, there were (and still are) two crazy furniture companies with crazy late night ads. Even Conan took notice of the Chainsaw Guy v. Mattress Mac. The Chainsaw guy was known for his, uh, suggestive chainsawing of bedroom furniture. Their ads were unavoidable. Go to about 2:00 in this video to enjoy.

  11. @da_Rhettster

    You have to view this one. He doesn’t do much anymore but back in the day, Don from Don’s Guns was THE MAN. His slogan was “I don’t wanna make any money, I just love sellin’ guns.” Then he’d do a six-shooter thing with his fingers. Here’s one of his gems: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vche-CgbI1A&NR=1

  12. Pingback: Longing for TV Lenny | Here and Now Update

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